The Royal Shakespeare Company, nestled in the picturesque town of Stratford Upon Avon, home to William Shakespeare one of the most renowned writers. It see’s hordes of tourists walk its streets, but also now, young people of PYF treading its theatre boards and exploring exclusive back stage areas.
The Positive Youth Foundation first became involved with The RSC when they were putting together their new exhibition “The Plays The Thing” in the Swan Theatre, exploring the heritage of 100 years of theatre making. Five young people from Coventry were invited to engage in a programme that looked at the collections of props and costumes that belong to The RSC archives. The young people then took part in the national Kids In Museums – Teen Takeover Day, becoming the curators of the exhibition. Welcoming visitors, imparting information learnt through the process and completing evaluation questionnaires for The RSC. It was such a success, with mutual enjoyment on both sides that PYF were invited back to take part in their youth engagement programme – reIMAGINE. Our young people were also given the pleasure of speaking at the opening of the new permanent exhibition and were applauded for their confidence!
For us at Positive Youth Foundation, the opportunity to offer a chance to broadening young people’s experiences in a new location and to work with the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company was a no-brainer! Monday evenings then became a trip out to engage in reIMAGINE: Heritage. A programme that helped young people explore the heritage of the theatre, the history and the backstage magic that makes Shakespearean plays come alive on stage.
The programme, being focussed around heritage and not drama performances, meant that the young people were really pushed out of their comfort zones and encouraged to learn new things, delving into times gone by. The sessions enabled us to meet staff that work within the company, recognising all of the different roles needed to work within a theatre. This included an exclusive session delivered by a current RSC professional actor, Joseph Shire, who spoke to us about being confidence in speaking in public, in order to boost the groups self-assurance for the upcoming event that they were leading on! The programme itself was based around the creation of an event for the public, to be held on over the weekend of celebrations commemorating Shakespeare’s birthday.
The group of 12 young people, a mix between those from Coventry and those who live locally to Stratford-Upon-Avon began to find common ground with each other. At first, the noticeable difference came in the way that individuals spoke of their local areas, but quickly being compensated for by the humour and charismatic personalities within the cohort.
A session that all the young people, during the evaluation, raved about was visiting the top secret, exclusive location of The RSC Archives. Being home to historic costumes and props, worn and held by successful, famous actors including a real life Oscar Award and a historic sword used to knight an actor in the theatre. Not only did we see these artefacts, we were able to hold them, (with special gloves of course!) and learn about their history, choosing which of the object we liked the most to display at the celebration event.
The young people were involved in every moment and detail of the showcase event and designed craft activities for the younger audiences. When the day came, with families invited and information rehearsed the young people were centre stage. The group embraced the Swan Wing space at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, greeting the public and showcasing the objects they had chosen detailing their history to passers-by.
A full days’ worth of working as curators for The RSC with their new found friends, was really a sight to be proud of.
In the spirit of partnership working, we are now into our second cycle of reIMAGINE, this time with a new group of young people, we are focussed around Sound. Exploring the impact music and Sound FX have on performances and trying our hand at creating our own effects, ready to play in the Swan Theatre.
With huge thanks to The Royal Shakespeare Company, the wonderful staff and facilitators and of course, the young people, we are excited for the future of PYF and The RSC!
To leave you in the words of William Shakespeare himself;
“I can no other answer make but, thanks, and thanks and ever thanks.” – Twelfth Night.
The Positive Youth Foundation and St. Finbarrs GAA Club have further cemented their working partnership by confirming St. Finbarrs as a new location for the delivery of PYF sessions.
One of the first sessions that will be delivered at St. Finbarrs is a Sports Leaders Level 1 course, being jointly delivered by both the sports and youth employment sectors of PYF. The course is being ran specifically for clients on our BBO (Building Better Opportunities) programme. BBO aims to help young people who are not currently in any form of education, employment of training.
The course itself aims to help develop the confidence of young people, in addition to developing leadership skills, communication, planning and delivery skills. The elements learned with a Sports Leaders course will not assist these young people to gain a qualification, they are also key skills needed to develop a CV or for attending job interviews. The skills gained by young people on this course will allow them to have real life examples to use within job interviews.
In addition, the course will also allow young people to the chance to plan the delivery of a sports session to their peers. Such sessions can include mainstream sports but may also include games which the young person themselves may devise using a host of sports equipment that is on offer. The planning and delivery of a session is key to a young person’s development, as they will have to take on-board constructive criticism from their peers in addition to reflecting on their own performance to further improve their session next time.
This session will be delivered for the whole cohort of young people on our BBO programme, who have a range of complex needs from learning difficulties to behavioral issues.
So here we go, with my first attempt at an intended monthly update from my position as CEO of PYF.
The timing of this one is great, as we have recently witnessed a number of game changing events within our organisation and sector at large.
My first thoughts are with the recent announcement by Coventry City Council that we have been selected as the ‘Infrastructure Lead’ for Youth Work in the city. In essence, this will allow us the opportunity to build upon our long-standing partnership work with local voluntary sector youth service agencies as well as emerging services from the local authority. The first phase of this work has seen five exciting programmes supported to develop new services for young people. We look forward to working with colleagues from the Moat House Community Trust, Creative Optimistic Visions, Media Mania, Aptitude CIC and the Coventry Skate Park Project.
Whilst there is still much to do, we have initiated a mapping exercise which will inform us of the local landscape of youth services, which we will use to develop a greater understanding of priority and need.
Key strategic partners are being contacted to further our understanding of policy objectives we could be influencing. Exciting times, with thanks to the local authority and voluntary sector partners for their co-operation as we seek to address local service losses with positive action.
Secondly, we recently had the pleasure of supporting Coventry’s ‘City of Culture 2021’ bid at its session at the House of Commons. Anyone who knows PYF will know that we have been heavily invested in this work since day one. The young people we meet across the city are well informed of this bid and it’s cultural components, which is a significant result in itself. Genuine engagement in cultural activity is embedded in to all of our work. Keep an eye out for some big news coming in the coming weeks!
Linked to this, is (in our opinion) the only show in town worth talking about! The 1st November will see PYF working with partners Armonico Consort and Warwick Arts Centre to showcase some serious talent.
The ‘Changing Trax – Electric Proms’ presents 14 of Coventry’s finest young emerging artists in an evening of unique performances. The artists will perform their own tracks to a backdrop of a 40 piece orchestra and 200 strong youth choir, courtesy of critically acclaimed Armonico Consort. Former BBC Proms Young Composer of the Year, Toby Young has re-worked each piece collaboratively with the artists for this showcase. Having formerly worked with the likes of Chase & Status, Duran Duran, The Rolling Stones and Ellie Goulding, Young turns his hand to working on pieces which started in makeshift studios and youth clubs across Coventry. The young people performing are all current participants or alumni from the Positive Youth Foundation (PYF) and its Youth Music funded programme Changing Trax.
PYF is an ambitious social enterprise based in Coventry which exists in order to raise the aspirations of young people. These exclusive collaborations will be conducted by Armonico Consort’s Artistic Director Christopher Monks. The show is billed to be an eclectic mix of musical genres including HipHop, Soul and Pop. The evening will be punctuated with dance, short films and achievements of PYF and its beneficiaries. Book your tickets now!
And finally, we have been involved in consultation with a national partner about a potentially significant investment in to the city. Whilst this is at the early stage of a bidding process, my feelings about this are incredibly positive, regardless of the outcome. The process involves key partners from the city, all committing to working collaboratively, to challenge the status quo and be bold in accepting the changes we need to make in order to better serve our city. This was refreshing and gives me genuine hope that the future for young people’s and community services look positive.
For further information about the work of PYF, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter by emailing email@example.com