We launched Pioneer in September 2016 following expressions of interest from 16 schools / youth centres across the Rotherham area. We have engaged with 400 young people to deliver / perform within the project as well as a further 100 children who engaged with the composition process. We contracted with Peter Birkby as composer , Gillian Banks as choreographer and Karen Mulcahey as director for the project and the production team. CPD for teachers was delivered in September and schools visit undertaken by Pete to begin the creative processes of composition in all the schools. Visits to every school were made to allow the children to compose ideas and feed into the musical score so that the composition could be created over the christmas period. Schools participated well and contributed ideas , which have been drawn through into the musical score of the show. Following the christmas break the director and choreographer began visiting schools and setting the actions and drama sections of the show. The children and teachers have responded very well to the process and engaged with the production team to rehearse in between visits to ensure the children are of a good standard. The rehearsals at Magna were the challenge due to large numbers fo children and the multiple schools involved. The performances went extremely well with sold out houses for the 2 evenings and visits from the local newspapers and the Mayor of our town. Audience numbers were 300+ for both performances and the children performed to an excellent standard with no major errors or obvious faults. The activity generated opportunities for schools to begin networkign and co-operating across the town and creating plans for how the performances could be pulled together for the benefit of the children. Teachers who have never spoken before were brought together to begin the creative processes of creating their scenes , but also collaborating about crowd scenes where the children needed to perform together. Going forward they have requested a committee of teacher is formed to allow more input and ownership from the schools to generate more interest and build a wider curriculum into the project so the children benefit in as many ways as possible whilst engaging with the professional artists.
Difficulties include - contacting and engaging schools and keeping communication open with the specific teachers within the schools - it has been difficult to keep schools communicating but this has been overcome by visiting the schools instead and talking directly with the staff involved and office staff. co-ordinating teachers to organise 400 children into rehearsals and learning material - we overcame this by going into schools with the words and music tracks and copying them onto school computers to allow the children and teachers access at all times. collecting information from schools regarding children's names / participation and costume sizes - we began contacting schools by phone or emailing the general office instead of the teachers for this centrally held information to ensure deadlines for programmes and costume designers were met. Marketing is a challenge due to the size of the audience we need to attract and the amount of schools involved - we have begun contacting radio stations and local newspapers to enhance the marketing and spread the word / information about tickets and the performances. We are having banners printed to display around the venue and the town generally Managing the co-ordination of resources between schools - visits / costumes /coaches and organising the schools into the rotas and frameworks has been difficult because of lack of teacher time and change of staff. Some schools have not had regular teachers in place and it has proven difficult to engage with the children within these schools. - we arranged extra visits to try and overcome this as well as liaising with the headteacher.