KS3: The Hub

Clwyd Theatr Cymru Theatre for Young People (CTCTYP) & Year 7-9 learners, Elfed High School, Flintshire

‘You used our whole schools as your stage and engaged with us in a way that we will always remember’ (Headteacher)

You used our whole schools as your stage and engaged with us in a way that we will always remember

Headteacher
Overview

The Hub was an experiment in harnessing young people’s creativity through a week-long engagement with professional artists working in diverse art forms.

The artists were resident in the school for a period of a week, creating interventions, provocations and installations intended to inspire a creative response and to challenge. Whilst deliberately designed ‘to be quite distinct from the curriculum’, the Hub sparked hundreds of contributions from students.

What began as a project to engage with young people in breaks and outside lessons, evolved as the week went on. Artists found themselves being invited by teachers into classes and for the final day, the school collapsed the curriculum to celebrate the initiative. The week ended with a concert involving all the artists, together with young people and teachers performing.

Background

Clwyd Theatr Cymru Theatre for Young People (CTCTYP) was seeking ways to build artistic partnerships with secondary schools, to enable the company to expand its audience and engage with young people and their community beyond the curriculum needs of the school.

The Hub’s aims included: to surprise and excite young people by the power of performance in new situations, to collaborate with a range of artists and disciplines from different cultural backgrounds and to listen to the genuine voices of the students.

Preparation and Planning

Planning took three to four months. The school advised the artists of the pieces that they would like to see being performed, e.g. bespoke scenes from specific literary works being studied. The staff also helped identify suitable locations around the school and to determine how to manage the crowds of learners that gathered at the performance places.

The company asked for ground plans of the school, a list of staff and their responsibilities, the structure of the school day, an agreement that the artists have full use of all non-teaching spaces and a dedicated space set aside for the week, as a base for the artists to rehearse.

The creative team from the company met the head teacher and key school staff before and during the week to plan, review, revise and create responses. The school and staff were assured that the artists would not infringe on classroom work, unless they were specifically invited into the classroom or teaching area. A staff briefing during the week before, sparked classroom invitations and requests to provide bespoke interventions (e.g. a sketch for PE based on Roger Bannister’s four minute mile.)

The themes chosen for the Pilot were Love, Loss and Friendship. The team prepared some interventions reflecting the English language curriculum, and a range of other materials that could work with different subjects and ages.

The aim was for every event to be accompanied by an invitation for young people to respond. A network of safe ways to connect with the artists was established - drop boxes around the school, an email address and a secure Hub website.

The project deliberately set out not to serve the curriculum needs of the school. Despite this, it did in fact support literacy sections of the national Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) for Years 7-9, specifically:

  • Oracy – Developing and presenting information and ideas – Speaking, Listening, Collaboration and discussion
  • Writing – Organising ideas and information – Meaning, purposes, readers, Structure and organisation
  • Writing – Writing accurately – Language.

Whilst the project was initiated and developed by CTCTYP, both the company and school worked together on securing funding for the project.

What happened
What happened

The Hub relied on an element of surprise.

Strange messages and ‘teasers’, visual images, posters, and sounds that began to appear in and around the school the week before the residency. If learners were told about the project it was only to 'expect the unexpected'.

During the week itself, the Hub set out to act as a cross roads between the artist and young people releasing their creative ideas…in corridors, the grounds, the gates and the dining room. The stimulating and provocative interactions involved a team of writers, performance poets, musicians, dancers, actors, a designer and a visual artist. They arranged hundreds of dramatic interventions including scenes from classic plays and literature, rapping, break dancing and opera. The events included visual arts projects, corridor installations, lunchtime concerts, music, mime, dance and poetry - up to 50 events every day. All were designed to stimulate creative, written responses from learners - in the words of Creative Director Tim Baker, ‘you’ve heard us do stuff, now you can do stuff’.

The young people could use the anonymous 'drop-boxes' planted in the school corridors, to offer short pieces of creative writing in response to what they had seen, suggest installations, and leave messages or requests for the artists. Pupils were also encouraged to use text messaging and email to submit their ideas. These three routes stimulated a prolific creative outpouring from pupils, so that the artists were soon abandoning their pre-planned pieces in order to respond creatively to the learners’ own work.

lesson

The team were invited into a cross-section of lessons in many curriculum areas, including Science and Physical Education. 

Pupils wrote dialogues, monologues, poetry and stories, which were performed back by the creative artists the next day, inspiring further submissions and culminating in a celebratory event of the work at the end of the week. The artists listened, absorbed, developed and created performances from the pieces, as well as songs and CDs from the lyrics which were set to music.

The young people’s anonymous work was also displayed artistically among the installations and art work on the walls.

Outcomes

The Hub succeeded in exciting learners about the power of the word and the use of language.

Outcomes

The creative work produced during the week included an outpouring of poetry, monologues, duologues and lyrics.

Interest in reading and writing increased. And the Hub increased the confidence of young writers, who saw the impact of their work on their peers.

The initiative brought the school together. There was a general improvement in attendance and a drop in behaviour referrals during Hub week.

Comments included;

“The Hub has definitely changed the school’s perception of the arts as a whole because… you made it relevant across the whole curriculum. I would never have thought that was possible! You made art relevant to any subject area and that’s fantastic.” (Teacher)

“We would never have doubled membership of the creating writing club if it wasn’t for The Hub.” (Teacher) 

Follow up

A selection of the written work that emerged from the Hub project was later published and shared with families and the wider community.

Development

The company was invited back to the school to repeat the experience.

The school went on to book tickets to see performances in the theatre, whilst the school and company went on to collaborate on other projects, including a Transition event.

‘The Hub’ pilot of 2012 has now evolved in to ‘The Word’ which has been offered in other schools (and in communities.) There’s now an even greater emphasis on connecting with the work of the school, and in enabling young people to bring their written work to fruition.

Reflections

Head teacher, Rosemary Jones emphasised the importance of the planning and collaboration between artists and teachers (both in advance and during the week), “Things ran smoothly because we all worked hard at it. This was a project that gathered momentum through negotiation and discussion”.

Enjoyment and engagement intensified as the week progressed. The number of suggestions submitted by learners via the drop-boxes increased dramatically, as learners grew in confidence in their ability to ‘participate and articulate’. 

According to the company, “it was the sustained arc of engagement through fun and mutual respect, across the whole week, that enabled us to hear their voices, and to be trusted with their personal/intimate creative thoughts and responses.”

Artistic Director, Tim Baker referred to The Hub as “a project that made us realize how hungry these young people were for this kind of interaction. The rapper in our team was a prime example of someone whose work the learners found to be rather weird at the start of the week, but by the end of the week he had so many followers. His motto was, if you do one little thing really well, then you can do another little thing really well”. 

For more information

Clwyd Theatre Cymru Theatre for Young People / Artists@Work, see http://www.ctctyp.co.uk

Scroll down to Artists@Work at Connah’s Quay High School to view a film of ‘The Word’, which developed from ‘The Hub’