The Almeida Theatre exists to launch the next generation of British artists onto the world stage. The Almeida make brave work that asks big questions: of plays, of theatre and of society. Almeida Participation, the Almeida’s outreach programme, has created activities structured to inspire, challenge and engage young people as audience members, participants and theatre makers. The projects invite young people to respond to the questions asked by Almeida productions, and to create their own work in a professional environment.
The Participation team works to create opportunities and pathways for up to 3,000 children and young people aged 5-25 every year in Islington and its surrounding boroughs to engage with theatre. Islington is a complex, culturally diverse inner city borough. It has the second highest level of child poverty in London, where 15,000 children live in a family where nobody works. The charity offer structured programmes in order to increase confidence, communication and team-work in young people.
The Almeida partner with local schools to connect a diverse range of young people and their teachers with experienced and innovative theatre makers from across the UK. In doing so the charity support schools in delivering elements of the curriculum, extend students’ knowledge and experience of current theatre practice and provide professional development opportunities for teachers. The schools residencies see highly trained Almeida artists work with students across a school term to develop their core team work, communication and devising skills. All schools taking part in residencies come together to perform their work on the Almeida stage in front of their peers.
In this project I learnt how to become more confident and this helped me because at the beginning of the workshop I was so shy and had no confidence whatsoever! ICAP Schools’ and Training Initiative Participant
With support from ICAP Charity Day 2014 in London, the Almeida was able to extend the reach of its School Partnership programme to an additional four local schools, increasing its reach to a further 200 young people. Two of these schools were in Hackney - the first time the charity had worked intensively in this area. The following year in 2015/16 the Almeida was able to build an additional two new partnerships in Walthamstow and Haringey. All four of these schools accessed: free tickets for their students to see the Almeida’s productions; specialist teacher’s networking events; free performances from Almeida Participation’s touring performances, workshops and term long performance residencies.
I thought the students did brilliantly and the play was at just the right level for them. They loved the experience and are all looking forward to performing it at the end of year assembly. I always think the students get so much out of seeing other students perform and this project was testament to thisTeacher at Petchey Academy
The Almeida’s training strand is integral to its work with schools. For the last two years the Almeida have run an accredited PG Cert Facilitation course for eight trainee workshop leaders a year in association with Central School of Speech and Drama. With the support of ICAP the charity was able to extend the reach of its training programme by developing two new touring performances and accompanying workshops for local borough schools. The ICAP trainee workshop leaders worked over the course of two school terms to develop Childe Rowland and The Devising Toolkit.
It was a thought provoking, full and polished performance. The pupils were all fully engaged and learnt a lot about acting, theatre making and stagecraft that they will now be able to use to enhance their own workTeacher at Highbury Grove School
Childe Rowland was aimed at year 7 and 8 students. The trainees devised an interactive performance and workshop which was taken into schools, followed by short workshops. Across 10 performances, 203 young people engaged in the project. The Devising Toolkit was designed to enable 117 GCSE and A Level Drama students to gain creative confidence in devising. ICAP supported trainee workshop leaders to take the students through the process of devising, which could be used in their GCSE and A Level exams.
The Almeida’s schools partnership programme is important for so many reasons, but in particular is an opportunity for the charity to form relationships with young people who it would not otherwise meet. When the Almeida work on term long residencies with students, the charity discover which of them might have a passion for acting, writing or directing, or which students might want to learn more about creative leadership. This enables the charity to then support them and sign post them to join one of its ongoing groups. The Almeida then support and train them to become an important part of the theatre industry. The training programme funded by ICAP over the last two years has been critical, enabling the Almeida to expand its Schools’ Programme and meet the increased demand for this service.
Photography courtesy of Ludovic des Cognet, Ellie Kurtz and Peter Schiazza.