Wednesday, 29 May 2013

It has been a while...

I haven't had much chance lately to post anything on this blog. Partly to do with being very busy at work, and partly to do with having so much to write about. I seem to remember saying something similar previously

Well, now I have a little bit of time, if not space (I am currently on a coach returning from a couple of days in London) to write. Several topics have crossed my vision lately; the usual suspects that you know are my particular hobby-horses. So, I thought that I might write a kind of composite post or two that cover a few things.

Our students are coming up to the end of term and have been working on their final performance projects. One year group have performed a piece called 'A Fish Out Of Water' - an original devised piece about how it might be to look at the world anew. How would it feel if you had never seen light, or felt heat, or had a physical body? Quite existential stuff, for GCSE level students, you might think. However the group responded really well to the idea and developed a piece of engaging, focused and thoughtful theatre. For the students themselves it was a major achievement to work together in the creation of something that asked some quite profound questions, and to do so in a way that required them to find the courage to be still, quiet and focused onstage, under the critical gaze of an audience. Witnessing their growth in self-confidence and self-awareness is always a pleasure and a privilege.

Our first years put together a compilation of songs and routines from several well-known musicals. A contrast to the first piece to be sure. They had to select the material, choreograph and stage the routines themselves (with guidance) with one condition: no copying of routines from previous productions or YouTube clips!
Giving them ownership of the project was the best move that the teaching team could have made. The students more than stepped up to the challenge, taking on the responsibilities for the show from rehearsals to front-of-house, lighting design to costume sourcing. The show was a great example of applied learning; the culmination of all the sessions and tutorials throughout the year. What the project did was cement for the students theory into practice. Now, anyone who has worked on a collaborative project will be familiar with the journey as the collection of individuals become a group with common goals and purpose, who learn to put the success of the project as a whole over individual glory. But for this group, who have struggled with some of these concepts over the year, it was a particularly important experience.

As a brief side-note to this; it was especially pleasing to watch a very accomplished and mature piece of contemporary dance created and performed by two of the students, both of whom have had the chance to work as mentors with the brilliant Dance United, an organisation who do such important work with disadvantaged and disengaged young people. The duet literally took the audience's breath away. It was beautiful.

The post-show evaluations after both of the productions were positive with many of the students talking of increased respect for one another, of sharing a sense of pride in themselves and their peers, and of feeling that they had really achieved something.

I mention this with a mixture of intense pride in the staff team for guiding the students so care-fully and the students themselves for the effort that they invested in the projects, and a dismay that these sorts of experiences may not be afforded to children and young people in schools and colleges as the arts are excised from the curriculum. We simply cannot afford to let this happen: it is just too important that the future generations are afforded the opportunity to discover things about the world and themselves in a safe and creative space. Otherwise we risk the situation where bored, confused and angry young people seek an outlet for their frustrations, and, unless we help them to be creative, this is likely to be destructive.