Wow! What an amazing, action packed three weeks we have had with the Free Arts Summer Programme. More than 150 children have taken part in our free workshop programme learning a wide variety of skills in dance, drama or puppetry. It has been a delight to meet so many children and their families who have a real passion and flair for the arts, and the new skills which the children mastered over the course of each workshop week were very impressive. It would be impossible to pick out all the highlights, but here’s just a few:
We knew Dance week was going to be exhausting – five different dance styles to try, a whole street dance routine to learn and a chance to have a go at choreography too – but by the middle of Monday morning we were all buzzing having just learned the first part of our street routine with the Junior group. New words entered our vocabulary as we learned to ‘lock and pop’, ‘jack’ and even ‘pas de bouree’ (spelling?!?).
As the week progressed we had a go at Indian dancing, contemporary, musical theatre, and jive (now that was exhausting) as well as continuing to work on our amazing street piece. Both groups got to have a go at their own choreography and showed some really creative ideas (as well as making us laugh a lot!).
At the end of the week both groups invited parents and friends along to share some of the dances they had learned. The Juniors performed an Indian Dance and their Street Dance, which included some of their own choreography, whilst the Seniors delighted their audience with a trip down memory lane courtesy of the Evolution of Dance (the Twist to Eminen and everything in between!) and ‘I Believe’ – a very sharp street routine.
Many thanks must go to Ali Coubrough-Barnett and Mike Sullivan who guided us through the week.
A new week and a new group of children – just as enthusiastic as our dancers and full of great ideas. Each day we looked at different styles of acting, including improvisation, character development, Brecht and Stanislavski, and experimented with costume design, special effects make up, sound and script writing.
A real highlight was the session on special effects make up where we transformed the Artsmobile into a mini make up studio for the junior group and created some gruesome scars and wounds using special effects wax, make up and fake blood. All the children were very proud of their ‘war wounds’ and even fooled a few parents! The Senior group were just as creative in this session and looked equally injured by the end of the afternoon. Unfortunately as many of the Senior group were getting the bus or cycling home we had to take all the make up off berfore we left.
Drama week ended on a real high with a massive workshop led by the children for their parents and friends. About 60 people, young and old, packed into St Martin’s Community Centre to have a go at some drama games, costume, make up and mask work. The children were able to demonstrate all that they had learned during the week and everyone went home full of energy!
We did wonder if we would be able to fill a whole week with just puppetry – as it turned out there was so much to do we could have managed a whole month! Over the course of the week Darren and Jordan taught us everything from Indian shadow puppetry to Muppet style hand puppetry. We also made our own Punch and Judy puppets, animated junk and created design models for Carnival puppets, two of which were made full size (more than 10 feet tall).
It was amazing how hard we had to use our brains in puppetry – we learned that you need to use both sides of your brain at once to be a puppeteer no matter what the style and there were lots of games and exercises to get us thinking in this way. A large part of the week was dedicated to making our own puppets. The Junior groups made and performed with Shadow Puppets and also worked in teams to create giant carnival puppets designed by some of our participants, Seb and Megan. The Seniors also made Shadow Puppets, and made and devised their own Punch and Judy shows (we have never laughed so much – they were hysterical!!).
Perhaps the highlight of the week was working with professional hand puppets – a bit like the Muppets. Despite all suffering from severe “aching arm syndrome” from holding our puppets level with our eyes and trying to concentrate on lip synch and making our puppets look in the right place, we had a marvellous time creating characters and voices for our new puppet friends.
A huge thank you to Darren Alderton and Jordan Veloso for sharing their expertise with us in both Drama and Puppetry weeks.
You can see a large selection of photos from the Free Arts Summer Programme on our Facebook page by following this link: