She Productions and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Finding Your Voice programme at East Riding Theatre, June 2018
Annie Kirkman, She Productions
“We all need a voice. Sadly, your voice is one of the first things you lose when your confidence is broken and the world stops making sense.”
Since forming She Productions three years ago it has been our mission to engage people with drama on and off the stage. We’ve been lucky enough to run workshop programmes with a huge variety of people from ages four to 60, covering themes from storytelling to consent. Regardless of the content, every one of our workshops is designed with exactly the same ethos; using drama to enrich life skills by building trust, challenging social expectations and commending courage.
Most recently we’ve been touring our new musical It’s Different for Girls around the UK and, with the support of Middle Child’s Match Fund and Arts Council England, we delivered consent and relationship workshops to schools and youth groups local to venues. Each session presented challenges to overcome, from adapting workshops to participants’ needs to battling time constraints but we learnt something from every group. Naturally, some groups had more understanding of consent and what it means than others, and of course we were thrilled to be able to provide a deeper learning. Nevertheless, the most rewarding part of these workshops was giving those involved a voice and the space to express that voice.
We always start our workshops with physical group and partner exercises. These are intended to integrate individuals and encourage them to work with each other without the added pressure of discussion. This active start to our sessions seems to help release anxiety and any pre-determined expectations. As clichéd as it sounds, it is as if the whole group finally remember to start breathing again and shake off their worries collectively. The final section of the workshop focuses on freeing our minds and encouraging creative and honest conversation including a ‘free-writing’ task where the participants write their stream of consciousness without interruption. Of course, everyone learns in different ways, some take to the writing exercises whilst others prefer debate or physical activities but ultimately every person can discover a creative outlet for their own expression.
With Middle Child’s help and another recent successful Arts Council grant we are now undergoing a period of organisational development in which we will develop our Outreach strand with other local groups who can benefit from our programmes. This includes our exciting new Empower project with Together Women, a Hull- based charity who ‘move women out of crime into positive futures’, where we will work with their clients to nurture self-esteem, celebrate inner strength and motivate positive behavioural change through creativity and drama.
We pride ourselves in being able to adapt sessions like these to cater to participants and their particular needs and interests which of course takes time to plan. The support from Middle Child has allowed us to take this time and do the work and research we need to do to ensure the programmes are bespoke.
Ultimately, we want people to recognise the huge benefits drama can have and how it is not just about ‘being an actor’. Creativity should be a part of everyone’s life; it offers escapism; it connects us with ourselves and others; and most importantly it can help us find a voice that might have been hidden away for some time.