NT Speak Up session at Bedford High School, Wigan (c) Tom Doona 212 2

Young people across Greater Manchester to take part in National Theatre’s Speak Up Programme in partnership with The Lowry

  • New creative programme delivered for free across Greater Manchester with The Lowry
  • Young people, teachers and artists to collaborate across 15 secondary schools in Greater Manchester with Creative Associates LUNG

Following a successful pilot phase that began in Autumn 2021, the National Theatre’s Speak Up programme will work with young people in 15 secondary schools in Greater Manchester across the next three years.

Speak Up is the NT’s new national programme which sees young people, who have been most affected by the pandemic, working in collaboration with local artists and teachers to co-create artistic responses to issues that are most important to them. Responding to the current challenges in schools, the programme aims to develop young people’s self-expression, wellbeing and personal skills, with an open-ended offer to make creative projects in their local area.

Speak Up is taking place in selected schools across Greater Manchester in partnership with the Lowry as part of the national programme which is also being delivered in Doncaster, Hornchurch, Sunderland, Wakefield and Wolverhampton with the project extending into additional areas in 2023.

As part of the pilot Greater Manchester students have taken part in a variety of creative sessions to empower them to tell their own stories and connect with each other and their local communities, including drama and spoken word workshops. Artists, partner organisations and young people have used the sessions to work collaboratively to design what Speak Up is going to look like for them in their schools for the next three years.

The NT is collaborating with LUNG as Creative Associates to deliver the training of artists and teachers and to develop the creative ambitions of Speak Up. LUNG is a campaign-led verbatim theatre company which works closely with communities nationally to shine a light on political, social and economic issues in modern Britain to ensure hidden voices are heard.

Speak Up is generously supported by the Mohn Westlake Foundation which shares the NT’s belief in the power of youth voice and working with young people to enable positive change in their lives, schools and local communities. Through a £3.3million grant to deliver the programme nationally, Speak Up will reach hundreds of thousands of students, with the majority of the funding distributed to partners enabling local employment of producers and artists.

Jenny Riding, Director of Learning & Engagement at The Lowry said “We are delighted to be a partner on Speak Up; the programme will provide a safe space for young people to explore and voice their perspectives and put their ideas into action through creativity. This creative collaboration and redistribution of power between young people, teachers and artists is a vital antidote to post-covid catch up”

Lucy Mitchell, a teacher at Bedford High School in Leigh – one of the schools involved – said: “Speak Up is about students being empowered and having the opportunity to be heard. All too often in schools students are told what to do, and this is the first time that they have done something that is all about having an opinion that is actually going to influence the work that they do.”

Rufus Norris, Artistic Director of the National Theatre said, “Speak Up is a crucial part of the National Theatre’s work in levelling up, giving agency to young people nationwide whose voices often go unheard and that the Covid pandemic hit even harder. This innovative model will empower young people to share their views on current issues and put them at the heart of the creative process. We are excited to build on our in-depth relationships with our Theatre Nation partners across the country to deliver this new programme, guided by the creative vision of LUNG with invaluable funding from the Mohn Westlake Foundation. Together we will support young people to become leaders of the future and make positive change in their own lives and in their communities”.

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