The START Project
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Since November last year, the Learning Team have been delivering the START project to 21 schools from across the region, engaging children who don’t normally have access to the arts, with ballet and live theatre.
We have been delivering the project for seven years, with funding initially from The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts and lately from the Audrey & Stanley Burton Trust. By subsidising the cost of the project we have been able to work with schools in areas of least engagement and offer a highly subsidised programme of activities that inspire pupils who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to go to a theatre.
This year however, was our last year of funding from the Audrey & Stanley Burton Trust which has now closed and so in order to continue to deliver this amazing project we need to find a new funder. So throughout the project I worked with local film maker Jonny Walton to create a film about the project which we hope will give potential funders a sense of what is involved in this unique programme and show them how pupils and teachers benefit from working with Northern Ballet.
The project involved 760 pupils from the 21 different schools in Leeds, Bradford, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Sheffield. The dance artists in the Learning Team delivered 60 workshops in the schools across the autumn and spring terms, introducing pupils to dance and preparing them for their theatre visit to see a Northern Ballet production. And we filled Leeds Grand Theatre with 863 pupils, staff and parents to see their first ever live ballet performance. Even after seven years of managing the START project, when the children clap and cheer as the curtain rises, I still get goose bumps!
The START project is the core of what the Learning Team does, exciting and inspiring people about dance and through dance, and connecting with new audiences to break down preconceptions about who can access high quality dance. The connections we have made with the schools involved goes well beyond the project and the feedback we get from teachers is that the experience pupils had lasts for many years.
I still remember the phone calls that I made back in 2008 to invite schools to be part of the project and the first time I had to manage the logistics of getting so many children out of the theatre and back onto their correct coaches! Since setting it up, the project has enabled a total of 4,256 young people to go to the theatre for the first time and engage in dance. I feel incredibly proud to have been part of this and really hope that we can continue this work with thousands more children in the years to come.