Brave Words being spoken by city's disadvantaged children through establishment of new youth theatre programmes

A theatre company is hoping to take culture to all corners of Leeds by setting up pay as you feel sessions so that all young people can access them.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 6:00 am

Brave Words is a theatre and spoken word organisation that was set up in 2018.

Over the last couple of years it has been collaborating with fellow theatre company, Fall Into Place, and with COVID restrictions starting to lift - Brave Words is ready to raise the curtain once again on creating cultural chances for young people.

This spotlight on Brave Words, comes as part of a campaign between the Yorkshire Evening Post and Leeds 2023 to showcase culture and creativity across the city. The idea is that from dance to design, art to architecture, poetry to pop, sculpture to sport, grassroots community theatre to performances on our world class stages, Leeds 2023 will unlock talent and creative opportunities for people from every district in the city.

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Younger sessions run by Brave Words youth theatres.

In between its launch in 2018, a world-wide pandemic and Zoom sessions, Brave Words set up youth theatres in Meanwood and Beeston and Kentmere at Seacroft.

These have been revamped to make them pay as you feel so that they are more accessible to children and young people that would benefit most - and, after growing calls to set one up in Armley, that is also now on the running list.

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Chris Singleton is the artistic director at Brave Words.

Chris Singleton is the artistic director at Brave Words.

He said: "The Beeston group was the first one that we started back in 2019 and, at that point, we were a theatre in the community and realised that approach was not sustainable for the kids that we wanted to work with. We launched Kentmere later in 2019 and the pandemic hit so we were on Zoom but doing that we decided to do 'pay what you can'. That is the model we wanted to make sessions accessible to every kid regardless of background. They only thing that they need to have in common is that they are local to that area. We now have Meanwood and Beeston that are new groups and the first few weeks Beeston was rammed.

"There are kids that have never been to a group, never been to an out of school club and there are lots where English is an additional language. The idea is that we take the ethos and mentality of a youth theatre, which is creative and aspirational, they can express themselves, grow in confidence, work together and collaborate and we put that in the heart of the community and with 'pay as you can' we never stop a child from attending."

Meanwood groups meet on Mondays from as young as five-years-old, Beeston sessions are on Wednesdays from five to 17 years-old and there are three age groups at Kentmere on Thursdays.

Activities range from games, drama roll plays, body and voice warm ups and then taking a theme to create a performance from but they are led by the young people themselves.

Creative and fun sessions with Brave Words.

Going forward, Brave Words is looking to secure funding to run the groups for at least three years - and establish a theatre in west Leeds with Armley being cited as a possible location.

The benefits of the youth theatres are, in a relatively short space of time, already being seen.

Mr Singleton said: "In Beeston we are seeing kids who have limited or little English coming and developing this through performing and playing. And we have a young person who is autistic and initially really struggled to engage and would sit out sessions. Gradually we found his comfort zones and the ways that he can access sessions. He came last week and joined in everything.

"We have some kids that would not say 'boo' to a goose and kids that come from care and complicated backgrounds and are becoming more confident and expressing themselves."

Ultimately, should restrictions continue to lift this summer then there are plans for all the groups to come together and perform for each other a showcase of their work.

Mr Singleton added: "We have the capacity to bring all the youth theatres together in the same place and to perform to each other and make something that feels special and is a show case of their work.

"We see the value in that and having communities together that would never normally see or speak to each other."

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