Holbeck’s repurposed theatre company

We have published many articles over the years about what Slung Low are up to, but I never expected to report on a theatre company running a social service.

We’ve seen How To … festivals, cabaret nights, Moby Dick at Leeds Dock and that big yellow bus delivering a Community Cultural College.

I caught up with Artistic Director Alan Lane to find out how they swapped treading the boards for pounding the streets.
Many readers will be aware that Slung Low have been running The Holbeck club for the last year. Obviously the club has had to close in the current situation and all theatrical performances are on hold.

So what does a theatre company do when it can’t put on theatre?

Guided by their motto to be useful and kind, they asked local organisation such as Holbeck Together how they could help and soon found themselves delivering meals to vulnerable people in the area.

Believing in doing the right thing, the company had kept paying its casual bar staff after the club closed, even before the Government announced financial support. As a result the bar staff have pitched in and are volunteering alongside the four full time members. The ones that can’t drive help Holbeck Together in the kitchen preparing the food.

Now Slung Low have been asked to be one of the lead organisations co-ordinating support as part of the Council’s volunteering operation with Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL).

“Basically we get two spreadsheets sent through every morning” explains Alan. “One has requests for assistance, the other has a list of volunteers and what they can do. Our job is to match them up and make sure help gets delivered.”

Alan explains one case of a cancer patient living alone with no food in the house.

“Whatever else we did today, we HAD to make sure John got a meal before 5pm.”

The Slung Low team are usually to be found in a snug office, but that makes social distancing impossible. Luckily the club has a function room upstairs which has now been repurposed as a very spacious office.

But does a theatre company really have the skills to do this vital job?

“We use the same skills. We have resources: people, vehicles. We have deadlines to achieve outputs. It’s not a million miles from putting on shows. But it is a bit more …” he struggles to find the right word “Immediate? Urgent? Our responsibility is to make sure we don’t drop the ball.”

Slung Low will be back doing fun things, even while we remain in lockdown. Watch out for an art project coming to a lamppost near you in the near future.


If you’re unable to leave the house due to the COVID-19 Virus pandemic and you’re worried because you don’t have family or friends who can help, please contact Leeds City Council on (01130 378 1877.

Anyone who feels they are able, can volunteer for a range of roles dependant on availability and preference, by completing this online form, or calling 0113 297 7920. Once signed-up volunteers will receive training be matched with opportunities locally to help.