30 Jan 2023

Meet Your Mentor

Post written by: Erin Walcon

On Friday 27 January 2023, a group of Applied Drama students at the University of Exeter gathered together with six Lead Teaching Artists to prepare for the Devising Discovery Outreach programme. This annual outreach programme, now in its 12th year, provides professional artist support for secondary drama classes across Devon.

The ‘Meet Your Mentor’ session is always joyful – and this year was no exception. It’s a rare and precious thing for professional Teaching Artists to be able to gather in a studio with their colleagues and get some play time. Getting to work with exciting emerging artists from the Applied Drama programme at the University of Exeter makes it even more exciting.

drama facilitators hide behind each other

This year’s delivery team includes Lee Hart (Theatre Royal Plymouth, Voodoo Monkeys).

drama facilitator smiles

It also includes Lisa Hudson and Jacob Blackburn (Exeter Northcott Theatre).

drama facilitator laughs and points

Michael Smith (PaddleBoat Theatre Company)

two drama facilitators point at each other

Polly Ferguson-Carruthers (Doorstep Arts)

two drama facilitators smiling

Jade Campbell (Doorstep Arts, Theatre Royal Plymouth)

drama facilitators hide behind each other

This team will be working in ten regional secondary schools across the next two weeks. They’ll be delivering 22 visiting workshops, working with 325 students in their schools. At the end of this two-week-flurry, all the students who have taken part will come together at the Exeter Northcott Theatre for a final Platform event. It’s a joyful, aspirational, ambitious opportunity.

two drama facilitators look interested, pointing at an imaginary object

busy room of drama facilitators - one seated on the floor

For me, the ‘Meet Your Mentor’ day is a particularly special one. This professional team of Teaching Artists represent a unique group of highly experience pedagogues. They specialise in work with children & young people or under-served community groups, and their drama/theatre expertise is a special craft. They bring so much wisdom and experience – and the Applied students from the university bring such incredible enthusiasm, care, respect and potential into the programme.

two drama facilitators lie on their backs on the floor

And the way that this manifests most powerfully for me, is the sheer silliness of some of the playfulness. It takes great wisdom and skill to be able to create a safe space for people to be silly. The best devising approaches to theatre making encourage boldness, artistic risk-taking, adventure in storytelling, confidence in your own voice. These artists are experts and nurturing spaces which encourage that. It’s something that our schools are badly in need of.

two drama facilitators talk during an exercise

So for the next two weeks, they’ll be travelling up and down the country lanes of Devon, working across ten secondary schools. I can’t wait to see the work that the students create – it will all be coming to perform at the Exeter Northcott Theatre on Saturday 11 Feb, 2023.

Big thanks to the funders – Widening Participation (University of Exeter) and Arts Council England, without whom this work would not be possible.