Recently, we have had the immense pleasure of welcoming the prestigious National Theatre to primary schools across the borough to collaborate on a series of workshops and performances, as part of the National Theatre’s wider engagement programme, Let’s Play. The Story Seekers programme, developed by the National Theatre in partnership with Unicorn Theatre, was at its heart a free oracy and creative education program that sought to use theatre, drama and creativity to support learning, community and connection. Activity toolkits and access to digital resources, carefully created specifically for primary education settings by industry professionals and artists, were provided to all the schools for free to support teachers in realising the project’s aims.
With support from the councils’ Arts and Engagement team, the National Theatre provided teachers with continuous professional development training in borough, as well as visits from a professional actor who gave some brilliant workshops and helped each school group build their story’s characterisation and structure, develop its physical theatre and movement aspects, and prepare to perform!
The programme saw over 300 students learn about all the different stories that have been told to little children, just like them, around the world through the years. Just like in the oral traditions surrounding these tales, the next step was to help the children retell some of the stories themselves! St Anne's Primary, Audenshaw; St John Fisher RC and Dane Bank Primary, Denton; Fairfield Road Primary and St Stephen’s RC, Droylsden; and Gorse Hall Primary and Stalyhill Infants, Stalybridge have all been taking part.
The first to share their stories was Fairfield Road Primary School’s Year 3 group, who welcomed the Deputy Mayor of Tameside, Cllr Betty Affleck, and ward councillor Susan Quinn, as well as some representatives from Tameside Council to the school for their Story Seekers performances. Jessica Moffat travelled up from the National Theatre to compere the morning of mini plays, each of which saw groups of 4-5 children performing their chosen story, with props made all by themselves, and some rather impressive line remembering! Jess was completely thrilled with what all the groups had achieved, as were the Deputy Mayor and Councillors.
Councillor Sangita Patel commented: “It was a huge boost to the borough to be involved in such a prestigious programme, led by the world-famous National Theatre. I totally agree with their belief that engaging pupils in creative projects at a young age helps them to develop their creativity, teamwork, social and speaking. These are all immensely important skills which they will need as they make their way through life.”
One of the Fairfield Road Primary school teachers was equally enthusiastic in her response to the project: “This project from the National Theatre, that focused on speaking and listening skills, gave our children a unique experience. They heard stories from other cultures, learnt to retell them using their bodies and voices and got to workshop with an actress from London which they loved. The resources and training provided from the Story Seekers Team gave us varied and interesting activities to improve the children’s language and performance skills which is invaluable.”