A pilot project delivered in August 2018. Funding: Tesco Bags of Help Foundation (£1K) and ABC funds (£1K). Partners: Protheroe House Care Home. Intergenerational project. 7 – 11 yr olds from Tottenham creating theatre inspired by historical Tottenham landmarks & stories from elders living in a local care home. Outdoor performance at SKFEST community arts festival.
Free to attend, Our Tottenham (OT) aims to unite and make a ‘positive contribution’ to the community by promoting the following values: Work as a team; trust & respect each other; listen, support & say thank you; share knowledge and experience.
Children (7 - 11 yrs) local to the area visit Tottenham landmarks, hear stories from local care home residents about growing up in the area and use these stories as stimuli to create a theatre piece.
The pilot of this project was a great success and we are currently applying for funding to roll out across Tottenham and into others boroughs.
An introverted resident started to socialise.
Protheroe House were keen to be involved in the project because they were concerned that residents didn’t feel as though they were still an important part of community. They talked about feeling ‘forgotten’ especially by the younger generation. Although, the staff at Protheroe provide a range of activities for their residents, there were still many who chose to stay in their rooms - only leaving for meal times.
The children brought a burst of energy into the care home. They were excited about completing their missions - finding stories for us to create a play - and were blown away by the stories that the residents shared. One of the most introverted and reclusive residents, felt compelled to participate in the project: “The children’s energy was difficult to resist. I heard they were looking for stories about our lives and I knew they’d be surprised about my judo black belt. I was excited to see how they’d turn that into a play so I made sure I went along to performance.” Staff were shocked by the reclusive residents involvement in the project and had no idea about his judo past until our story sharing sessions. He garnered a lot of interest and respect from the other residents which made him start to participate mire regularly in other activities at the care home. All residents reported feeling ‘more connected’ to the community as a result of the project.
2. Young Theatre Makers
Funded by London Community Fund & Walcot Foundation, Young Theatre Makers started life as a 1 yr collaboration with 3 other organisations. Arts Bridge Charity approached Tavaziva Dance, Metta Theatre & Literacy Tree to create a consortium - with Arts Bridge at the helm - to deliver this ambitious project.
Partnering with two school cluster groups - Brixton Learning Collaborative and Windmill Cluster - we enrolled four Lambeth schools to participate:
St Saviour’s C of E Primary School
225 pupils in total.
The project was divided into two sections:
Weekly, KS2, in-school playwriting workshops creatively developing literacy skills by exploring creative responses to the book ‘Tar Beach’ by Faith Ringgold
Half term course with masterclasses from Black Asian Minority Ethnic artists. Using the themes of Tar Beach as a stimulus - empowerment, overcoming obstacles, courage - and the skills developed during the masterclasses, the children created a play which was performed to an invited audience at the end of the course.
A ‘school refuser’ at St Saviour’s Primary School started attending school again.
As part of our Young Theatre Makers project, we worked with a Year 3 and a Year 5 class at St Saviour’s. Before our first session with the Year 5 class, we were informed that in attendance would be a pupil who had been refusing to come to school. The class teacher had persuaded the pupil to come in by telling her about our visit.
This shy, introverted and very insecure pupil found her voice in our drama sessions. By playing other characters she was able to share her worries and fears - which gave her teachers and classmates more understanding of her internal struggles. For example, during an exercise about overcoming obstacles, the pupils worked in pairs. One person was to be the protagonist of our book - filled with self doubt - and the other person, their reflection. The reflection’s role was to fill their partner with praise and support - externalising the voice inside us that helps us overcome obstacles.
When the school refuser and her partner performed, the school refuser was in-role as the protagonist and shared her feelings of inadequacy and fear of being seen as different. Her partner, as the mirror, then reassured her and started to list everything that was great about her and how much strength she had inside her. The class teacher and the TAs were holding back tears as they had never heard the school refuser speak so honestly about her feelings. It was an important moment for that pupil. The class teachers described it as a cathartic release for her. She attended our sessions every week, and then also enrolled on the intensive course - much to the delight of her family. The drama activities allowed her confidence to develop, she made friends and, as of February 2018, has started attending school more regularly.
3. Windrush Project: The Arrival
Building upon the success of Windrush Project 2014, we adapted the framework to work within a school setting.
With support from the Brixton Learning Collaborative, we enrolled St Jude's CE Primary School, Lambeth to participate in the 8 week project - a change from our shorter length projects.
For this project we used a picture book as a creative stimulus to explore the hopes and aspirations of the Windrush Generation.
The chosen book, KS2 picture book 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan, is ‘a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment. He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope.’
The project explored the protagonist's journey and related that to the struggles of the Windrush Generation using drama, physical theatre and devising techniques. A literacy element was added to the project in the form of creative, follow-on activities devised by Arts Bridge and delivered by class teachers in order to further develop activities explored within the session.
The project culminated in a school assembly performance in which the children performed their responses to ‘The Arrival’, inspired buy the legacy of the Windrush Generation.
A disruptive pupil is now able to focus in lessons.
A Year 5 pupil at St Jude’s C of E Primary School was in danger of being put ‘on report’ because of his disruptive and aggressive behaviour in class. The pupil would refuse to follow the instructions of his teachers and would often be ejected from the classroom and sent to sit in a corner table in another classroom.
It became clear to ABC practitioners that the pupil found it difficult to be still - he would get restless and bored and would then act out to entertain himself. His restless energy had also started to affect his classmates. Our sessions were filled with fun, unusual activities which required physical effort and abstract thinking. The structure of the sessions allowed him and his classmates to expend a lot of energy at the start and gradually become more focused as the session continued.
The disruptive pupil benefitted immensely from this format as it allowed him, and the rest of the class, to gradually come to a place of focus. Then instead of sitting at a desk and getting bored, the focus was used to create something imaginative which would then be shared with classmates and discussed. The pupil had a big imagination and, when focused, contributed great ideas to his group.
During feedback, he beamed whenever his classmates gave his group praise and he began to take pride on his work. His class teachers said that after our first two sessions, he started to make more of an effort to focus in his other classes too. They reported a vast improvement in his behaviour and, as a result, the overall behaviour of the class.
“I started to think that because I was good in these Drama classes, I might be good in my other lessons too.”
— Windrush Project participant
4. Creative Learning
Feedback from schools from our projects was that the structure of using performing arts activities in-school as a stimulus to engage children with subject matter was extremely effective:
“Helped children with their listening skills and ability to work together in groups”
— Class teacher, Henry Fawcett Primary School
“Inspired children. Allowed children to express themselves, explore the story, internalise the story, empathise with the characters, learn new drama techniques”
— Class teacher, St Saviour’s C of E Primary School
“Making links from the book to the drama. Making them think about characters and feelings”
— Class teacher, Archbishop Sumner School
“Very clear progress within the lessons. Group work helped to build confidence in kids. Range of activities, building on previous lessons”
— Class teacher, Sudbourne Primary School