Students create new show with Leeds Playhouse as part of Burberry Inspire programme

A person stands in a jazzy hat in front of a group of students. About them is a sign that says Welcome to Castleford.

Despite the pandemic, Leeds Playhouse has continued to work with Key Stage 3 students from two Yorkshire schools to create artwork on the theme of INSPIRED PLACES as part of the Burberry Inspire programme.

This is the third year of Leeds Playhouse’s participation in a four-year programme funded by the Burberry Foundation and managed by Ideas Foundation, giving students from eight schools across Yorkshire and six schools in New York creative and inspiring experiences that they wouldn’t normally have access to.

The pioneering Burberry Inspire programme was launched in 2019. For year three, Leeds Playhouse was partnered with Airedale Academy and Castleford Academy to explore the theme INSPIRED PLACES.

With so much uncertainty and change for students during the last academic year, Leeds Playhouse decided to place greater emphasis on the health and wellbeing of students. The Playhouse worked with other Burberry partners, The Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds Young Film and Northern Ballet, to create a digital resource for all Burberry Inspire students for Children’s Mental Health Week. The aim was to provide creative tasks that young people could do at home at their own pace, choosing an activity that reflected their own needs and feelings.  

Leeds Playhouse Associate Director (Creative Engagement) Alexander Ferris said: “It has been such an honour to continue working on the Burberry Inspire project during a period of insecurity for the theatre industry. Being able to offer our partner schools wellbeing resources, access to our live-streamed productions, Careers Week resources and exclusive interviews with Playhouse staff and actors, has meant that our work thrives even while we wait to welcome back audiences. And what an opportunity Burberry Inspire and lockdown has provided: to commission a brand new play for the students of Castleford, with their involvement, and reflecting the importance of place to them. We can’t wait for them to enjoy the exclusive world premiere in their schools.”

When Castleford Academy opened its doors again, Leeds Playhouse Artist in Residence Jenny Jones was fortunate enough to work extensively in school with students in Drama, Music, Art, Core Skills, History and English. Through these sessions, students found new ways of creatively expressing their opinions and ideas, making model boxes, designing masks, writing about their favourite places and devising their own performances.

Drama teacher Lisa Cronshaw said: “You can tell they’re excited to come in to the lesson. We’re going to take some of the devising lessons and use them for Year 10. It’s good to get them up and making straight away rather than sitting and talking.”

Every Key Stage 3 student in both schools also received a Creativity Kit to take home with them. The kits included a variety of resources so they can carry on working imaginatively to support their wellbeing long after the school day has ended.

An integral part of the project is providing a cultural experience for students. In year one of the project, Leeds Playhouse toured a version of PARTITION, a radio play by Nick Ahad, to school halls. In year 2, Key Stage 3 students were welcomed to the Playhouse to see its Christmas production THE WIZARD OF OZ. With so much uncertainty around school trips to the theatre in this third year, the Playhouse instead commissioned a professional writer and designer to work with students on a new play, giving them the opportunity to directly influence the writing and set design.

Writer Adam Hughes worked with students from both schools as consultants; their discussions in the classroom directly informing the themes and ideas in his writing. Together they explored their thoughts about Castleford, their hopes and fears, and the idea that it can be difficult to be our true selves around everyone we meet. This hard work resulted in EAST IS EAST AND CAS IS CAS, the story of Tommy played by actor Charles Sloboda-Bolton, as a popular 13-year-old student hiding a big secret.

Writer Adam Hughes said: “It was a genuine pleasure working with the students and going into the schools.”

Two Castleford Academy students have also worked with Leeds Playhouse Resident Designer Warda Abbasi to design the set, making this a performance created for, by and with young people, which Leeds Playhouse presented to the students in July.

A Year 9 Castleford student said: “I enjoyed working in a group to devise a performance. I’ve also learnt how to be a character where the personality is different to me.”

Another Year 9 student added: “We had the chance to work on devising and understand how it works.”

Click here to download images. Please note this link will expire 31 Aug.  

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