Learning and Education

As one of twelve Challenge London investments from A New Direction, our Local Cultural Education Partnership, Creative Wandsworth, looks to empower young people in Wandsworth to inform and shape creative activity in their area by working in partnership with cultural organisations, schools, youth services and other local partners to deliver projects and activities that inform strategic outcomes for young people of all ages. This has included setting up a creative youth panel of young people aged 14–21 to help inform and shape this new Arts and Culture Strategy, and providing support and training for arts and culture organisations to develop their own Youth Voice.

Case study: Embedding Arts & Culture in Schools

Apples & Snakes is one of the UK’s leading spoken word and poetry organisations and specialises in participation and outreach. In 2018, they were commissioned as part of the Linden Homes’ Section 106 Cultural Action Plan to work with Falconbrook and Westbridge Primary Schools for two years to develop new more dynamic approaches to teaching English and poetry in particular.

The selected schools both have a high concentration of young people on free school meals (58% at Falconbrook and 39.4% at Westbridge, against a Wandsworth average of 17.6%) and a significant number of children who either have English as an additional language, are involved in social care, and/or have a SEN or a SEN concern. As one teacher put it, “the school’s link inspector has previously reported that the greatest barrier to reading and writing in our school is the poverty of language that pupils bring with them from home. With these issues in mind, our pupils would benefit greatly from being exposed to new experiences; the discussions, writing and art lessons that would arise from an arts project would allow exposure to new vocabulary and rich conversations.” This led to the cultural commission focussing on working with the young people to develop their confidence with language and train teachers in this technique.

The project’s aim was twofold:

1. To give children living in a deprived area of Wandsworth the chance to explore and develop their writing skills and literacy through creating poems and raps around the themes of Identity / Belonging / Home (Year 1) and Thinking Big / Resilience (Year 2)

2. To support both schools in carving out time for creative training and staff development. Two highly experienced artists were recruited to lead the project: BREIS, a rap artist, was based at Falconbrook Primary, and Kat Francois, a spoken word poet, was based at Westbridge Primary. Both worked with years 3 and 4 in year one, and years 4 and 5 in year two.

The project worked with 118 students from four classes aged 8–10 and explored the project themes through spoken word arts. Over the two years it had a profound effect on the young people, growing their confidence in using language and developing their performance skills. An important element was that every single child participated in one of the final performances.

The project culminated with various public performances. Two performances took place in school to an audience of other year groups and parents/carers. The other two performances were to the general public – one in Falcon Park at the end of year one, and later as part of WAF Schools Showcase in the Civic Suite at Wandsworth Town Hall on 9 May 2019 to an audience of over 450 people.

Six teachers were heavily involved with the project. These teachers began by observing Kat and BREIS delivering the sessions and then gradually took a greater role in planning and delivery, with the aim of building their confidence in teaching poetry in the classroom. To further embed creative learning in the schools an INSET session for teachers, including those from other Wandsworth schools, was held after the project ended to support the teachers in learning new approaches to working with poetry and spoken word and gain confidence in their ability to deliver a more creative curriculum.

Feedback from the teachers included:

“I will plan my next poetry unit as a performance poetry unit and plan it into assemblies knowing it will be really well-received by the children”

“seeing the growth from last year has been brilliant – they are much more confident, and their work is much stronger”

Case study: WAF Schools Showcase

In May 2019 Wandsworth Arts Service held the first ever Wandsworth Arts Fringe Schools Showcase. Held at the Civic Suite at Wandsworth Town Hall, the event was the culmination of creative projects between Wandsworth Primary Schools and cultural organisations, covering a range of creative activity including dance, drama, music, visual art, animation, and spoken word. Over 700 young people took part in the projects from 33 different schools. WAF School Showcase brought together the following projects as part of a borough wide celebration of young people’s creativity.

Chocolate Films Workshops with Nightingale Community Academy, Paddock Primary School, Ronald Ross Primary School, Roehampton CE Primary School, Trinity St. Mary’s RC Primary School:

106 pupils took part in hands-on 2D stop motion animation workshops, learning how to use camera and lighting equipment and professional Dragonframe animation software to create their own animations based on their local area. All animations were screened at the showcase.

Group 64 at Putney Arts Theatre with West Hill Primary School:

50 Year 4 pupils took part in interactive theatre workshops to explore Wandsworth’s past, present and future. During the project they developed confidence and creativity through performance skills, including physical theatre and puppetry. Their finished piece was performed live at the showcase.

Pump House Gallery with Griffin Primary School:

30 Pupils from years 3 and 4 worked with artist Orly Orbach to explore food and the stories and memories behind it. They then experimented with textures to create patterns and prints with a variety of food items and create a tablecloth design, which was exhibited at the showcase.

Royal College of Art with Chesterton Primary School:

60 Pupils from Year 5 worked with artist Tom Pope in creative hands-on workshops to learn about one of the oldest photographic print-making processes, cyanotypes, a fantastic cross-curricular process mixing science and art. The final artworks were exhibited at the showcase.

Wandsworth School’s Music Service:

We were delighted to showcase the Year 5 and 6 Singing Project, following their outstanding Brighter Sounds concert at the Royal Festival Hall. 40 pupils performed live at the event. In addition, the Wandsworth Performance Troupe, made up of 45 pupils from a wide range of Wandsworth schools, opened the performance.

Work and Play Scrapstore with Broadwater and Fircroft Primary Schools:

Artist Stevie King worked with 224 pupils of all ages to create decorative bricks from reclaimed materials. Pupils were asked to reflect on their individuality and use their creativity to express this in order to develop structures representing community. The finished bricks were used to construct an installation that was exhibited at the showcase.

Apples & Snakes with Falconbrook and Westbridge Primary Schools:

Pupils worked with professional spoken word artists to write and perform their own work. Performances from Falconbrook pupils were filmed and screened at the showcase; a group of Westbridge pupils performed live at the event.

To assist with the showcase performance, a team of students from South Thames College was recruited in order to explore ways that the older students can produce and manage the final performance events as part of Wandsworth Arts Fringe and develop practical skills useful for future employment. They took on Front of House roles and worked under the supervision of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe Producer and Front of House Manager.

Case study: Nurturing Wandsworth Talent

Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) delivers a range of bold and ambitious projects for young people. Their programmes empower young people to take creative risks, support them to make their ideas happen, and increase their confidence and self-esteem.

Beatbox Academy. Nathaniel is 25 and has been a core member of the Beatbox Academy (BBA) for over 8 years. Nathaniel began his journey with BBA by attending as a weekly participant. Over the years Nathaniel has developed his skills as a performer and a workshop leader. Conrad Murray, BBA director, and staff at BAC have supported Nathaniel on this journey, working alongside him to develop him as a young leader and peer mentor for other young people. Today, Nathaniel is the co-workshop facilitator for the BBA, this is a paid role. This is the sort of progression that BBA want to and do invest in, nurturing young people to develop their skills and share them with other young people. Upskill them and train new professional leaders from our local area.

Through his journey with BBA Nathaniel has not only become a workshop leader and facilitator he has become a professional performer as part of Battersea Arts Centre smash hit show Frankenstein. Frankenstein was developed through BBA by Conrad Murray and the members of the Beat Box Academy, Frankenstein is a modern day take on a classic tale.

Frankenstein grew from a small studio show to an international touring phenomenon, winning best show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 and playing at the Adelaide Fringe in January 2020, Frankenstein will tour internationally as soon as COVID allows. From attending weekly beat box sessions as a young teenager, to running workshops to making and touring an international smash hit show, Nathaniel has actively and brilliantly demonstrated what is possible when consistent investment is made in young people.

Case study: Teaching New Skills

Tavaziva Dance is a sector leader for dance production and training in the UK. Their core purpose is to excite, transform and enrich people’s experience of dance. Artistic Director Bawren Tavaziva’s Zimbabwean heritage and his unique hybridisation of African and contemporary choreography and music lie at the heart of all Tavaziva’s work, which is renowned for its bold, risk-taking and beautiful choreography and is popular with audiences and ever more relevant in today’s cultural landscape.

Since moving to Wandsworth in 2016, Tavaziva has become a key cultural player, offering a range of classes, workshops, residencies, work placements, apprenticeships in dance and arts management, talks, screenings, and online programmes. The vision that unites this activity is to support a thriving, diverse dance sector where young people, students, professionals and the wider community learn and participate in an inclusive, inspirational and often life-changing environment.

In 2018 and 2019 Tavaziva, in collaboration with RAD and Caius House, were commissioned to lead a two-year programme for young people in Wandsworth. They delivered activities including CPD training, taster sessions and masterclasses, plus intensives in music and dance, where participants experienced using professional music suites and dance studios. The project also included performances for friends and family, a film of the participants, shot by award-winning photographer and filmmaker Jevan Chowdhury, and a permanent photography exhibition at Caius House – all inspired by the title ‘Journeying Between.’

The workshop leaders mentored the participants, giving valuable insight into what is expected of artists in professional companies and guidance on timekeeping, confidence, teamwork and marketing skills. Beyond the physical and digital legacy, a lasting bond was developed. They discussed what they would like to happen in the future, and all were passionate about continuing to meet, dance and create together. A group was formed – ‘The Caius House Crew’– and Tavaziva are working towards making a case for further workshops of this kind either with the same group or new groups around the country.

Aside from this fantastic two-year project, Tavaziva produces touring shows that can be seen across the UK, and when in the studio creating opens its doors to offers open classes for professionals led by Bawren Tavaziva and guest dance teachers. Tavaziva has delivered classes to over 390 professionals, graduates and dancers studying at Higher Education level. These classes are highly energetic and physically challenging, and aim to give an insight into working with a professional dance company. Tavaziva is developing a Company in Residence programme with RAD and also starting conversations about an apprenticeship programme with Roehampton University dance department to bridge the gap between dance training and employment in the cultural industry.

Case study: Breaking down barriers into music for young people from diverse backgrounds

World Heart Beat (WHB) was founded in 2009 in an old converted warehouse in Southfields to address the lack of free and affordable music tuition available to South London’s most disadvantaged young people. They have become one of the UK’s leading music hubs, continuing to support young people in Wandsworth. They are renowned for their inclusive global music programme, youthled approach and the pathways they open up to conservatoires and music careers for diverse young talent.

From an intake of 70 students in 2010, they have grown to 370 students in 2019–2020. Each year they:

  • Inspire 2,000 young people to take up an instrument, often for the first time, through taster sessions delivered with more advanced students in schools and community settings in some of Wandsworth’s most deprived areas.
  • Support 370 young people aged 5–25 to develop their musical and performance skills through 1:1 and group teaching and band ensembles. By offering a repertoire that includes Asian, Jazz, Gospel, Eastern European, Gypsy, Latin, Reggae and Tabla genres, they reflect the diversity of the Borough and its large Asian, African, and Caribbean population. They have established a diverse student body, with 70% identifying as ethnically diverse and over half receiving full bursaries and free instruments.
  • Provide professional development to 30 exceptional young musicians aged 15–25 as part of the Music Leaders students programme. Music Leaders students receive mentoring from professionals, training in vocational music and production, and are given opportunities to perform, record and curate and produce concerts and events for the local community. The Music Leaders students also serve as role models for younger students, providing mentoring and training and co-delivering our taster workshops. 70% of WHB’s Music Leader students now study at top music conservatoires/universities, have secured professional roles in the music/creative industries, or have been recruited to training programmes in other sectors, and twelve of WHB’s teachers are past alumni.

In Autumn 2021, WHB will be opening a second performance hub and education centre in Embassy Gardens as one of the Nine Elms cultural anchor tenants, in a space provided by Eco-World Ballymore on a 50-year peppercorn lease. The new Academy will serve as an important cultural anchor in a rapidly changing neighbourhood, addressing the lack of accessible grassroots music venues in South London, and delivering a programme of over 100 concerts and events each year. The new space will enable WHB to double the number of students they can work with and extend their focus to marginalised young people.

“Having something you can do, to be passionate about, a skill you can develop and really hone, makes such a difference. It helps you navigate through all the negative distractions and influences growing up and gives you belief and confidence that you can succeed. Without music, the saxophone, the friends that I had in music and the role models I found at World Heart Beat I would not be where I am today.”
– Kwabena, 23

Case study: The Agency

Battersea Arts Centre offers a series of bold and ambitious projects for young people. Their programmes empower young people to take their creative risks, support them to make their ideas happen and increase their confidence and self-esteem. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in The Agency which develops local young people’s social entrepreneurship ideas.

Agents take part in creative workshops, develop their research skills and make professional networks to produce an idea that they are passionate about. At the end of the 12 week process the Agents have a chance to pitch their idea to a panel and receive up to £2000 to turn it into a reality. Each year 5 projects which benefit the community are funded.

Henrietta Imoreh – RE:DEFINE

Henrietta started with the Agency in 2016, aged 22. She has experience of the care system and a passion for theatre. Through the Agency she developed a theatre company called Re:Define, campaigning for the rights of care leavers through creative workshops and performance. Henrietta is now a public speaker for care leavers’ rights, and works at EY Foundation supporting care experienced young people into work.

Henrietta is from the local Wandsworth area, and her theatre company for care leavers called ‘Redefine’ is based on personal experience, “as when I was 14, my little brother and I were taken into care. Shortly after, I was expelled from school for carrying a knife. Over the next few years I went to 8 different foster homes and attended a Pupil Referral Unit as I couldn’t maintain mainstream education.”

When she started the Agency, she had just started living in her own flat after having been in a hostel for four years, and was already on route to being evicted. It was a very daunting time for her. “The Agency made me think creatively about my whole life. The process started with me and my desire and was shaped around what I wanted to do. It’s made me who I am today.” The biggest shift happened when she was awarded the money from the Panel. It was a huge boost for her self-esteem; sense of identity; and belonging. The Panel believed in her idea – and that is huge for a young person who has just come out of care. “For the first time in my life I felt proud of myself. The experience of setting up ‘Redefine’ was the most amazing feeling anyone can feel. For the first time in my life, I felt autonomy, responsibility and a sense of agency. I’ve always had external agencies – be it a teacher, a social worker, a sexual advisor, a councillor, a mental health therapist– talking for me, but this time I could talk for myself.” When she went to social services and asked them to refer ten young people for the programme that she was running and had sourced funding for – she could feel their awe and surprise about what she was able to accomplish. She could feel the power shift in the room.

She cried when they staged their first show, realising that what started as a small idea has had such a massive impact. “When I saw the young people on stage – I could tell they had changed: they had confidence, were strong and proud. None of them had work or are in education. Before ‘Redefine’, some of them wouldn’t even leave the house, but through the process they came to rehearsals every time. When we performed our show at City Hall for politicians, policy makers and people of influence – after the performance I thought they would be nervous and sit straight back down in the audience. But they didn’t – they started talking about their experiences and what ‘Redefine’ had unlocked for them. My aim was never to expose their stories and narratives for sympathy, but they felt so strong within their identity that they decided they wanted to talk about it and educate the policy makers.”

Since The Agency, she has worked as an assistant facilitator on the programme and Outreach Coordinator at BAC. She now works for Ernst & Young, one of the largest companies in the world, as Careers Consultant for Young People in Care. She has also set up her own children’s party business, ‘Happy Henry’, that brings joy through drama to children. The business has been running for four years and now makes about £10,000 per year. She is also on the board of trustees for Agenda, a charity that supports women and girls at risk of abuse, poverty and homelessness and is leading meetings with a range of influential people including the Chief Executive of Barnardo’s and the Head of Children’s Services and Leaving Care Services in councils across London.