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Young scriptwriters take to the stage in New Writing South's Our Space project

  • Date: 6 August 2010
  • Artform: None
  • Area: South East
Insomnia, Our Space, 2009 Insomnia, Our Space, 2009, Photo courtesy of New Writing South

Students at Falmer High School in Brighton have taken their creative ideas from the page to the stage as part of a young scriptwriter programme led by New Writing South.   

The programme was part of Arts Council regularly funded organisation New Writing South's Our Space project, funded with additional support from a Grants for the arts award of £13,870.

New Writing South, the writing development agency for the south east, worked in partnership with Falmer High School, Brighton Dome and Festival, Theatre Royal, Brighton Youth Theatre at Falmer and Junk TV on the year-long project.

Every Tuesday afternoon, professional scriptwriter Jo Smith taught the group of 15 young people aged 13 to 16 about the different aspects of the creative process and scriptwriting.

During this series of workshops, the young people wrote an original play called Insomnia, which they previewed at Youth Arts Fringe launch in May and performed to a packed audience at Brighton Pavilion Theatre in July 2009.  

The students also worked with Brighton film production company Junk TV's Simon Wilkinson to create a film, which added another dimension to their theatre production.

Scriptwriter, Jo, helped the students, who were mixed in ability and experience, to overcome a range of barriers, such as learning difficulties, literacy, and confidence, to develop their unique voice and theatre writing skills. This included characterisation, plot structure, dialogue, and scripting.

Jo says: 'The development in the students' confidence and creative learning has been the most positive aspect of this project. Once they realised that this was an opportunity to explore all the different possibilities of creating a performance, they came up with amazing ideas and were very keen to experiment and push themselves out of their own comfort zones.'

Our Space also aimed to give the young people a taste of the arts and to explore career opportunities in the theatre industry.

The young people attended workshops and masterclasses from an impressive range of professionals including:

  • Physical theatre and character development with Unpacked Theatre Company
  • Musical theatre with Stephen Clark, book and lyric writer of Zorro, Martin Guerre
  • Costume design with Amy Jackson, Chichester Festival Theatre
  • Collaborative performance and the realities of being a performer with Victoria Gould, former Eastenders star and now with physical theatre company, Complicite
  • Sound design and composing for stage with Joe Young
  • Voice coaching with Nancy Wigglesworth

Over the year, the group saw A Christmas Carol at Chichester Festival Theatre, Justitia by Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company, and Brief Encounter from Kneehigh Theatre at Theatre Royal.

The young people also travelled to London to visit the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, met with Brighton Dome's  PR and marketing team, and explored Theatre Royal Brighton, which included a Q&A with front of house staff and backstage crew.

Katie Westein, a student on the project, said of her experience: 'I enjoyed having visitors in to help us devise and write Insomnia. Everything I have learnt in the workshops will help me in my future career.'  

Another student, Jack Leonard said, 'I've really enjoyed doing this because of the amount of live performances I've seen; they have really inspired my thinking'.

Tania Banks, Head of Drama at Falmer High School, confirmed the project's success: 'The improvement in their self esteem, self belief and in their support for each other has been extraordinary.

'They have had so many fantastic opportunities of going to the theatre for free and backstage tours and finding out how a theatre space works. Most of them are now considering a career as an actor or working in theatre and have seen this project as a step towards this goal.'