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.
This year’s delivery team includes Lee Hart (Theatre Royal Plymouth, Voodoo Monkeys).
It also includes Lisa Hudson and Jacob Blackburn (Exeter Northcott Theatre).
Michael Smith (PaddleBoat Theatre Company)
Polly Ferguson-Carruthers (Doorstep Arts)
Jade Campbell (Doorstep Arts, Theatre Royal Plymouth)
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.
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.
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.
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.