How do we involve Young People without doing 'Youth Theatre'

Peter Vanderford, 17 July 2012

Participants:Peter, Kelly, Tom, Jane, Miranda, Alexander, Sheila, Romana

(YP= young people)

Peter explained that the question was meant to be very broad. How do we involve young people in theatre, theatre management and the creative process while increasing access so we are not just working with privileged individuals.

The extra challenge is to create activity which is youth-led, including young people in the decision making and governance of the project. This involves other roles within theatre, such as technical, marketing, stage management, writing, and building roles.

Sheila gave an example at the Barbican Theatre, where there is a young performer's (youth and dance) company and then a second access company, which works in technical, marketing, writing roles. The access company provides extra levels of support to work with YP from more diverse backgrounds who are not the usual gifted and talented group. This group has been challenging, but has had several success stories as well.

Peter gave the example of a group at Exeter Phoenix, where the YP are invited to form their own arts group, without a specific goal of a performance or exhibition. YP are asked what art form they want work with and what the outcome should be.

However, people suggested that this can mean that YP don't commit as there is no clear result to their involvement.

There is a performance at the Theatre Royal Plymouth at the moment which is a professional production from Belgium, involving artists of all ages. It has an 18-year old directing the performance to name one example. This is about treating young people differently, and expecting them to act as Young Professional (caps are intentional) and not just young people.

The challenge is to provide progression routes within these opportunities, giving YP a professional experience and skills they will use in their professional lives. It is, or course, difficult to support young people in these roles so they can success or fail in the learning process, and learn from the experience.

Tom and Miranda had experience with Theatre Royal's Youth Company and people's Company. They said that it was inspiring and motivating to knoww that they could build up to working with the People's Company after a few years.

Kelly benefitted from working with the Young Company at the Brewhouse Theatre, but then showed in interest in other opportunities. She volunteered for a while, but was then supported through an apprenticeship scheme. This was not an existing scheme, but Brewhouse Staff realised the benefit of working with her.

Is University the best route for aspiring theatre makers? Tom commented that he did not want to go to University for 3 years to learn how to make someone else's theatre.

However, some people commented that University would give the space to develop as an artist and that it was necessary to know the classics and history of theatre in order to experiment your own style.

A few people commented that the National Connections Scheme was an inspiring example as it gave a wide range of young people a chance to perform in Regional theatre stages and have a professional experience.

Romana gave the example of his group in Cornwall which employs YP in paid roles, and combines performing and support functions. Young people are not auditioned, so they must be persistent in their interest to join the company. Their roles in technical, marketing, building, etc are crucial to their employment.


youth arts, youth-led, young people, Access, access, youth theatre, Youth Theatre, Young People