Equality and inclusion are at the core of our charitable aims and we are committed to working to removing barriers that might prevent young people from accessing our opportunities.
We want our company of UK-wide young talent to represent and celebrate the diversity of Britain’s youth in all its forms and alongside our nationwide auditions and interviews we run targeted programmes to create access routes into our membership for young people with characteristic that are currently underrepresented. As part of this commitment we are a Cultural Inclusion Manifesto supporter.
In 2018 we launched a new Inclusion Programme designed to make National Youth Theatre more accessible to disabled and neuro diverse young people, in partnership with Diverse City and Highshore School in Southwark. The project follows previous inclusion work at NYT, including the 2012 Paralympic Team Welcome Ceremonies.
Here’s an introduction to the first four stages of our work together with Highshore School in 2018 and 2019, forming the basis of what we hope will be a long term partnership:
In January 2018 we began a partnership with our friends at Diverse City to support the progression of our inclusion programme. Diverse City worked with us to deliver free Inclusion Training to our pool of NYT Associate Artists. .
The following month, a team of NYT Associates and Members who had completed this training met staff at Highshore School, a SEN School in Southwark, and spent the day immersing ourselves in the school environment and meeting students and staff formally and informally for observations.
Our aim was to work with every class in the school at Highshore School - from year seven to the top of sixth form. We achieved this over the Spring term offering 45 minutes to 90 minute workshops with each class tailored to ability levels, working on ensemble and confidence skills, team work and storytelling. We went in once a week with a mixture of NYT members and associates and each class shared a taster workshop, whilst our NYT associates were building up experience of working with neuro diverse young people.
National Youth Theatre full-time staff also took part in delivering these sessions as part of NYT’s Volunteering Strategy.
Following NYT's work with every class, four classes were selected to collaboratively devise a piece for a performance within Highshore School during the Summer term of 2018. Over several weeks, NYT worked with the classes for half a day a week to create and rehearse the pieces whilst building up skills including movement, voice, script writing and responding to direction. The theme was Superheroes and using puppetry, physical theatre, ensemble movement and comic scenes each class created their own 10 minute piece based on the theme and performed to the whole school, parents, carers and governors. It was a resounding success and received a very positive audience response.
In August 2018, NYT and Extraordinary Bodies (Diverse City and Cirque Bijou) collaborated with Highshore School students, NYT members, people from the borough of Southwark, Extraordinary Bodies Young Company and the National Theatre on a circus theatre show called What Am I Worth. NYT associates and members worked with Highshore School students to make up the community chorus for the outdoor show, creating three original scenes, performing a song, a dance and a catwalk.
As part of Stage Three, NYT also collaborated with Southwark Playhouse during our Spring Season to create bespoke front of house and backstage work experience placements for Highshore School students.
In early 2019, NYT ran a weekly drama club as a pilot for 12 Highshore School students with an interest in acting and drama. Supported by three associate directors, two assistants and several NYT members, the club developed skills including devising, monologues, ensemble development, voice and movement. Each of the 12 participants have been offered progression opportunities with NYT, from masterclasses, start up summer and for some places on our Junior Intake Courses enabling membership of National Youth Theatre.
We are currently in dialogue with potential supporters to extend our pilot programme to other locations and schools, whils t continuing our commitment to Highshore School staff and pupils and embedding our learning through this programme.With Accessible Auditions being piloted throughout the year and Relaxed Performances across our 2019 Productions, we are ensuring we enable the time it takes to build the confidence in our flexible, inclusive delivery whilst also trialling progression opportunities including the possibility of Highshore School Alumni joining NYT’s Stepping Up Programme. Meanwhile our commissioning programme has facilitated a series of new productions exploring themes related to inclusion and disability with writers Nessah Muthy and Athena Stevens, that will be developed in 2019 ahead of potential productions in 2020.
If you’d like to get in touch about our Inclusion Programme or if you’d like to express interest in our programme as a school please contact Amelia Oakley on 020 3696 7058 or email@example.com
We’re grateful to Boshier Hinton, the Mackintosh Foundation, and the Jules Thorne Charitable Trust for their support of our inclusion programme.
With thanks to Eileen Ollieuz Head Teacher, Nicholas Clark and all the students and staff at Highshore School for their warm welcome, enthusiasm, commitment and hard work.