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History

Forest Forge was founded in 1981 with a grant from the Manpower Services Commission. Originally based at Forest Arts Centre, the Company moved in 1982 to The Old Vicarage in Hordle, and in 1983 to Ringwood Comprehensive School.

Free Folk 2010The Company remained at the School until June 1994 when the School needed the land on which the rehearsal hut stood to build new classrooms. The Company re-located to an industrial unit at the Millstream Trading Estate. In May 1996, the Company was awarded a grant by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England, which enabled a new operational base to be built. In March 1997, the Company moved to its new premises. In the summer of 1997, the Company was awarded an A4E grant to produce a Tent Tour; in 1998, the first of these took place. In 1999, the Southern Touring Theatre Consortium (Forest Forge, Oxfordshire Touring Theatre Company and Trading Faces) was formed to deliver small scale/community touring provision to the region.

The consortium was expanded in 2003 to include Chalkfoot. In 2002 we became founder members of the Pride of Place Theatre Festival Company. In 2003 the company jointly produced a major Arts-in-Health conference “Lifelines” exploring the methodology of arts project evaluation in a clinical setting. In 2004 Forest Forge was chosen as one of the companies to provide the focus of a national academic research project into the social impact of theatre by the Arts Council England and ITC.

In 2005 the company created a new post in the Creative Learning department, focusing on issues of exclusion and access, and was short-listed for The Stage Awards for Achievement in Regional Theatre. The company produced its first ever international co-production in 2007/8 with Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador and produced a radio drama in association with BBC Radio Solent.

In 2009 Kirstie Davis joined the company as Artistic Director.  She quickly commissioned Gary Owen to create Free Folk, a contemporary story about life in rural Britain.  Free Folk went on to be shortlisted for the John Whiting Award for New Writing.

2011 saw the company celebrate its 30th anniversary.  As part of the year Forest Forge commissioned David Lane to write two plays - The World Outside and companion piece Born.  Born was presented by the Youth Theatre and toured alongside the professional production. This is the first time a company has commission a companion play for a youth theatre to tour with professionals.  2011 was also the year that the company's trustees were shortlisted for the Winifred Tumim Memorial Prize for good governance.

In 2012 Forest Forge revitalised its mission and business plan and looks forward to an exciting and busy future.