The Unicorn Theatre, one of the UK’s leading theatres dedicated to producing work for young people, has reported a six per cent drop in school group visits during the period from August 2014 to June 2015 compared to the previous year. The theatre has also experienced an increase in cancellations from school groups.
Unicorn’s learning associate Catherine Greenwood said in response to the figures: ‘We are hearing from some teachers and head teachers that they are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the time out of the classroom. With schools facing cuts to budgets in the next financial year, and with the government recently announcing plans to make the Ebacc compulsory in all schools, this situation will only get worse.’
Unicorn Theatre’s production of The Velveteen Rabbit (Credit: Manuel Harlan)
The Warwick Report, published in February this year, found that young people from low-income families are least likely to engage with and appreciate the arts as part of the school curriculum or their home life. Greenwood thinks there is a ‘serious danger’ that the current climate will create a ‘two-tier system: those schools who choose to make the arts available to their students and those who don’t.’ Greenwood believes that letting such a system take hold would be ‘failing many young people’.
‘We need schools, head teachers and governing bodies to actively redress this imbalance if we are to ensure students from all backgrounds have access to theatre. A visit to the theatre can provide schools with a rich context for learning across the curriculum – which many teachers take advantage of, and we have first-hand experience showing that it improves literacy and learning among less-able students in particular.’
On 9 March ‘The Mousetraps’ – the theatre awards voted for by theatregoers aged from 15 to 23 – return for their third year. The awards, which will take place at Soho Theatre, are presented by Mousetrap Theatre Projects Youth Forum, and are supported by The Society of London Theatre through funding from the Theatre Development Trust.
At last year’s ceremony, playwright Simon Stephens described The Mousetraps as ‘the most enjoyable awards ceremony I have ever been to’.
The categories for this year’s awards include:
The Show That You Are Still Talking About
The Musical That Blew My Mind
Best Family Show
Inspiring Young Performer
Best Off West End Production
The Show That You Would Sell Your Soul to Be In
As well as the prizes for the above categories being awarded at The Mousetraps, the ceremony will also include performances from up-and-coming young talent, including Spoken Word artist Omar Bynon, The Wrong People, Emily Burns, Elinor Machen – Fortune and Scallywags.
Look out for results for the 2014 Mousetraps in the news pages of TD summer 1.
The Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS) has made it to the final nominations for Big Lottery and ITV’s People’s Millions – in which the public help to decide which local community projects receive up to £50,000 worth of lottery funding.
OOTS, which performs in Birmingham, Bedford, Shipston, Pershore and Stratford-upon-Avon specialises in working with children and young people with learning and physical disabilities. The project which they are hoping to fund is Antony and Cleopatra – The Musical!: ‘60 minutes of spectacle and madcap humour’, helping children develop self-confidence, new skills and independence through creating a high quality piece of work with professional musicians and singers. The piece was specially written for pupils at Brays and Welcombe Hills Special Schools. A year of workshops will lead to a final performance in 2015.
Voting for Antony and Cleopatra – The Musical! Takes place on 26 November, and OOTS will be appearing on Central TV to talk about the project. The telephone number will be published in the Daily Mirror on the day. A date for the diaries of teachers, parents and supporters in the Midlands and elsewhere.
Mousetrap Theatre Projects has been awarded with the Sandford Award for Heritage Education – a first for any UK theatre organisation. The Sanford Award honours organisations for quality and excellence in their educational services and facilities at a heritage site – a prize which, until this year, had not been won by a theatre organisation. Previous winners have included the Tower of London and Edinburgh Castle.
Mousetrap specialise in providing young people with access to theatre performances in London. They work with children from disadvantaged areas and backgrounds, as well as children who have special needs and learning difficulties.
Director of Mousetrap, Susan Whiddington said: ‘We believe that theatre is a significant contributor to Britain’s cultural heritage and we are thrilled to be recognised for our part in bringing theatre to young people who would otherwise not have access to it.’
The theatre charity won for their overall work, but more specifically for their StageSeen programme: a theatre day which sees the company work with hard of hearing or deaf young people. The day includes participants taking part in a workshop with a deaf theatre facilitator, as well as providing the attendees with a BSL interpreted or captioned matinee performance of a production such as Billy Elliot.
Sandford Award judge Adam Clarke said: ‘Mousetrap’s work with hard to reach and seldom heard young people incorporates practice that could, and perhaps should, be transferred to all organisations and properties that deliver schools’ programmes. In enabling access to the West End stage, children are given access to a magical world that enables them to learn, create, socialise and grow.’
Chief executive of the Society of London Theatre, Julian Bird, offered his congratulations to Mousetrap, an organisation which they provided support to over the past six years: ‘To be the first theatre education organisation to be awarded a Sandford Award is an incredible accolade. I would like to congratulate Mousetrap for its instrumental work in introducing young people to the magic of theatre, irrespective of their cultural, social or economic background.’