Abby is 9 years old. Her father is no longer in contact with her and her mother’s boyfriends are abusive to her and her mother. Both are heavy drinkers. Life at home is at best, difficult and at worse, unbearable. It affects her self esteem and her school work and as she gets older she is more likely to find herself caught in a cycle of bad behaviour, leaving school without qualifications and much worse. Much much worse.
However, Abby has a chance. A glimmer of hope on her horizon because she lives in Somers Town. Somers Town is in North London, an area north of St Pancras that has a high percentage of council owned properties and some children for whom english is not their first language. An area of a fair bit of deprivation. She has been chosen by her Primary School as a perfect candidate to take part in the theatre mentoring project run by Scene and Heard because of her background.
Scene and Heard is a unique mentoring project that partners the inner-city children of Somers Town, London with volunteer theatre professionals. They give the children intensive, one-to-one adult attention, enabling them to write plays which are then performed by professional actors.
These performances give the children immediate and public experiences of success, raising their aspirations and boosting their self-esteem. Scene & Heard is committed to producing the highest quality theatre with and for the Somers Town community. Their work improves literacy skills and attitudes towards education and develops communication and social skills.
They believe that in order to have a real and lasting impact they must offer more than a one-off experience; they invite children back to continue working with them over several years.*
I got to experience this myself recently. A friend of mine was directing a play so I went to see the show. I was blown away at how wonderful it was. All the volunteers which include the Dramaturgist (who work with the children on writing the play), The actors, the directors, the costume designers, lighting, stage managers are seasoned professionals. The quality of the plays were outstanding and the content………..well just incredible!
The children are not allowed to have real people depicted in the plays so all the character are inanimate objects who talk. From the last show these included a HP Bottle, a handbag, a football boot, a thin blue plastic corner shop bag. The stories are honest, sometimes sad but the language is never changed. The way a sentence is written by the 9/10/11 year old is left and what this means is some really lovely, honest language that tugs at your heart and invariable makes you laugh as well. Anything that shows what a child sees or hears in his or her world is unique and interesting, a reminder that sometimes us grown ups stick to the rules and get a little boring sometimes.
Please visit their website and sign up to their free newsletter so you can go and see one of their plays when they are next on. Seeing a show is free but they do ask that children attending are at least 7 years old as often the themes are ones that younger audience members may not quite grasp. Here is the website, please pop on and have a look at the video and the work that they do.
What is amazing about this acting company is that offer a much needed lifeline for these children. An opportunity to be heard, a place to go and see familiar friendly faces and more importantly a place to keep revisiting every year to build on what they have learnt and to, hopefully, realise the opportunities that are out there for them.
The future is a little brighter for Abby and fingers crossed she is able to continue her journey with Scene and Heard for the next 8 years, breaking the cycle in her family and forging into the world a little happier and more confident.
*adapted from text on their website.
PS: The added bonus of my trip was sitting within arms length of Damian Lewis AND more importantly, being near to Mr Maker!! Who obliged me with a photograph so I could prove to my kids I’d chatted to him.