Edward Boott is Artistic Director at Nonsuch Theatre, one of our 2015-2016 Good Practice Centres. In this week’s guest blog he’s telling us how an Arts Award project has impacted the confidence of young people taking part. I’ve just returned from a week long residency at Thamesmead School in Surrey delivering a Bronze-in-a-Week Arts Award with a difference. The week long project was part of a focus by the school to enable students who had been identified as having potential in the arts but a reluctance to engage due to a lack of confidence - certainly a very interesting atmosphere to enter into and a great way of seeing the full potential of Arts Award first hand.
We took the theme of the week from our current show in development - The Party’s Over; an exploration of parties and exuberance as well the challenges of lives in crisis. This content structure gave us the chance to explore lots of ideas as well as challenge participants to enter different spaces emotionally which allowed them space to face up to their own perceptions of their self-confidence and reflect on their personal journey.
The week built up in intensity of engagement with regards to the individual attention placed on each individual in preparation of their leadership tasks, but right from the beginning we insisted on a professional level of discipline and commitment to the whole group. This structure ensured that arts skills development was incredibly focused and unavoidable as each individual participant in the group didn’t want to step back and let the team down.
Throughout the week, the importance of the working methodologies that any young person must engage with through the development of Arts Award activity became increasingly obvious. The sense of unity among the team, the support for one another and the honest understanding that they were working together, all with similar anxieties, to create something special above all increased their sense of agency in the creative process. This led to all of the participants creating artwork, reviewing external work and delivering their leadership projects with honest clarity and a profound awareness of themselves, others and the project.
Karen Hall, Head of Drama at Thamesmead noted when reflecting on the strength of theprocess for participants: “Let me give you just one example. One boy was too frightened to take part in the project and refused to come on the first day. A day later, he had worked with Ed and was coaching his peers and talking confidently. This was a first for this kid, he has a key worker in school who he sees every day and she couldn't believe it.”
“We started our project with 18 students who vary rarely spoke, not even a word in normal drama lessons as part of the curriculum. The transformation that the majority of them went through in the week with Nonsuch was amazing, a number of the students have now indicated that they would like to take GCSE drama as an option, something which would have been unthinkable to them prior to the project.”