Case study: Castaway-Goole Music Theatre
BY: Alan Lynch
04 Sep 2018
Castaway-Goole Music Theatre is an arts charity working with isolated young people and adults with learning and physical disabilities to create and perform their own music, physical theatre, dance, film, digital and multimedia artworks. Based in the port of Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire, they have a residency at Junction theatre and work in partnership with many groups and organisations across the region.
Castaway-Goole have been delivering Arts Award for over three years and it’s become an intrinsic part of the seven weekly projects they deliver for young people.
Castaway Shipmates youth theatre (8-18 year olds), led by choreographer Anna Webb, created A Tale of Adventure project through which eight out of 20 young people worked towards and achieved their Bronze Arts Awards. The core project aim was to devise a piece of multi-media theatre that the group planned, created and performed themselves.
To achieve Part A (explore the arts as a participant) of their Bronze Arts Award, the young people individually chose their main art forms for their arts activity and set themselves challenges through the weekly sessions. For Part B (explore the arts as an audience member), the group went to see Wrong Crowd's production of The Girl with the Iron Claws at Hull Truck Theatre. The production used different media eg a shadow screen, acting, puppets, narration, music and sound effects, which inspired and influenced the participants own practice and performance. The participants met Part D (arts skills share) by teaching skills to others that they wanted to contribute into the final piece. Alongside the project each person worked independently on researching artists that inspired them (Part C: arts inspiration). They also met one of the actors/puppeteers in The Girl with the Iron Claws and were able to ask him questions about his role in the production.
Each young person collected their evidence and thoughts in a journal. They all used film and audio recording to capture music, theatre or film work and interviews about their experiences. Half of the young people have only basic literacy so they were encouraged to collect evidence in a form that worked for them. However, they were also given one-to-one support to type up reflections, plans, descriptions and responses. Castaway have found one–to-one peer interviews in preparation for Bronze Part D (arts skills share) very useful and a good tool for reflection.
In the same cohort of candidates, 4 older young people (20 – 24) worked towards their Bronze Arts Award through Engine Room advanced training company's first six month season, with Artistic Director, Anna Webb. This was a more intensive two day per week schedule, a demanding skill level, and more integrated use of digital technology using Isadora real time interactive visuals software.
Castaway’s Arts Award work takes place in grant funded project groups (BBC Children in Need, Youth Music, Arts Council England, East Riding of Yorkshire) and has received support from the Arts Award Access Fund.
Artists working with Arts Award groups over the past four years have included choreographers, composers, musicians, directors, etc. These professionals are the essential core of Castaway’s Arts Award programme, enabling young people to experience working alongside professionals and to reach the highest possible standards.
Castaway Music Theatre works with young people and adults with learning disabilities. As Arts Award places value on experiential learning across the arts, it represents an opportunity for Castaway members to attain a nationally recognised qualification. All too often, the skills and abilities of people with learning disabilities are undervalued and go unrecognised and so Arts Award offers a vital opportunity for this.
The sense of achievement, confidence and self-esteem gained by attaining an Arts Award can’t be overstated.
Castaway have found that the encouragement to take leadership roles and build leadership skills through Arts Awards has been a particular success. They have extended this beyond Bronze by developing leadership opportunities for their young people. This has included taking workshops out to special and mainstream schools and other student groups in further and higher education and to lead workshops in conferences with other groups with learning disabilities.
One member of Castaway Shipmates, who has autism, originally found the sessions quite challenging and would become distraught. However, over time he has transformed into someone who is able to manage his emotions and communicate his needs to the group. He has developed friendships and supports others in the group, giving friendly advice and encouragement.
He has also discovered a talent for improvising and storytelling whereas he once thought he needed a script. He says:
‘I just overall feel more confident and I enjoy being in the group. I think I became more confident at school as I continued with Shipmates. I’ve been in some school plays, so I think Shipmates has helped me out at school as well. I would want to be an actor now, I’ve learnt a lot but I still have a lot to learn.’
Another member of Castaway Shipmates is in foster care. Although she is in mainstream school, she is statemented for SEN and needs much support with the main curriculum. As her interest and strengths have become obvious through the journey to Bronze Arts Award, she has changed from being an insecure, anxious person, with little confidence, to a very strong member of the group and full of fun. She is supportive and caring with other members, particularly newcomers, and helps other people join in. She leads warm up activities, takes a leadership role in small group activities and talks one to one with people, helping them to contribute their ideas.
‘I reflected how my hero, Elvis Presley, made so many records and I learnt so much about him. He inspires me to be the same kind of man that he was, he played everywhere! He was the King! (When I got Bronze level) I felt like I had achieved what I had to do, it was challenging but I'd do it again. I have more confidence in myself, I was doing other things before, and didn't know all this existed. It's pushed me.’
Luke, Bronze achiever
'Having delivered Arts Awards with children and young people, I have seen that for some, achieving a Bronze Arts Award ignites a fire, a passion for the arts that will continue to inspire them for years to come.'
Anna Webb, Artistic Director, Engine Room Theatre