Tender Buttons was a theatre and performance company founded by Tess Denman-Cleaver and Nicola Singh in 2010. The company was created as an independent infrastructure for the production of new performance work. It was run by Tess between 2010-18.
Tender Buttons Ltd. produced Alice in Bed (2011-2013), Deeply Morbid (2013), She Lives Here (2013), Sounds & Guts (2013-15), Project R-hythm (2014) and the first Instructions for Walking Women workshop (2016).
Alongside theatrical productions and live performance events, Tender Buttons designed and delivered arts engagement programmes that included public and bespoke workshops, symposia, art installations and public interventions. These programmes furthered the artistic development of the company, engaged people in the political and philosophical motivations of the work Tender Buttons produced, supported its audience development strategy and promoted models of best practice in relation to art, accessibility and mental health.
The company specialised in working with people who experience severe and long-term mental health issues. Tender Buttons worked with health and wellbeing partners to ensure that all of its programmes were fully accessible and truly inclusive. Through these partnerships Tender Buttons supported people who face psychological, social and economic barriers to engage with art and access cultural programmes.
Tender Buttons worked in partnership with Launchpad, Drop Everything, Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council, artist Aidan Moesby and the NHS to establish Open Here; a bespoke programme of creative activity and cultural engagement for people accessing local Early Intervention in Psychosis services that ran from 2012-2018. It was funded by NHS NTW Trust, Arts Council England, Big Lottery, Northern Stage a number of private donors. Open Here was awarded an NHS best practice award in 2014.
Tender Buttons activities engaged diverse communities of people in a wide range of different settings including galleries, theatres, artist-led spaces, community organisations and activist groups, schools and universities, prisons, hospitals and health settings across the UK.
The work produced by Tender Buttons between 2010-18 continues to inform Tess’ practice as an independent artist.
Tender Buttons was a not-for-profit organisation limited by guarantee (company number: 08124927). It was based at The Northern Charter in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 2018 Tess Denman-Cleaver stood down as Artistic Director of Tender Buttons and the company was closed in accordance with development in Tess’ own artistic practice.
Image of Alice in Bed development workshop by Kuba Ryniewicz (2011).