Jo Dean reflects on a terrific START for pupils

March 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm (General Information, Learning & Access, Video) (, , , , , , )

As the Easter holidays approach, the START project has sadly finished for another year, with the last of the school workshops taking place last week. START is a project run by the Learning & Access team and is aimed at giving young people in Leeds the opportunity to visit the theatre and take part in arts activity.

I was able to get out to see some of the workshops taking place in local schools, when I accompanied our photographer to St Patrick’s Primary and Carr Manor High School, and it was great to see the children leaping across the room and really enjoying the sessions. Having been to see our production of As Time Goes By in February, I was amazed by what they remembered from the production and the details that they picked up on, and it was very interesting to find out which bits they enjoyed best.

While most of the schools went to see A Christmas Carol in December, Hugh Gaitskell Primary School was unable to go at Christmas and so attended a performance of Romeo and Juliet in March instead. As I stood outside the auditorium during Act two, I could hear shrieks of laughter as Mercutio teased Tybalt, followed by a gasp of “wow” as the heavens opened and the rain thundered down as the curtain fell. It was refreshing to hear such an emotional reaction to the piece.

We are currently collecting feedback from all the teachers involved in the project which has all been excellent, and we hope our funding application to the Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts will be successful so that we can continue running the project for another year. This video highlights some of the great feedback we have had from pupils and teachers.

The START project, supported by The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts, aims to give up to 500 pupils from inner city schools in leeds, the opportunity to take part in high quality arts activity. Pupils participate in two workshops in school and two theatre trips to Leeds Grand Theatre, as well as support and resource packs for teachers, giving pupils an experience they would not normally have access to.

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Children’s thoughts on their first ballet

December 17, 2009 at 2:46 pm (Events, General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , , , )

As it draws near to Christmas you might think that things are quieting down here at Northern Ballet Theatre but it’s as busy as ever for the Learning and Access team as our START project gets into full swing.

Last Thursday we had 400 school children come to Leeds Grand Theatre to watch a performance of A Christmas Carol and I have to say, it took a lot of organizing but it was an amazing day and well worth all the effort! From the moment they arrived in the foyer, the children started getting excited as they recognized Caroline and Sophie who had already been into their schools to teach a workshop, and there was an excited buzz around the theatre as children bought sweets and drinks for the show.

As they settled into their seats for the performance, which for some was their first time to a theatre, there were many wide eyes as they admired the ornate Victorian auditorium. David Nixon welcomed them and then the children were engrossed throughout the performance. The cheering and clapping at the end was incredible – I could hear it from out in the foyer! It wasn’t only the children who enjoyed the show, the teachers I spoke to afterwards were in raptures about the performance and one even said it was better than Disney’s new blockbuster film!!

After we had got some of the pupils on to their buses and on their way home, some of the schools stayed behind to see a half hour demonstration by NBT’s technical team about how the production is put together. The stage manager described how she runs the show to make sure all the scenery comes in at the right point and the lights change on time, and the technicians gave away the secret of how the snow is made. The pupils came up with some great questions about how the trap door works, how long it takes to put the show together, and how they made the set, which gave them a new understanding of the creation of the magical show.

The will all be back in the theatre in February to see As Time Goes By and I hope they are as excited second time round because when the auditorium was full of eager children, the atmosphere was electric and the theatre really came to life.

START is supported by The Princes Foundation for Children and the Arts and is in partnership with Leeds Grand Theatre.

Video photos by Brian Slater

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