Students from eight secondary academies across the Group take part in showcase events, held in London and Salford
Last week, aspiring young performers from across eight of the Group’s secondary academies took part in exciting showcase events to celebrate completing United Learning’s AcT programme.
Funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, the four-month programme gave young people the opportunity to work with industry practitioners from acclaimed theatre company Frantic Assembly, to enhance their knowledge and practice of physical theatre techniques. The eight schools who participated in this year’s programme included Barnsley Academy, Irlam and Cadishead Academy, Salford City Academy and The Lowry Academy in the north and Coleridge Community College, Paddington Academy, Parkside Community College and Sedgehill Academy in the south.
The schools’ involvement in the initiative began in April when staff members across the academies took part in lively Continued Professional Development (CPD) days. During these sessions, staff worked with Sophie, the Associate Director for Learn and Train at Frantic Assembly, to learn new creative exercises and physical theatre techniques for lifts to take back to their schools.
Between April and June, students at each school enjoyed two, two-hour workshops delivered by their designated Frantic Assembly practitioner. Together, they worked on creating energetic pieces of physical theatre inspired by Lola Olufemi’s book ‘Experiments in Imagining Otherwise’. Through their pieces, the budding performers were encouraged to explore how much of our reality is fiction and how much of it is what is expected.
During the summer term, with support from their drama teachers, students continued to hone their performances in preparation for this week’s showcase events, hosted by Salford City Academy in the north and Paddington Academy in the south.
Students confidently took to the stage to perform their pieces in front of an audience of their peers, teachers and professional practitioners. The events were an excellent celebration of all the students’ hard work and commitment over the past months and an opportunity for them to receive constructive feedback.
Mimi, a student in Year 10 at Irlam and Cadishead Academy, said:
“The support we have received has been inspiring and taking part in the project has improved my confidence.”
Another student, Esther in Year 10 at Parkside Community College, said:
“It’s been interesting to engage with new types of drama we’re not used to. It’s helped to inspire our own GCSE performances as we’ve used elements we’ve learnt from Frantic Assembly.”
Commenting on the school’s involvement in AcT, Emily Bray, Performing Arts ECT at Barnsley Academy, said:
“It has been an amazing opportunity that has allowed students to work alongside and perform with industry professionals. It has helped students who aren’t usually involved in drama to gain a large amount of confidence and take on new leadership roles.”
Russell Burgess, Drama teacher at Coleridge Community College, added:
“We wanted to give our students an experience that would raise their aspirations and provide them with an opportunity to work with the premier physical theatre company in the country. I’ve never seen the students focus and work so hard as the two, two, hour workshops with Frantic Assembly. They were pushed as hard as professional actors and rose to the challenge.”
Speaking after the showcase events, Sophie, Associate Director for Learn and Train at Frantic Assembly, said:
“The focus students had in the sessions, and the work they’d done in between sessions, is phenomenal. They were so patient and generous with each other.
“It’s been really exciting to bring all the schools together over the past two days. We didn’t know what their progress was going to be, so it’s been excellent to see the students over the course of three rehearsals. There’s a great vibe on the day of the festivals.”
Catherine Barker, Head of Music and Performing Arts at United Learning said:
“Congratulations to all those students who took part in this year’s AcT programme. The final showcase events were an opportunity for the aspiring performers to bring together all they have learnt and rehearsed as they shared their work with a live audience. It was fantastic to see the students immerse themselves in their pieces and bring so much originality, confidence and energy to the stage.
“Thank you to the outstanding team of practitioners at Frantic Assembly who worked so closely with participating academies and opened up the world of professional theatre for our young people. Group-wide initiatives like this, which give our young people a platform to express themselves and unlock their creative potential, are a key part of how we deliver an Education with Character across our schools. We are looking forward to building on the success of the AcT programme next year.”