Darlington Borough Council has announced it intends to use £600,000 of ring-fenced funds from the future sale of Darlington Arts Centre to help create a flagship children’s theatre which will become the first permanent performance space for children’s touring company Theatre Hullabaloo. The company will bid for £1.5 million of Arts Council England capital money for the project and the local authority will provide its own cash as match-funding if the bid is successful.
The proposed theatre would include a 150-seat studio theatre space for professional performances by Theatre Hullabaloo, as well as rehearsal areas and a cafe. Other arts organisations and community groups would be able to stage works and use the space as well. While Darlington Borough Council would be unable to subsidise the new venue, its proposal would entail running the building and sharing management costs with the Darlington Civic Centre while Theatre Hullabaloo would programme the space.
The council-owned Darlington Arts Centre, which was the previous base for Theatre Hullabaloo as well as other arts groups, closed in July 2012. The new venue will not replace the Darlington Arts Centre, but will form an important part of a proposed cultural quarter for the town that would also have national significance as a small theatre space for the town.
The proposal is for the venue to embody the values of the company which are that children should not be compromised as an audience by having to be secondary users in an adult-designed space. The venue will be a children-centred space that would allow the company to create and perform its own work and create a hub for artists developing their own practice in theatre for young audiences.
Celebrating its 15th year, Kids Week is back and planning an action-packed month of theatrical fun from 1-31 August 2012 for children aged 16 and under. Kids Week is administered by The Society of London Theatre, which is a trade association that represents the producers, theatre owners and managers of the major commercial and grant-aided theatres in London.
During Kids Week, the magic of London theatre can be truly experienced and engaged with, be it the show-stopping tap shoes of Singin’ In The Rain, the wonderful mix of ballet shoes and boxing gloves of Billy Elliot or the animal print leotards of the inspiring The Lion King.
A fantastic selection of shows can be seen for free at certain performances when children are accompanied by a full price paying adult, including many of the new additions to the West End such as Matilda the Musical, Chariots of Fire and Ghost the Musical. Two additional children can also attend at half price, able to take part in the fantastic ethos of Kids Week in all its musical theatre dancewear finery.
There is a fantastic range of free activities and events for children to take part in also, an incredible selection including plays, musicals, comedy and entertainment with packages also available, aside from the fabulous ticket offers available to top London shows. These activities are free to participate in when tickets are purchased as part of a Show & Activity package. Inspirational standalone workshops are on offer too, encouraging children of all ages to don their dance trainers and grab the nearest microphone, connecting with their inner star. Children are given the chance to explore the exciting world of theatre and discover what goes on behind those illusionistic scenes.
Whilst straightforward lessons are in no shape of form headed for the archives, dance and drama workshops for children and young people are gaining more and more popularity. At a glance, prestigious companies and organisations such as Rambert Dance Company, Tap Attack and West End Kids are offering their expertise to young, aspiring individuals who are willing to give up their free time in order to receive a worthwhile result. In the mix of leotards and “New Yorkers“, those engaging with the workshop may not ever dust off their pointe shoes and become The Dying Swan, but some may indeed embrace the new leg warmers of their dance life and take on an entirely new path.
Whilst taking part in workshops focus on the fun and enthusiasm the work creates, overall they provide much more. As a workshop leader, being able to noticeably nurture a young person’s desire to perform on stage, or focus their energy into raw talent is immensely worthwhile. Earlier this month in the Guardian online, the Associate Director of Creative Learning at the London Bubble Theatre Company wrote about The Speech Bubbles programme which encourages young children with speaking, listening or communication needs to overcome these barriers with phenomenal results. This may not be the case for all the children who take part on the programme, but to see a small improvement in areas such as emotion, conduct and behaviour is very encouraging to the workshop leaders.
To observe numerous workshops taking place that provide a multitude of resources for young people is extremely heartening; arts organisations, through various sources of funding, are able to support the next generation of artists and continue their line of work through what the leaders offer. Workshops in the art sector are not difficult to come by, with a whole host of successful organisations managing their time in order to provide.
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With the ever-increasing emergence of “theatre-training” programmes, children and young people of the twenty-first century are receiving multiple opportunities to engage in the arts of singing, dancing and acting.
One avenue which is receiving more and more popularity each year is that of summer schools, which are offered by a variety of organisations and institutions alike. For those aspiring to further their theatre training at a performing arts college or similar, summer schools are an ideal way of giving the young person in question an idea of what it might be like to train at that particular college, as they grab their favourite leotards, dance tights or tap shoes. Summer schools are particularly useful to determine whether the student would like to audition for a place for the following year.
Usually an intensive one week course, summer schools offer a taster in many theatre disciplines such as acting, jazz dance, classical ballet, singing and pas de deux, culminating in a showcase performance. In addition to the benefits that students may gain, summer schools are also a chance for colleges and institutions to get a glimpse of the potential talent they may have auditioning, and gauge an idea as to a student’s possible suitability for their course.
Aside from the specific focus on training, for children and young adults summer schools provide the chance to meet other like-minded and motivated individuals who are looking to further their theatrical training in this way. Summer school can be a welcome break from the confines of some theatre schools or academies that the students might already belong to, allowing them to connect a little more with their individuality away from their stage school regulation uniform. Usually there are mixed abilities of students taking part, which may mean you might not get to put on your pointe shoes this summer, but will still have lots of fun!
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Produced by English National Ballet and premiered on April 3rd at the Peacock Theatre, the English National Ballet School presented the magical production of My First Sleeping Beauty, introducing the magic of ballet to children from the age of 3 and showcasing graduating dancers of outstanding potential from English National Ballet School. For many young children, this will be their first taste of satin ballet shoes, glittering tutus and pristine pink tights of the ballet world.
Whilst the arts sector presents a huge variety of dance works and ballets in particular, there will nonetheless be masses of captivated children throughout the UK, privy to a specially crafted version of the usual 3 hour production of Sleeping Beauty. A national tour of My First Sleeping Beauty will travel the country until June 3rd 2012, inspiring children and young people alike in a piece that has been adapted especially for them. Children are encouraged to boo, clap and cheer, expressing themselves through the pantomime elements of My First Sleeping Beauty and becoming part of the story.
Award-winning choreographer Matthew Hart is responsible for creating the wondrous spectacle of My First Sleeping Beauty in all its finery, tiaras and all. Set to Tchaikovsky’s score, the amazing cast of dancers from the English National Ballet School pirouette their way through this shortened version of the original Sleeping Beauty. However, Hart has worked to maintain much of the original choreography in order to educate these new audiences in the link between the School and the Company.
Engaging young children with such a timeless classic as Sleeping Beauty is an innovative creation, with this being the first of a presumable line of “children’s ballets” aiming to inspire families to eventually come and see Sleeping Beauty in its entirety, continuing the story and classical technique.
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