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 20 years, with Arts & Science projects consistently receiving the highest spend each year over £14million has been awarded to Arts projects since 1992.
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.
The Charity has been supporting education programmes at the Donmar since 2006. We are currently funding The Tomorrow Project, which challenges pupils from schools in the Charity’s beneficial area to imagine the future of our society.
Launched in September 2013, The Tomorrow Project involves each group in a series of workshops, talks and performances over the course of a term, using drama and theatre techniques to examine the future of our society, and asking the young people of today to solve the challenges of tomorrow.
Each group works with the Donmar team for one term, taking part in a series of events including introductory talks and practical in-school workshops. They develop two short performances with each group, which are shared on the Donmar stage.
The Tomorrow Project is a significant departure for the Donmar’s Education Team, which until this point has used its main artistic programme as the inspiration for its education work. Due to the mature themes that are often the backbone of the work of the Donmar, schools projects have previously been targeted exclusively at secondary age pupils. The discussion and improvisation techniques used as part of the Tomorrow Project has enabled the Donmar to work with primary schools for the first time, with great success.
In addition to project-based funding, the Donmar also received a capital grant of £100,000 from John Lyon’s Charity towards the development of their new rehearsal and education space on nearby Dryden Street. This fantastic facility brings education right to the heart of the Donmar’s work, together with rehearsals for main stage productions. This capital investment by John Lyon’s Charity means that schools in the Charity’s beneficial area have been the first to benefit from state of the art facilities at one of London’s leading independent theatres and will continue to benefit for many years to come.
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.
Scene & Heard
Scene & Heard is a mentoring programme based in Somers Town. It partners local children with volunteer theatre professionals to give children from a variety of marginalized backgrounds and difficult home environments the experience of quality one-to-one adult attention. It offers five playwriting courses for children aged 9-16 and was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2011.
The courses are designed to improve literacy skills and attitudes towards education and develop communication and non-cognitive skills. Two schools in Somers Town refer children to Scene & Heard who are being excluded from school, at risk of exclusion, struggling academically, refugee status, English as a second language, SEN or extreme shyness.
Scene & Heard represents the sort of work that we do with community-based arts organisations, who have a much smaller turnover than the large national arts institutions. We have been supporting Scene & Heard since 2001 with grants totalling £105,000 and we are currently supporting the core running costs of the organisation. Without the support of funders like John Lyon’s Charity, organisations like Scene & Heard would not be able to survive.
Michael Coveney, the Charity’s drama advisor, attended a series of plays and commented: ‘I can only say Bravo! These plays were a hoot, full of invention, madness and surrealism, all stemming from the fact that no-one is allowed to write human beings… the license for nonsense had liberated these children’s imaginations… This was certainly of comparable standard to the Royal Court and Soho schemes, and something just as well plugged into professional theatre standards, so the children can feel part of a larger community of theatre.’
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 repeated the project in 2015 and will do so again in 2016, 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 performance at Sadler’s Wells.
Established in 1997, Flash Musicals was set up in Harrow to provide opportunities for children from low-income or disadvantaged local families to become involved in the performing arts and now is a vital resource for the local community. The programme offers a range of activities and services to over 500 local residents each week including wheelchair dancing, adult drama groups, film club, African drumming and tea dancing. The main focus continues to be providing young people with high quality arts opportunities, particularly musical theatre and there are regular sessions leading to performances in their own theatre space.
We have supported Flash with grants of £140,000 since 2004, and we are currently support the salary costs of the Artistic Director.
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 £100,000 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.