Hull Youth Theatre was founded in 2017 and is the inspiration of playwrights John and Jane Godber and exists to break down barriers and address the inequalities of opportunity and access in the performing arts. We believe the performing arts should represent their audience and be created by all of society, not just a few. To this end, we want to ensure Hull's next generation of artists have the future they deserve.
The National Youth Arts Trust was founded in 2013 by theatre director and writer Fiona Laird to create greater access for all and reduce inequality in the performing arts. We provide bursaries for actors, musicians and dancers and run theatre projects in areas of social and economic deprivation. We are seeking to secure the long-term sustainability and development of Hull Youth Theatre to ensure we can continue to provide a vital creative hub for talented disadvantaged young people to develop their skills and talent.
A small charity (2 full-time employees) we are fortunate to have a very pro-active, diverse and experienced Board of trustees led by ex-lawyer Joanna Kennedy, a former Chair of both the Unicorn and Headlong. We also have the support of some wonderful patrons, including John and Jane Godber, Grayson Perry, Adrian Lester, Stephen Mangan, Yolanda Mercy, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Brian Cox and David Lammy. We have an ambitious road map for the next five years, rolling out the successful template of our Hull Youth Theatre project to other areas, such as the East Midlands and Port Talbot. We are also starting a music project in collaboration with a local charity at Grenfell Towers in May 2021.
Former Hull student Alex says, 'As a lad growing up on a council estate in Hull, there weren't many places to access drama other than school or very pricey courses on the posh side of Hull, so this was a big barrier and still is a big barrier today. I attended NYAT throughout my time at sixth form where I gained knowledge in how the industry works and with the trips to see local theatre and even to RADA in London this gave me an insight of applying for drama school, and the possibilities I had.'
Hull Youth Theatre is located in East Hull and is based at the Archbishop Sentamu Academy, situated in the 16th most deprived postcode area in the country. With the highest proportion of disadvantaged children than any other Yorkshire school, the pupil premium is allocated to around 60% of pupils. Its geographical position at the heart of an estate makes it ideally situated to be accessible to students without the necessity of travelling into Hull and the financial barriers that prevent this. It also is at the heart of regenerating an area of the city where there is little arts provision for students.
Our aim is to create a more cohesive society with creativity at its centre. To this end, we collaborate with a wide group of local and national arts organisations such as Middle Child, Beat Bus, John Godber Theatre, Hull Truck Theatre Company, LAMDA, Hull New Theatre and East Riding Theatre. We have also collaborated with Instagram on short series of films made by students.
Since the project began in 2017, we have seen 20 pupils from our Hull project continue to drama school. This is the measure of our impact on one small area in the UK.
A maximum of 30 pupils aged 12-19 participate in weekly 3-hour workshops run by theatre professionals over the 39 weeks of school term. The Academy has a drama studio and theatre with lighting and sound facilities and workshops cover a range of skills, including script writing, improvisation, movement and voice and working on devised pieces.
The aims of the workshops are to:
• Provide a much-needed creative activity in the area
• Widen access to the performing arts
• Create a collaborative and creative environment for talented young people to explore their potential
• Raise aspirations and confidence
• Give students the opportunity to learn from industry professionals
At the start of the pandemic we immediately moved masterclasses online to ensure consistency of support and provided play screenings and online support and mentoring, as well as sharing wider theatre resources with students.
‘We have been acutely aware that the lockdown has turned the lives of young people upside down. That is why we have continued to offer them a space to have their voices heard, to be creative and socialise with their friends. We are going to use the experience we have gained during our online work with Instagram to find new ways of allowing young people to be creative and create art within the constraints the pandemic has put on us all.' Matt Butchers, Youth Theatre Leader
Hull Youth Theatre Drama Teacher, Lucy Riley, says: ‘The students in this area have an overwhelming urge to prove themselves. Their talent is unquestionable. Further opportunities will inspire them to believe in themselves and will undoubtedly change lives.’
Recent masterclasses attended by both our Alumni and current students have included:
Autobiographical Writing for the Theatre (Rosa Hesmondhalgh, LAMDA graduate and writer/performer) Casting for the Theatre (with Wendy Spon, Casting Director at the National Theatre), Dementia Friendly Theatre, Running Your Own Theatre Company/How to be a Drama Facilitator/Applying for Arts Council Funding.
Future workshops include Regional Accents/Producing/Writing/Directing for the Theatre/Voiceover Work/Video Game Acting/Presenting to an Agent/Sound & Design.
We also hope to begin Outreach workshops with the Archbishop Sentamu Academy again soon and continuing to provide drop-in sessions to see how everyone is coping. We have also produced video content of our masterclasses as a less intimidating way of engaging our younger participants.
Middle Child/Beat Bus
This is a project postponed from last year in collaboration with Middle Child and Beat Bus. Each youth group will create a 10-minute piece in response to the Middle Child show, and potentially also perform at the Freedom Festival in Hull (September). Middle Child are an NPO theatre company based in Hull Matt Butcher, our Youth Theatre Leader is a founding member. Beat Bus run hip hop, break dancing and graffiti workshops in Hull.
We will be running sessions with the youth theatre online about ‘Theatre Reimagined’ or ‘NYAT Futures’, asking artists working in the performing arts to facilitate a session on what change and progress we hope for when theatre returns.
Students will be encouraged to speak for 10-15mins about the thing they’d like to see change for the better in the future and then answer any questions the young people might have. As I say, these sessions are with young people who are about to graduate so we want these talks to give them hope that the industry can be built back better.
We have applied to take part in a youth theatre UK wide collaboration with Company Three on a project called When This Is Over – a collaborative play in which teenagers onstage tell the stories of their lives, in the third person and past tense. Youth theatres will contribute to the play and eventual performance, coinciding with the International Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The idea is that young people across the country will be expressing their hopeful futures at the same time a group of adult leaders are deciding the future of the world.
Hull Youth Theatre
'What is particularly striking about this programme is not necessarily the deprivation or social disadvantage, nor is it its geography; since it sits on the extreme east of Hull, with its surrounding environment either under redevelopment or left suspended in time. What has always impressed me, has been the talent, commitment and honesty of the students, their willingness to accept new ideas, and experiences on the students doorstep. In these challenging times this hot spot of participation in the arts is fundamentally important, since it disposes of the need to travel in to Hull, and it lowers any financial barrier which would preclude many of these young people from taking part, and the relationship and quality of the leaders gives the young people status. It is axiomatic that if these students are given the opportunity to grow and develop, they do. In areas which have become barren we need more water, and students in areas which are struggling deserve the best.”
Dr Jane Thornton (Godber) BA, The John Godber Company
Reg Number: 06455490 | Charity Number: 1125856