Archive for the ‘Livity School’ Category

A Special Place in a Special School

May 18, 2008

My name is Griff and I am stage manager of the Oily Cart Theatre Co’s latest production for children with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorders: PoolPiece. We have just finished our third week of rehearsal, and have another two before we go live on 2nd June.

For the last two weeks (and the next two) we have been guests at the Livity School in Brixton who have kindly contributed the use of their own therapy pool, located at the centre of the school, so we can explore the impracticalities as well as the opportunities presented in doing a show in a pool. This is of great benefit, as no matter how wet we got our usual rehearsal space, and we tried, we couldn’t recreate that particular set of sound bending, light bouncing, humidity and scent qualities a pool has – and that’s before you even get in the water itself.

This year will be my third tour with Oily Cart presenting shows for special needs children in special schools all around the UK and the experience has been some of the most rewarding, enjoyable and, sometimes, emotionally moving work I have been involved in. Our normal tour schedule has us at a particular school doing shows for two days at a time before moving on to the next two day stint at the next special school, and in the time I have been working for the Oilies I have visited perhaps sixty or so schools. What has struck me most about these schools is the sense of community they inspire and, in the main, the dedication and good humour shown by the careers who have a demanding, unglamorous and low paid job to do for the children. The welcome we get at these schools is always genuine and the enthusiasm of teachers and staff for the work we do is very flattering, and it often seemed that although we had only been in a school for a couple of days we had already developed relationships with many of the children and had become a small part of that school’s life.

One of the things I am looking forward to on this touring show is that we will be longer at each of the schools. The show will take place over six school days and will provide more opportunities to share and build relationships and trust between the performers and the children, and allow those children who might take longer to get used to changes in routine to accept us being there and becoming involved where two day visits would not have been long enough.

Which brings us back to Livity School. Where their hospitality and generosity in providing their pool for us to rehearse and experiment in is much appreciated, the chance to become part of the school community and become part of the scenery (literally – the pool room is enclosed entirely in glass and surrounded by class rooms) to the children is invaluable experience. It affords us many opportunities to make and sustain relationships (I’m on first name terms with a few of the kids) and develop our own skills in dealing with the many types of disabilities these many types of children have.

Thanks again to all at Livity, and thanks to all those special schools up and down the country caring for these special children. They say it is a measure of a society how well it looks after it’s weakest, from what I have seen in schools across the UK we measure up pretty well.

Griff Fender – Stage Manager, Oily Cart Theatre Co.

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