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“Drama is a good way to learn history because it helps me remember things..."

On the 22nd March five different schools shared short performances at the Exeter Phoenix to a packed auditorium. Students’ performances were inspired by what they’d learnt with PaddleBoat Theatre Company in weekly drama sessions exploring Clare Hollingworth. Schools included Rydon Primary, Southbrook School, Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education, Clyst St Mary and St Sidwells Primary.

Southbrook We worked with a fantastic group of Year 9 students who created a performance about WWII displacement. Students explored those people who had to leave home - soldiers, refugees, evacuees and journalists such as Clare Hollingworth. We explored how they might feel, where they might go and how they’d contact their family back home. Students wrote short letters, imagining they were evacuees arriving in the countryside. Using physical theatre, song and narration students created a performance from scratch. All the Year 9s used this project as an opportunity to expand their learning about the Second World War.

"Usually I hate all that war stuff and just didn’t understand it. But ever since we’ve been doing this, I’ve understood it a lot. In terms of both my English and my history work. I now understand more about Clare going to Poland and the war and invading. I was always a bit confused before. I enjoyed every day working with you." - Emma.

Rydon Primary Our youngest group, 60 year 2 students worked really hard to grasp the wider context of WWII. For their performance they became journalists and created a theatrical report about Clare, her life and career. Read more about Rydon’s performance in our previous blog.

St Sidwell’s We worked with each class to introduce Clare’s story to every student at the school - which meant that it wasn’t until after half term that we got to start working with our Year 4 group to create a final piece for the sharing.With just a few weeks to work, they did an amazing job, focusing on early events in Clare’s life and creating news reports to share the information with the audience.

Their piece ended with an ensemble section that used movement and sound to show how Clare’s ‘Big Scoop’ spread throughout the country and made history, culminating in Neville Chamberlain’s famous broadcast declaring war on Germany…

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.

I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.” See the full speech here. Hear it here.

Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education Students at the academy created a physical theatre performance that showed the wider context of WWII including the different countries involved, evacuees and the Army. Their performance was framed by a boy’s father stopping him from playing playstation and encouraging his son to read a book. This book was about Clare Hollingworth and this is how the audience learnt about her life.

We used photographs from the war to inspire the creation of scenes and to enrich their learning. Students used wooden sticks in a variety of ways to create images such as a train, a boat, Army training equipment, a school cane, etc.

“Drama is a good way to learn history because it helps me remember things. I think that reading books is more difficult to remember” - Nissi.

Clyst St Mary With the Year 5 students at Clyst, we looked at what it means to be a modern journalist.

Students learnt that journalists need to make confident use of their voices. At the beginning of the term we were greeted by quite a timid group at Clyst, and it has been an absolute joy to watch them grow to the point where every child felt happy and confident bringing their larger than life characters to stage.

Students learnt that Journalists have to ask questions! The group were tasked with meeting and interviewing three curious characters and getting to the bottom of their stories. The group had to learn how to take the initiative and think independently in order to 'get the scoop'

Finally we introduced to a number of more challenging concepts such as fake news and social justice, which are inescapable in today’s media.The group rose to the occasion and their final performance was a presentation of matters that are really close to the groups hearts.

Their teacher Mrs Rose spoke with us afterwards and told us that the

“...children actively look forward to their Thursdays with us, and parents feel like they are experiencing PaddleBoat workshops first hand from the amount they hear about them from their children” - Mrs Rose

Like the students, we have been using these school workshops to create PaddleBoat's own performance. We have been inspired by our work with these schools and have allowed our rehearsal process to be informed by the children's ideas and creativity! In our next blog we will detail our rehearsal process so far and evaluate our scratch performance -showcasing our very early ideas for how to share Clare's story.

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