It has long been acknowledged that a well-rounded education must include some form of exposure to the Arts. We at the Charity start from the premise that Arts are a ‘good thing’ and this sentiment is reflected in the Charity’s grant-giving over the past 25 years, with Arts & Science projects consistently receiving the highest spend each year. Over £20 million has been awarded to Arts projects since 1991.
The Charity’s Beneficial Area contains an extraordinary number of world class Arts and Science venues and establishments. However recent statistics have shown that visitor numbers amongst young people from the Charity’s Beneficial Area, including school groups, are lower than visitors from other areas and further afield. We at the Charity work with these institutions to find strategies and develop engagement activities that target schools, young people and their families to help them take an active role in these Arts venues that are on their doorstep. Over the years, grants have been awarded to the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Portrait Gallery and Wigmore Hall, to name a few.
The Charity is keen to ensure the quality of Arts provision and keeps a close eye on the activities that are being delivered. We have a panel of specialist advisors, who are experts in their field, who also visit projects on the Charity’s behalf. To see who is on the Charity’s Advisor Panel, please click here.
The Charity also supports schools in the Beneficial Area directly, to help them engage in Arts projects. Activities in schools should be of high quality, enrich the curriculum, use the best practitioners and should be embedded into the school’s ethos. We want to ensure that talented young people are given the opportunity to further develop their skills and that schools and Arts providers should exploit any opportunity to highlight career paths within the Arts and/or its various strands.
Royal Court Theatre – Young Writers’ Programme
The Royal Court Young Writers’ Programme was established in 1966 to bring young audiences and young voices into the theatre. Since 1993, John Lyon’s Charity has granted over £400,000 to the Royal Court to run Young Writers’ Programmes. Over the years, several well-known playwrights have emerged from the accompanying Young Writers’ Festival including Nick Payne (Wanderlust 2010, Constellations 2012), Bola Agbaje (Off the Endz, 2010, Gone Too Far! 2007), Alia Bano (Shades 2009), DC Moore (The Empire 2010, Alaska 2007) and Molly Davies (A Miracle 2009). Projects within the Young Writers’ Programme have included Tales from the City (1993), Metropolis (1995), Class (1998), Playwrights at Work (2002), Rampage (2003) and Critical Mass (2005).
In 2011, John Lyon’s Charity supported the Royal Court to extend the Young Writers’ Programme to younger age groups and to establish links with local primary schools. This has had much success and has influenced the complexion of young people at the Court. We have recently extended this commitment with a grant of £100,000 over the next three years towards the Primetime initiative for primary schools throughout the Charity’s Beneficial Area.
Primetime is a new initiative created to benefit schools that have limited engagement with arts education projects. Each year, over the summer, Primetime tours to 15 schools. Each school receives a performance followed by a taster playwriting workshop. In the autumn, young people from those schools take part in a playwriting group, working with a Royal Court playwright. The tour of Primetime consists of 10 plays written by the school children, aged 8-11. Each year the tour will consist of plays written by the previous year’s cohort and performed by professional actors.
Find out more about on Primetime, please click here.
English National Ballet
In 2014, John Lyon’s Charity supported English National Ballet (ENB) to deliver an ambitious project in two secondary schools: Capital City Academy (Brent) and Hammersmith Academy (Hammersmith & Fulham). Dance Journeys was inspired by Lest We Forget, the collaboration between ENB and Akram Khan Company to commemorate the First World War. Students from the two schools worked with dancers from both companies towards a performance on the main stage at the Barbican. The project was ambitious in the level of commitment required by participants. Sessions were delivered weekly and students had to commit to two weekend rehearsals. The resulting performance at the Barbican was mesmerizing and full of emotion.
ENB has repeated the Dance Journeys project every year since, increasing the number of participating schools and incorporating wider aspects of ballet production, including sound, video and backstage work. The students also have the opportunity to work with ENB Young Company towards a ‘Curtain Raiser’ performance before a ‘matinee takeover’ performance at Sadler’s Wells, performing alongside the ENB Youth Company, ENB School and its main professional company.
Synergy Theatre Project
Synergy was founded in 2000 and provides theatre performance opportunities to prisoners, ex-prisoners and youths at risk. Its work aims to aid rehabilitation and resettlement, reduce offending and support continuing personal development of hard to reach and vulnerable young people.
To date, we have awarded Synergy £120,000 and are currently contributing £20,000 per year towards the education programme. This aims to engage the young people who are most at risk of entering, or have already entered, the criminal justice system through high quality, theatre-based activities. These are delivered by professional practitioners and trained ex-prisoner facilitators whose first-hand experience of the consequences of criminal activity helps inform the work.
Four bespoke programmes were offered in the Charity’s Beneficial Area in 2013-14. Participants include those at risk from offending, from inner-city schools, PRU’s, ex-prisoners and those referred from Youth Offending Teams. The wider education programme reaches over 3,000 young people each year through annual touring productions, workshops and longer-term creative projects with specific high risk groups exploring crime-related themes. Through powerful, high quality and culturally relevant theatre-based activities, often performed and facilitated by ex-prisoners who speak honestly about their experiences and regrets, projects offer a powerful deterrent in terms of deglamourising crime and challenging the kudos of criminal behaviour.