Author Archive

Gemma S
January 26th, 2010

The Home Children… my journey so far

I have been a freelance Teacher/actor at The Play House for just over six years now and loved every second of it! But I have to say, it has been a particular privilege to have been given a rare opportunity to be part of such a lengthy and in depth project with all sorts of other practitioners on board.

The Home Children, with audio as a prominent feature throughout, looks at the migration of some of the poorest children from Birmingham to Canada in the early 1900s. Sir John Middlemore set up emigration homes here in Birmingham where children would be prepared for their new lives in Canada and then off they would go, leaving their old lives behind them, embarking on what were largely unpleasant experiences.

The rare opportunity, one of the things that has made this project so special so far for me, is that before even beginning our luxurious 4 week devising process we were able to develop 3 consecutive workshops that we then delivered at 5 schools over 3 weeks, confused? This is how it broke down….

Having had an initial visit to the Birmingham Archive to look at real artefacts relating to real home children experiences, myself, Simon Turner and Director Geoff Readman got to work on devising the workshops; workshop 1 looked at life in the slums of Birmingham in the early 1900s and the kinds of situations children were removed from, workshop 2 focussed on the journey from Birmingham to Canada and workshop 3 was about the home children’s’ lives in Canada.

Throughout each of the workshops we used projected images to evoke thought and discussion, audio vignettes to set context and various dramatic conventions including: hotseating, collective role, teacher in role, still images, thought tracking, conscience alley, marking out the space etc

It was just fantastic, we were able to develop great relationships with each of the classes, get a real grasp on what elements of the narrative the children most engaged with, and then tailor the next workshop based on what had come out of the previous. Just brilliant to re-visit each group 3 times, a real invested interest was had by all involved, and not to mention how valuable these sessions were in enhancing the devising of the programme…..VERY!…what a treat……

Heritage Lottery Fund