Charlene from strike a light talks about participation

Bang the drum, that was all, I had one job to do and that was to bang the drum signalling the start of the dance. I was 6, it was the Christmas play and rows of pristine and beautiful dancers lined up ready to make their entrance onto the stage under the glow of fairly lights and tinsel. Unfortunately that was the moment I decided to have a little nap at the side of the stage…oops. 

Maybe it was the monotony of watching the same people dance to the nutcracker over and over that just did me in, maybe it was the hard partying on milk and mince pies the night before that tipped me over the edge, who knows? 

What I do know though is years later I still despise the repartious theatre programs and events that can dominate mainstream theatre. We feed into it because it’s familiar, comfortable and dare I say, allows us to label ourselves as cultured folk. Not surprisingly though comfortable can be boring, familiarity can breed contempt and culture, are we basing being civilised and enlightened on how many times we have watched ‘Blood Brothers’? Nah, that 6 year old needed more and so does the 30+ year old.

For the best part I loved watching quirky performances as a child not just because of some of the magic that was created but because I had a deep sense that there was a possibility to create something that hadn’t been done, it fascinated me and still does. It genuinely blows my mind that I get to be part of the magic with Strike A Light and have the privilege of helping to shape the way young people in Gloucestershire not only get to experience performance but how they themselves can delve into making work that says we have stories, vision and the capabilities to change and challenge what is performance and better still they don’t need to hide who they are to do it! They don’t need to look the same, sound the same or have 10 years pre-birth drama/dance training to perform with us. 

We have a growing number of participation groups in Youth Theatre and Youth Dance in a ridiculously short space of time which range from the ages to 7-16+.  Each group in it’s own right exudes something different because they all go on a journey within their groups that draws on different inspirations be it language, art, social media, nature, music or heritage. For our Youth Theatres groups we have fantastic partnerships with Bristol Old Vic and GL4 and are led by incredible practitioners who not only support the young people to develop performance skills in movement, voice and acting but encourage them to write, devise and create with blue sky thinking, they do it together, they become a company not an extracurricular activity.  The same can be said for our Youth Dance Company which is in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire, the standard of the work they create is exceptional. Led by RISE practitioners, the dancers have the opportunity to dance in unexpected places and create dances that are cultural and exciting. 

AMAZING, I hear you say and yes it is, but this isn’t something that has happened over night, change doesn’t just appear it takes commitment and integrity to work out how to do this responsibly and with the right intentions. 

At Strike A Light we have an awesome team who have been going since 2013, the team has grown slightly and the boundaries of what we can do keeps expanding.

We operate on a seven ingredient recipe which consists of; 

  1. Work ‘with’,not ‘to’ we are co-collaborators creating together
  2. Put in time, it’s a long term process not just an end product result,
  3. Invest in artists, they are a key part of the creation we need to value them,
  4. Amplify underrepresented voices by giving not just a platform for a performance but for leadership,
  5. Do it in unexpected places by getting into the community and bringing the arts to the people.
  6. Be open, responsive and flexible, we want to go on a journey with people not force them into one perspective.
  7. Share power in the process, real change happens when the power is shared.

These values are shared across every department within Strike A Light, from Programing to Participation. It’s these values that help to shape what we do and make the whole process one that everyone can be part of, even a seven year old!  It’s this process that allows someone to join us in a youth theatre and become a producer in a few years through continual development. We don’t want to hold all the power over these young people, we want to empower them.  

Honestly, this makes me so proud that this happens in the city of Gloucester and slightly resentful it wasn’t around when I was napping on a cold stage floor to inspire me. 

We know not every young person gets the opportunity to be part of an enriching group like these for a number of factors, one of them being money. Let’s face it it’s a tough time for lots of us, finances are tight and if it’s a choice between feeding a family and coming along to a youth theatre or dance company I know which one I would choose as a parent. At Strike A Light we have put in place ways to help any child wanting to be part of the team whereby parents don’t have to choose food or theatre, we can help, just ask.

To find out how you can get involved, visit their website or find them on Facebook.

Charlene, Participation Producer for Strike A Light