Scene & Heard is using arts to improve self-esteem and and raise the aspirations of young people in Somers Town in Camden, London, where 55% of the children in live below the poverty line. Children are referred to the project by their primary schools aged 9. Having their own work performed for the public improves the youngsters’ confidence, social skills and literacy.
The volunteer theatre professionals serve as mentors and role models, expanding the youngsters' sense of what is possible. The project launch a new course, Playback, for older children in 2008, and thanks to Lottery funding it became a regular part of the curriculum in 2011. Playback now offers courses for those who’d taken part in Scene & Heard during school, but have become too old for them. In Playback members write a short play, and a professional writer then writes another short play in response. The young people, teamed with an actor and director, rehearsed these plays and performed them to their community.
Scene & Heard volunteer, Gordon Peaston, explains how one young man thrived from the opportunity to take part in Playback: “He was overwhelmed, very shy and lacked confidence when I first met him. But having fun made him open up. He had a lot to offer and began putting his views forward, and had us in stitches with his sense of humour. I saw him gain self-belief and the results were astonishing. He grew in confidence on stage and produced a wonderfully funny, moving piece of theatre.”
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