Because our Artistic director and company founder Gill Simmons is an experienced secondary teacher, it will be no surprise to learn that we frequently work creatively with young people.
We are committed to supporting young people from Withywood and Hartcliffe in south Bristol, who have an interest in any art form. We do this through Arts Award courses, by providing work experience and by running art projects specifically for young people.
We are an accredited Arts Award Centre and can deliver all levels of Arts Award. We have been recognised by Trinity College London as an Arts Award Champion Centre for 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 for our successful and innovative delivery of Arts Award courses.
We were selected to join the Bristol + Bath Creative R&D Expanded Performance research cohort in 2020 and used this time to explore our interest in creative projects for young people that included technology. This uncovered a wider research interest about the issues of knowledge sharing between creative organisations.
For schools and colleges, we provide specialist devised theatre training for GCSE, A-level & BTEC students.
We have an ongoing commission with B&NES Hospital Education and Reintegration Service to provide creative engagement consultancy and activity for their young people. This project is called The Hive Totem Collective.
We ran an Arts Award Bronze course in devised and improvised theatre making for young people living in Hartcliffe & Withywood between Feb-May 2023.
We partnered with Bridge Learning Campus in Hartcliffe, and are delivered most of the rehearsals in weekly extra-curricular sessions within the school day.
We also partnered with Bristol Improv Theatre on this project. The young people watched an improv show at Bristol Improv Theatre. The young people performed their own devised/improvised show Nightmare on Ward 13 both at Bridge Learning Campus and at Bristol Improv Theatre on 17th May 2023, sharing a stage with Brave Bold Drama who performed an improv set at the beginning of the evening, which placed the young people as the headline act.
The course culimated with the young people leading a workshop in improv games with younger children from the primary school of Bridge Learning Campus.
We ran a Bronze Arts Award course for young people living in Hartcliffe and Withywood between March and June 2022.
Young people went through the "research and development" process of theatre making. We were investigating how we could use theatre to create a live version of the video-sharing platform tiktok.
We partnered with Tobacco Factory Theatres who provided a theatre lighting workshop, with Quick Duck Theatre Company who provided a Q&A about their show "Yours Sincerely", which the young poeople watched at Tobacco Factory Theatres, and with the Hartcliffe-based drag queen performer "Miss Jam Tart". Several Bristol University theatre students who were on placement with us co-delivered rehearsals.
Rehearsals were at Hartcliffe Club for Young People. During the course the young people also supported younger children in the community to enjoy a performance of Brave Bold Drama's The Munch Mission, and the arts award course culminated with the young people faciliting a shadow-puppetry workshop for children attending Hartcliffe Club for Young People.
This course was funded by Arts Council England.
We ran a Silver Arts Award course for young people living in Hartcliffe and Withywood. The cohort included a young refugee. They chose to focus street photography and graphic design.
The young people worked with specialist photography tutor Shelby Alexander and art tutor Lulu Butcher, and exhibited work as part of the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail at the Tobacco Factory and the Southville Centre.
As part of their course they also planned, delivered and evaluated a range of creative workshops in printmaking and simple animation for younger children in Withywood.
This gallery shows some of the young people's artwork created as part of the course.
"This Arts Award was great because you chose what to study. It was like the opposite of school!"
"Arts Award was a great opportunity to put my photography skills into practise and try something new."
"I spend all my free time illustrating. It was great I could get my Arts Award doing something I love."
We were one of the six industry partners selected by Bristol + Bath Creative R&D to run a research project on the theme of Expanded Performance.
We spent our funded time between May-October 2020 exploring whether the use of technology in performing arts opportunities means young people from less privileged backgrounds are more likely to participate.
Along the way our research uncovered broader questions about how arts outreach projects are currently evaluated, who they are evaluated for, and how knowledge unconvered from evaluation is shared.
Read "Show Your Workings" blog entry by Gill Simmons about our research.
We hope to secure further funding to explore another area brought up by our research, which will explore how we might begin to model sustainable relationships between artists and secondary schools.
Thanks to an SME Covid-19 internship grant from Bristol University, an undergraduate intern Katie Chalk worked with us on this research project between June-August 2020. The university required a blog entry from Katie about her internship which you can read here.
Implementing our research
To model one way that arts outreach project evaluation could begin to be more transparent and useful to other artists, organisations, schools and youth organisations, we have written brief evaluations on our youth arts projects below, and on a community arts project The Butterfly Effect which are accessible to anyone via the images below.
Furthermore, if anyone emails us with requests for information about these or any of our community projects, we promise to respond within 10 working days.
We secured Arts Council funding for artists who work in forms other than theatre or music to work in residence with us. One of these was mural artist Amy Hutchings.
Over 80 young people from Merchants' Academy took part in the intial design process in June 2019.
The final design was painted by Amy Hutchings on a building in Withywood and additional stencilling details were added by young people.
The mural confidently states "Nothing is Impossible".
Read about the mural in this article by BS24/7.
We worked with 14-15 year old girls from Merchants' Academy in Withywood in 2019 to devise a dance-drama piece about their perspective of gender equality.
Also on the creative team were choreographer Vic Hole and film-maker Anna Haydock Wilson.
The girls presented their work in Withywood for friends and family and also at City Hall as part of Bristol's International Women's Day in March 2019.
"Thankyou for all you have achieved with this group. It has been an incredible journey!"
PE Teacher, Merchants' Academy
Any young person aged 13+ who would like to express an interest in either work experience or creative mentoring with us, please get in touch. We are registered with Bristol City Council to provide work experience, and we prioritise appliciations from young people living in Hartcliffe and Withywood.
We don't have funding to deliver this yet, but we do it anyway because it's important.
We are often asked to provide devised theatre training for GCSE, A-level and BTEC students. We often focus our sessions on ensemble work, creating non-linear narratives, character development and physical theatre, but we develop the content in close consultation with the needs of each specific group.
"Gill’s energy and enthusiasm was infectious and her passion for Drama, specifically devising, was inspiring. She was wonderful with our pupils, adapting and tweaking her plan to ensure our pupils got the absolute most out of the day.
She had an excellent understanding of behaviour management, which meant that the day was incredibly productive and it was lovely to have someone who had an understanding of school and teaching.
The pupils loved the day, as us (as teachers) felt refreshed, motivated and excited to start our GCSE Devising Unit."
Head of Drama, Purbrook School
"Gill's passion, energy and clear enthusiasm for devising drama was a joy to be a round and I would highly recommended her to all schools. She was just simply amazing with the pupils and work differentiated to help the range of ability of pupils in the class.
A great day had by all. Gill is simply inspirational."
Drama Teacher, Purbrook School