Case Study: West Yorkshire Playhouse

Case Study: West Yorkshire Playhouse

Picture of Alan Lynch

BY: Alan Lynch
05 Sep 2018

West Yorkshire Playhouse has been delivering Arts Award across all levels for over three years, with around 200 young people successfully completing their awards in that time.

With the majority of the theatre’s full-time staff trained as advisers they are able to offer a range of levels at any one time. Delivery varies from large projects and programmes to a drop-in policy which means that any young person interested in Arts Award has an opportunity to take part. Young people progressing through the levels are also encouraged to become peer mentors as part of their work towards Silver or Gold.


One of the theatre’s larger projects is called Breeze Arts Foundation, which offers Bronze, Silver and Gold to young people aged 16 to 24 not in education, employment or training (NEET). Running across three academic terms, participants take part in a variety of workshops and artistic experiences before working in smaller groups to complete their awards. Young people work as if they are a professional company of performers, getting an insight into working within the industry and gaining skills need for employment in this sector.

For Bronze, Part C (arts inspiration) is used as a starting point. Young people explore their chosen artist and present back in creative ways, with this research used as inspiration for the other parts of Bronze. Young people are given responsibility for recording their own evidence, for instance taking photographs and reflecting on the workshops they attend. Once they have experienced different art forms they can identify a skill that they would like to use for Part D (arts skill share).

Silver participants are encouraged to identify an arts challenge (Unit 1, Parts A and B) early on. The whole group discuss the idea of an arts challenge, with more experienced participants contributing feedback from previous terms and sessions. The theatre runs a session looking at a skills audit and what individuals can contribute to the company. Following this, challenges are identified and presented back to the group.

For Unit 2 (arts leadership) young people look specifically at leadership, with a day spent on planning and preparation. Young people then split into smaller groups to create a session exploring a relevant topic using a theatre art form they have experienced through the programme. These sessions are used to inspire the devised theatre process for the final piece of work presented at the end of term.

Breeze Arts Foundation was part funded by the Breeze Arts Festival, a local council fund administered by young people, meaning that the project was funded by young people for young people.


One young person attended a music provision programme for young offenders as an alternative to custody. He was initially sceptical about the course and the accreditation, feeling that he wasn't academic enough and lacked confidence in his musical abilities. When Bronze was integrated into his sessions he found Arts Award achievable, and asked to start Silver as soon as the new term began. After successfully completing Silver he chose to progress onto Gold, and has since found employment.

Young people who work with West Yorkshire Playhouse are proud to achieve an award and most go on to do another level. Arts Award enables young people to achieve something in addition to the skills they learn and the performances they do. It gives those that struggle in school or college and opportunity to achieve and enjoy the process of learning.

For NEET young people and young offenders achieving two levels across the year is a great achievement, especially as some have been out of education for a long time. These groups take a lot of pride from the work done towards their awards.

‘I became an adviser so that I was able to offer extra opportunities to our young people. We work with young people from a variety of backgrounds and Arts Award is a great thing for young people to work towards alongside our projects. The most rewarding thing about delivering Arts Award, apart from young people’s achievement, is when they complete their first award and ask to do the next one.’ - Gaby Paradis, Arts Award adviser, West Yorkshire Playhouse

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