I have been involved with the arts since I was a child, enjoying the benefits of learning and growing in a creative environment, long before I chose to pursue it as a career and became a Drama Artist. However, for the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to share some incredible life-changing experiences with young people involved in a fantastic project called New Creative Voices (NCV).
The team at Macrobert Arts Centre were inspired to devise this drama programme to break down some of the key barriers to arts involvement – cost, location and preconceptions – and engage young people who haven’t been able to access drama or who might think drama wasn’t for them. I have been the Drama Artist leading this unique project for the past two years, working with youngsters who have not found it easy to find their place in the world, or who faced a variety of challenges in their short lives, helping them to develop a range of life skills and become happier, more secure individuals. After two years of delivering the project in schools, community centres and with specialist organisations, it is a pleasure to share some of the moments that make coming to work every day a real joy.
It’s been incredible to see the journeys that the young people (aged 8-18) involved in the project go on and the positive relationships that have been built, including a great partnership we’ve built with Barnardos. Working together we helped transform the lives of a group of vulnerable children from our local area, where I first met Annabel.
She had gone through a lot, was withdrawn and out of her depth. Using drama was the perfect way for her to try something new in a safe and comfortable environment and slowly brought her out of her shell. She began sharing ideas, opinions and shone in our workshops. After a year she had written her own story, performed it at Macrobert Arts Centre – a huge achievement – and now she is part of Macrobert Youth Theatre and making lots of new friends.
Another key achievement came with a group of disengaged secondary school boys. One of the boys, James, told me that before he came to our workshops he didn’t get the chance to spend time and have fun with people his own age because he was a carer for his mum and sister. This was true of many of the group, who mostly had low attendance levels and were getting involved in risk-taking behaviour. NCV helped change that, developing their skills with a view to seeing an improvement in the boys’ attendance and behaviour – they loved coming to drama, so had a reason to come to school. We also work to support staff in the organisations we partner with, leaving a lasting legacy.
Another important part of NCV has been opening the doors of Macrobert Arts Centre to a new audience of young people, bringing them into a completely different environment and watching them flourish and thrive in the friendly and supportive atmosphere. All of our groups come to see shows, have backstage tours and take part in regular classes.
However, they also get the chance to rehearse and perform at the Arts Centre, having the same experience a professional actor would have – using proper lighting, props and other venue resources to express and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings about their lives and the world. It was during one of these performances that another wonderful moment happened. Lily had been actively involved in the creation of a very personal piece her group was performing for friends and family, and live on stage felt confident enough to tell her stepmum that she loved her for the very first time. I can tell you, there were definitely a few tears that day.
During the last two years of NCV I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with and support two aspiring young drama practitioners, Catherine Ward-Stoddart and Katie Mitchell. Working with so many different and varied groups, it has been great for me to share their energy and enthusiasm for the challenges of this project and a fantastic opportunity for them to develop and grow as professionals.
As we move into the next three years of NCV with the continuing support of BIG Lottery’s Young Start Fund and BBC Children in Need, I look forward to meeting, engaging and inspiring lots of other children and young people, using drama to change lives for the better on a day to day basis.
Lucy Wild, Drama Artist, Macrobert Arts Centre. For reasons of privacy the names of the children in this article have been changed. Any organisations / groups interested in getting involved in New Creative Voices can find out more by visiting Macrobert Arts Centre’s website www.macrobertartscentre.org or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org