7 min read
Throughout lockdown the Grand Young Company (GYC) have been continuing to create new work. Most recently a COVID digital story, to share with other young people, some ‘Hope in Isolation’.
While meeting online and staying creative, our local young people have supported each other through connection, keeping alive a sense of belonging and experiencing first-hand the positive effects the arts offer. This channel for expression and outlet for emotions has helped them dealing with this uncertain time.
Over the last few years the GYC have produced a number of plays through the NT Connections Festival, part of the National Theatre’s programme. It offers young people an opportunity to join a nationwide programme, taking a newly written script for young people to the stage. Working with an experienced director through the rehearsal process, they have the opportunity to perform locally then transferring the production to a regional theatre.
This process gave the GYC some quality creative journeys, and also ignited a passion that led them down a new path. When consulting with our 2019/2020 youth company, directed by Jo Cassidy, they gave a strong steer towards devising a new piece through group collaboration.
This style of working meant:
• The young people were passionate about the themes
• Creative research on their chosen themes was needed
• The company had to unite as a whole around this common theme
• They would have to keep an open mind
• Experimentation in new improvisation skills
The creative process for ‘Hope in Isolation’ started in October 2019 as they chose to devise a piece ‘by young people, for young people’, that explored metal health and well-being during the exam process and school life. As part of the GYCs research, Caroline Beswick from Blackpool’s Headstart and the University of Brighton, joined a session to offer advice about using the Resilience Framework. The company were discussing how to cope with stress and anxiety as exams were looming, and what solutions they could use from the framework.
The Resilience Framework is a list of ideas called ‘resilient moves’ to help build personal resilience and cope with difficult situations. This was originally developed by Prof. Angie Hart and Derek Blincow, with help from Helen Thomas and a group of parents and practitioners in 2007.
As the GYC was working on developing their performance piece we faced the news in March 2020 that PM, Boris Johnson advised the nation to avoid theatres due to the Covid-19 world pandemic and the theatre was immediately closed. The GYC rehearsals stopped.
After the initial fear in the first few weeks, we reached out to the GYC to meet socially online.
Discussions quickly formed around anxiety, coping, losing your sense of belonging and general sadness for the loss of their work.
While meeting socially online and discussing youtube theatre screenings, some determined members of the company pushed the idea of reshaping the piece as a digital project to show the power of the resilience moves they had learnt and applied through the arts. They wanted to show how they were using resilience to cope in some very stressful lockdown situations and saw a chance to share this experience with other young people.
At the Blackpool Grand Theatre through Creative Learning, we put the young people’s voice and co-production at the forefront of our community projects and were excited to enable the GYC to digitally create ‘Hope in Isolation’.
Director Jo Cassidy led the GYC through this process, supporting and igniting ideas the young people offered. Videographer/Editor, Jake Powell also attended rehearsals and took the GYC ideas to the editing process and added their creative content to the piece.
During lockdown members had seen Rebecca Osbourn’s illustrations and animations made to celebrate Captain Tom, a lockdown hero admired by the nation. They were keen for that style to be incorporated into their work and wanted to approach her for her input. When Rebecca received the script she felt that it really resonated with the experience of lockdown and was happy to meet the company online to listen to our young people’s ideas. Following this she created illustrative content and we are really grateful for these and the animations she added to this piece.
During this pandemic the theatre industry has been brought to a standstill, but the young company have used this opportunity to work through barriers making art and creating something positive while being locked down. Theatre offers people ideas for change and possibilities, and at the heart of Blackpool’s Grand Theatre local people are able to participate and collaborate bringing these to life.
Throughout this creative project during lockdown, I’ve seen first-hand our local young people in the GYC sharing ideas with imagination, whilst connecting and supporting each other through this hard time. It has provided a channel for expression and an outlet for some difficult emotions letting them talk through and deal better with this uncertain time.
We are grateful for the funding and t support from the Lancashire Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
As theatres across the country count down the days until we have performances back on our stages, the GYC want you to sit back, relax and also find ‘Hope in Isolation’
Every year Blackpool’s Grand Theatre encourages thousands of young people to take part with its programme of arts activities and is committed to developing both the performers and theatregoers of the future.
The Grand Theatre’s mission is to be the theatre of choice for the people of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre and to offer opportunities to enjoy, participate and learn through the arts.
Last year more than 10,000 school children visited The Grand to see a show and a further 3,500 participated in other activities – workshops, classes, talks and tours.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Creative Learning Team and future project contact; firstname.lastname@example.org
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