Archive for December, 2009

December 14th, 2009

I must get out more often

Last Wednesday was one of those rare occasions that I was allowed out from behind my desk and off into the real world. We’d been invited to take part in a Networking Day staged by Birmingham City Council. The event was billed as an opportunity for arts organisations to meet extended schools co-ordinators and other school representatives.

I have to confess I’m not exactly the first person to volunteer for these sorts of events. They can be a bit dull, and often attended by people who have been told to attend by their boss rather than wanting to be there. However, with another big event that day (Tapestry was being presented to Directors of Children’s Services on the other side of town), the job fell to me and Gavin, our administrator.

And I have to say I was really glad it did. I might have cursed the weight of our display boards once or twice as we lugged them into the foyer of Symphony Hall, but once we were set up it was clear it was going to be more than worth it. The attendees – extended schools to begin with, schools later on – were interested and enthusiastic. We had the opportunity to present a workshop on using drama and storytelling to support children with English as an Additional Language which drew a small but eager group. I had the chance to talk to lots of different people about our work, about what they needed, and about how we could help them.

But there was more. In what we call in our evaluation reports an ‘additional outcome’, myself and Gavin also had the chance to network with other companies. It’s so rare that we all come together in one place, showing our wares and getting chance to chat, seeing some old faces but a good array of new ones too. I’m sure more than one partnership was brokered that day.

All in all a really good way to spend an afternoon. I should really try and get out more often. 

To find out more about our extended schools work, you can have a look at Gangs & community cohesion, Holiday projectsEnglish as an Additional Language. Also our theatre-in-education tour Tapestry (Preventing Violent Extremism)  which has been mounted in out-of-school settings

Cheryl S
December 2nd, 2009

Be quick, don’t waffle, and just write the darn thing….

This is my second attempt at writing a blog.  The first one, on reading it back, was too long and too relevant to that week at the beginning of November, therefore it would read as old news today.  Here I go again.

Note to self: be quick, don’t waffle, and just write the darn thing….

Here I am in the office awaiting the imminent last trip into school tomorrow with our newly devised and flawlessly written programme The Last Train, a participatory theatre-in-education piece that engages year 5 & 6 children.  I had the privilege of creating this key stage 2 programme as part of a fabulous team at The Play House;  John Flitcroft and I, who were the permanent staff involved, director Geoff Readman, writer & audio specialist Charlotte Goodwin, designers Dawn Allsopp with Emma Thompson and freelance teacher/actor Toni Midlane.

At the heart of this one and a half hour programme is the story of a 10 year old German Jewish girl Inge Gershon, from Berlin.  Prior to the beginning of the Second World War in 1938 a scheme called the Kindertransport was created to evacuate refugee children from cities across Europe. To escape the dreadful persecution at the hands of the Nazis, Inge’s family send her to a place of safety in England as part of the Kindertransport scheme.  The drama focuses on what life was like for families and particularly children at this time.  We see how the persecution or the Jewish people quickly changes a child’s life of normality to one full of fear and constraint.  Alongside Inges’ journey, the children see glimpses of a contemporary refugee who is seeking refuge in Birmingham today. 

The tour has been received incredibly well by children and teachers alike.  The themes and issues raised through the content of the drama are a useful stimulus for work around citizenship, history, religious education and PSHE.  The children after each session are bursting with a whole host of lines of enquiry from ‘What happened to Inge’? to ‘Why did Hitler hate the Jews’?  All of which can be followed up in the classroom through work with their teacher.

As the literal last train is about to leave the station, I will be sad not to be exploring the immensely stimulating material covered in this programme and will say a fond farewell to the whole host of characters I have had to portray. And what a pleasure it has been to work with Toni and her ever increasing pregnancy bump!.

I shall now look forward to a whistle stop whizz around the office doing all manner of ‘winding up before Christmas tasks’. Such as: writing a fine report for the afore mentioned The Last Train,  cleaning duties, set-auditing, attending new programme development days, eating mince pies, reading and planning for the new programme looming next term; Roll Up! Roll Up!, and washing up.  All to be completed in about 2 and a half days ‘cos I’m only a job share you know…

Happy Christmas to you all.

Cheryl Stott

p.s. New Year’s resolution number one – not to write any more blog entries unless threatened with my life.