Croydon, Plymouth, Derby, Salford and Medway are to share government funding to teach children on- and off-stage skills to improve self-esteem and confidence.

Photo of audience member
An audience member at Medway River Festival

‘Youth Performance Partners’ have been selected to lead a £5m government-backed scheme to provide on- and off-stage opportunities for people aged five to 18 from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The young people will work alongside major cultural organisations – including the Lowry, BBC North and the BRIT School – to learn about designing sets, lighting and sound, and developing work to perform with playwrights.

Croydon, Plymouth and Medway have been selected as three of the areas to host major new projects to improve young people’s performing arts skills.

Derby and Salford will also host some programmes through the initiative, which hopes to reach more than 10,000 young people.

Selected projects

A collaboration in south London, led by Croydon Council’s Music and Arts Hub and in partnership with organisations including the BRIT School, will work with 12 primary and eight secondary schools to create new performances that “tell the story of young people of colour in Croydon”. 

People from low income families, at risk of exclusion or with Special Educational Needs will be a priority for the partnership, which will also create a talent academy and opportunities to work backstage during live performances.

In Salford, a programme covering twelve schools in areas with high levels of poverty will be led by The Lowry and partners including Walk The Plank and BBC North. This will focus on the progression between schools and from secondary education to work, and will include a Creative and Cultural Careers Fair to teach young people, schools and their families about career opportunities in the arts.

Other selected projects include:

  • ‘Theatre31’, a programme in Medway that builds on the Gulbenkian Theatre’s ART31 programme of cultural opportunities for young people. It will work with people in the town and on the Isle of Sheppey to improve literacy, wellbeing, confidence and leadership skills. 
  • A programme run by Derby Theatre to “open up theatre making to young people” through weekly workshops and a year-long project with partners across the city. This will also include opportunities for young producers to shadow industry professionals.
  • A performance programme intending to reach over 3,000 young people to create pop ups, perform in community libraries and create plays in five schools, led by Theatre Royal Plymouth.

‘Transformative’ impacts

The selected projects were announced this week by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright during a visit to The BRIT School in Croydon.

He said he knew “from my own experience” that performing on stage can have a transformative impact on self-esteem and confidence.

“While I’ve seen first-hand some of the excellent work by schools and theatre groups, too many children around the country still do not have the opportunity to take part either on stage or behind the scenes,” Wright added.

“Our Youth Performance Partnerships will give thousands of young people the chance to work directly with world-class cultural organisations and inspire the next generation of playwrights, actors or producers.”

CEO of Arts Council England, Darren Henley, also praised the benefits of participating in performances for children. “They can express themselves, boost their mental health and wellbeing through creativity, and learn about career paths they might never have considered before. 

“We’re very pleased that the government is making these benefits more widely available to young people from all backgrounds through Youth Performance Partnerships.”