SPOTLIGHT ON… | The Canterbury High School and their Artsmark journey
Date Created: 17th Oct 2017
The Canterbury High School is an RSC Lead Associate School, driving pioneering work on active participation in Shakespeare, in partnership with The Marlowe Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Through this programme, Canterbury High School works with ten Associate Schools. The schools come from a variety of settings and contexts, with grammar schools, comprehensives, special schools and primaries coming together throughout the two-year programme. Six of the schools have worked with us previously on the RSC Learning & Performance Network; four schools are new to the initiative.
Teachers from each school have participated in high-quality INSET training sessions with the RSC at The Marlowe and in Stratford-upon-Avon. This input supported staff to try active approaches within their schools and equipped them with the subject knowledge needed to creatively deliver The Tempest, the Shakespeare play being worked on this year.
“It’s really opened the eyes of parents and staff, who have been surprised by the level of engagement, confidence with the words, and talent displayed by the children. It’s been a huge success.” (Teacher, Canterbury Road Primary School)
The programme opened with a Tudor banquet launch event, where each school performed a scene from a Shakespeare play. Pupils took part in workshops on clowning, rope and knot work with the RNLI, and performance skills sessions. In April, children from all of our schools performed a scene each of The Tempest, as a joint production in the Leas Cliff Coastal Park in Folkestone. The Tempest, which starts with a shipwreck stranding people on a desert island, was perfect being performed right on the coast, with real-life crashing waves as the soundtrack to the production.
Bringing pupils to a non-traditional performance space challenged and interested them in the experience. The involvement of other theatre practitioners through workshops and shorter performances made the children feel part of something really big and very special.
“One really quiet pupil now wants to take on a speaking role and a formerly elective mute performed and spoke. The day was full of lots of personal achievements and this was the highlight of the project.” (Teacher, Folkestone Academy)
Rehearsing in isolation was difficult for the schools and the overall coherency of the production. Staff from Canterbury High School and The Marlowe visited the schools in rehearsal, to provide support, information and offer advice and direction to help coordinate the process. Despite these challenges, we were able to successfully bring together the 11 schools to perform in the joint production. The level of parental engagement (in the making of costumes and for many, in taking the trip to Folkestone) was remarkable and unexpected.
“This has been the best day of my whole life.” (Pupil, Canterbury Road Primary School)
Within each school, pupils were actively involved in making creative choices, i.e. in their performances, with their costumes. It was a truly collaborative process. Canterbury High School pupils also provided additional support as Stage Door Ambassadors. This group stage-managed the performance and created or sourced a number of props that were used in every scene.
We have worked using this model before and will be performing a full-scale production of Julius Caesar at The Marlowe in March 2018. All the schools will again take a section of the play to perform as part of a collective cast.
Advice for other Artsmark schools
Connect with other cultural organisations. Arts don’t exist in isolation, so bring in as many elements as you can and get other people on board so you can work more creatively and collaboratively. Let the children take lead roles in the creative development of ideas and they will own and embrace the process and the product in ways that you could never have imagined.
Connectingwithculture.com is the quick, easy way to connect your school with arts and cultural organisations local to you. Find out more here…
“The children’s confidence has really grown and the approaches clearly work.” (Teacher, Towers School)
“Children were buzzing. Many parents saw it and there were children performing that you wouldn’t have expected to see up there. Their confidence is growing and children are reading more. Everyone wants to know what is next!” (Teacher, Lynsted & Norton Primary School)