18 October 2019

The College has hosted the official launch of an exciting new playwriting and performance project which will involve 15 schools in the city over the next three years - including our College.

The project, With Flying Colours, sees professionals work with the schools to co-create short pop-up pieces in community spaces, a 30-minute school play each year, a professional show featuring some of the students, and an annual community-based festival that brings together all the schools taking part.

As part of the project, each school is assigned a professional playwright in residence.

With Flying Colours is led by Plymouth Cultural Education Partnership (PCEP) and is being delivered alongside some of the city’s best-known arts organisations including Theatre Royal Plymouth, Barbican Theatre, Plymouth Dance and Plymouth Music Zone. And it has a celebrity Ambassador - War Horse writer, Michael Morpurgo.

Plymouth is one of just five places in England to get funding for the Youth Performance Partnership, after beating off competition from across the South West to win the region’s £1 million pot from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). The funding was made available for communities in areas of high socio-economic deprivation.

With Flying Colours uses the repetition model, bringing in one secondary school and four primary schools each year. In the first year, schools in Devonport and Stonehouse are taking part - the four primaries joining us are St Peter’s, Mount Wise Community, College Road and Marlborough. Two further geographic hubs will be added in Years 2 and 3.

As Stoke Damerel Community College is involved right from the start, it means we get to take part for the full three years. And already, our students are benefitting. Head of Performing Arts, Mrs Clift, said: “We’ve had a number of visits from our professional playwrights Anita Maccallum, Tom Nicholas and Jaime Lock, and our students have started to write their own material.

“The biggest impact that I’ve seen is in their confidence. One of the things they’ve done is write monologues which they had to read out. Some of the students felt they didn’t have the confidence to do that and were worried. But by the end, they were full of confidence and they really enjoyed it.

“In the coming weeks, they’ll be generating ideas to perform - and those ideas have got to come from the students themselves. Whatever they write, it has to be what they want to shout about.”

 

The College has decided to start the project with Year 7 students. So far, over 100 have taken part. The new Year 7 intake will then join them in 2020 and 2021: “This is a fantastic project for us to be part of, a really exciting opportunity for our students to work with professional practitioners,” said Mrs Clift.

 

The launch event took place in The Street on 16 October. Among those attending were the chair of PCEP, Sheila Snellgrove, who is also CEO at the Barbican Theatre; the co-ordinator of With Flying Colours, Ben Vleminckx; and the director of learning and engagement at Theatre Royal Plymouth, Mandy Precious.

Mr Vleminckx said: “As well as the core playwriting, there are lots of other exciting opportunities for children and young people and their families to experience and develop skills in technical theatre, set making and costume design, linking to careers in the arts. And the performances will be happening in different types of spaces, bringing the streets of these communities to life.”   

Ms Precious added: “Our role as professionals is to be careful listeners, to co-create. And the work that is created will be a reflection of the community.

“The approach we’ve chosen gives us the opportunity to do things in a different way, it’s very much about community engagement and it offers a real opportunity to affect change.  It’s about working with the community and its assets so, for example, one of the pop-ups might be in the local fish and chip shop. It’s about developing skills, too, so that when we leave, the skills are there for the community to carry on the process themselves.

“Crucially, it’s giving young people access to different cultural opportunities - because there are real opportunities to make a career in the creative industries. It’s opening those up to people who wouldn’t normally have those opportunities.”