I first started my Gold Arts Award back in October 2015 when I completed my first project as part of TakeOver Festival which took place over October half term at the National Railway Museum in York. I had recently joined the TakeOver team and was told about the Arts Award scheme by one of my colleagues at York Theatre Royal and thought it would be a great way to document all of my work as I develop my practice as a Youth Theatre Practitioner.
I first discovered education and participatory workshops when I undertook a placement year at Hull Truck Theatre as part of my Theatre Studies degree, back in 2012. Whilst there I assisted with lots of youth theatre and adult acting groups and helped to deliver and organise a theatre in education project which was toured into several schools in the East Yorkshire region. I soon discovered I had a real passion for this work, and enjoyed working with people of all ages in different workshop settings.
After finishing my degree I wanted to gain lots more experience in this line of work and started to volunteer with York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre. I soon became a youth theatre assistant, where I assisted with two groups every week in their youth theatre sessions running games and exercises and supervising smaller group work.
- Sharlie delivering the 'Suitcase Stories' workshop at the National Railway Museum for TakeOver 2015
When the opportunity to be the Youth Theatre Director for TakeOver festival arose, I jumped at the chance to organise, plan and deliver a project which I would be solely responsible for. The TakeOver festival consisted of a team of young people aged between 12 and 26 (all volunteers) who put together and curated a week long multi-arts festival. Because York Theatre Royal, the usual venue for the festival, was closed for refurbishment we took the festival down to the National Railway Museum during October half term which gave us the opportunity to stage performances in train carriages, set up art stations for children to make shadow puppets and write poetry, and offer workshops for young people to participate in drama and create a short performance to show to their friends and family.
TakeOver Festival 2015 formed Unit 2 of my Gold, which helped to develop my leadership skills in project delivery and communication skills as I worked as part of a large team to help organise the festival as a whole. I decided to lead two workshops, one for children aged between 8 and 11 and the other for 12-15 year olds. Both would look at different topics and linked in with items held at the museum to help inspire the young people to devise a short performance which they would then perform back to their family and friends. I had to organise the two workshops from beginning to end, working with the National Railway Museum staff to book the spaces we would use on the day and asking for their knowledge on the museum's best places and artefacts, which we could use in the rehearsal space. I also had to plan how I was going to collect feedback as part of the projects, ensuring I collect views from the young people participating in the project and those who joined me on the day assisting with the two workshops I led.
The festival itself was fantastic success and the individual workshops I led were well attended and enjoyed by all of the young people. I enjoyed TakeOver 2015 so much I decided to stay on for another festival, this time back at the theatre, still in the same position but this time for my project I decided to direct a play with a group of youth theatre members.
- Sharlie directing for 'The Forgetting'
Similar to TakeOver 2015 I organised the project from start to finish organising all of the admin work for the project which included contacting the writer and his agent to obtain the rights for the play, organising the marketing department to advertise the production to York Theatre Royal's Youth Theatre and visiting many different groups to tell them about the opportunity. TakeOver 2016 and directing a short play as part of the festival formed the Arts Practice section of my Arts Award as this was the first time I had taken the lead in directing a mixed age group of young people. This was a particularly enjoyable experience as I really got to know the group well and the performance itself was a sell out and all of the young people performed with commitment and great enthusiasm.
This is something I will now continue in my Youth Theatre Practitioner role at York Theatre Royal as in the summer term I will be a directing a piece with my current group of 8-11 year olds. Directing as part of TakeOver Festival 2016 has really helped me to prepare for this side of the role, learning new ways to bring the group together to work as an ensemble, getting tips on how to help the young people learn their lines and exploring new possibilities to stage the play itself in an interesting and unique way.
For Unit 1 Part C (Research and Review) of my Gold Arts Award I conducted research and interviewed practitioners and artists in a similar field to find out more about their current work and their past work to help me to develop my practice. It was useful to hear about their prior experience, seeing what they had done to get them to where they are today. I also volunteered with Tutti Frutti, a children's theatre company based in Leeds for Section B of the award (Get Involved). Their show 'Underneath a Magical Moon' was being performed at York Theatre Royal in October 2016 and they also offered workshops for school groups alongside the show. I volunteered to help deliver a few of these school workshops, assisting the lead practitioner with games and exercises based around the different themes of the play. It was very interesting to see how the different school groups responded to each of the activities and all got involved in exploring different characters which also appeared in the play. In the future I would love to do more work with schools either in a school setting or by a class visiting the theatre to participate in a workshop.
From completing my Gold Arts Award I have gone on to work with more young people and start new groups. I currently work with two organisations delivering different projects to young people mostly aged between 8 and 12. I have also recently been part of a pilot project for a new drama group with 13-15 year olds. The award has allowed me to reflect on my practice and has given me confidence to take on new work with different groups and in the future I would like to expand my practice working in different settings such as schools, community centres and other arts venues.
York Theatre Royal is an Arts Award Supporter. You can see their profile here.