What role does creative education play in the curriculum as we continue to emerge from the impact of lockdown? What has happened to our creative communities?
During lockdown I facilitated a year-long online interactive programme for 40 schools – secondary and primary: Managing the Socially Distanced Classroom – Creative Engagement. Throughout our experiences of individual home learning, blended learning, and the socially distanced classroom, we explored:
- How to reconnect with our pupils
- Joyfulness, spontaneity and wellbeing
- Belonging to, and rebuilding creative communities
- The way forward – the heart of creativity
We built each session around the needs of the schools represented and discovered a united realisation that without being able to collaborate, talk, share and interactively respond to learning activities, there was a large proportion of that learning that just didn’t happen.
N-Act was founded in 2017, and our interactive theatre projects have had enormous impact on the learners we encounter. It was only when lockdown hit, that we fully appreciated how much of this was due to live theatre, and genuine creative interaction. During lockdown we adapted, like so many others, to support our schools through our digital offer and programmes such as Creative Engagement. But we missed the live theatre input.
Coming back this last year, we have noticed so many things. We are excited once again to see the immediate impact our work has on young people and those who support them. We are moved by the reactions when we know we have helped just one young person to move forward to address their mental health, from our performance of ‘Invisible’, or to make a different choice through our online safety performance, ‘Linked’ or our exploration of gangs and knife crime in ‘Friend’.
We now find ourselves busier than ever returning to our live performances in schools, but there are so many differences from when we first started touring. Since lockdown
- pupils have either forgotten, or have never experienced, live theatre. They are unsure how to respond.
- pupils struggle with social norms, with communication, with oracy.
- the lack of balance usually provided by schools and other positive external influences means that social media has, for many, become the role-model.
- the potential for the negative impact of social media and online connections has increased. Manipulation, power and control is in the hands of those we cannot see; cannot affect.
- wellbeing is at a global low – for adults as well as young people. Support – certainly in the UK – is there, but heavily stretched.
So – we use our interactive productions to explore these issues; to gently draw out feelings and thoughts that might be hidden, that might be uncomfortable but that can do more damage by being tucked away. And we provide strategies and techniques to manage those experiences. We offer parents and staff the chance to examine how they are supporting the young people in their care and provoke discussion where this needs greater training or policy changes to support the new wave of issues surrounding our pupils.
Our plays take audiences through a variety of emotions – humour, pathos, and some feelings which might be uncomfortable and challenging. Unlike TV and social media, in theatre there is no escape;
there are no distractions; there is no hiding. We see this reflected either in total wide-eyed engagement, or for a few, a shuffling discomfort. Either way – it is learning.
Important to us, however, is the follow-on from our performance. We don’t just leave the audiences trying to manage what they have just seen – we provide follow-up work for schools to continue to discuss and respond to the content; we provide additional materials, schemes of work, and access to digital packages where the actors ask and answer questions and discuss elements of the plays.
If you are able, please come along to our workshop at the COBIS conference and join in our discussion. Keep an eye on our work by following us on social media or by visiting our website.