Post written by: Erin Walcon
It’s that time of year again… my absolute favourite. Outreach time.
And this time round, something really special has happened though.
I’m not going out.
For the first time in nearly 9 years, I won’t be hopping in my little car and heading out puttering across the wilds of Devon to every secondary school in the area. And as much as I absolutely love going into secondary schools and working with drama teachers and students, I couldn’t be happier about it.
We have the most incredible team of lead artists working on Open Doors Outreach this season, and I’m needed in-house at Doorstep HQ. (We have an NPO to finish prepping for – it’s spreadsheets and policy-tastic in there.)
It has been such a joy to cast the net a bit wider this year and bring in some of our absolute favourite youth specialists from the southwest to deliver workshops. It reads like a Dream Team list… Alix Harris (Beyond Face & Barbican Theatre), Lucy Hirst & Katherine Stevens (The Young Pretenders, Exeter), Jade Campbell (Doorstep & Theatre Royal Plymouth), Polly Ferguson (Doorstep & Little Encore Theatre), and Michael Smith (PaddleBoat).
These 6 lead artists work with a team of 18 university undergraduate students from the Applied Theatre programme at the University of Exeter Drama Department.
This mentorship programme supports emerging facilitators to learn their craft in real experiential settings (i.e. actual schools) with some professionals who are masters of their craft. This funny hybrid field requires an educator’s heart and a theatre-maker’s eye. It’s why they use the phrase ‘teaching artist’ in America – it captures the blend of skills necessary to make the work sing.
And singing it certainly is.
This outreach programme is a win-win-win all round.
The schools receive free visiting workshops to enrich their devising curriculum.
The secondary students get to showcase their original work on a professional stage and meet other young people from across Devon at a buzzy exciting final event.
The university students get to work on their craft and gain valuable real world experience.
The Lead Artists – well, we get time in a room together as a community of practice, which is a precious thing. To share ideas, to share worries, to talk about artistic exchange and future projects.
What a joy this outreach thing is. Even if I am watching it, this year, from inside the office. It’s beautiful to behold.