“Exploring stories, not just telling them”
The current ‘Artist in Focus’ is actually an organisation in focus, Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah (‘The Blahs’). They create high quality participatory drama and theatre with, and for, children and young people, their teachers and parents/carers, primarily in school settings.
We asked Deborah Pakkar-Hull, Artistic Director of The Blahs to tell us more about the organisation and what motivates them to keep creating and telling stories.
“Through our work we create rich opportunities for experiential learning using compelling stories that matter to young people. Our approach invites participants on bold, imaginative journeys that draw on what they know, feel and think and encourages them to reflect and question; engage in philosophical and ethical debate, make links between past, present, self and others; and imagine themselves and the world differently.
The Blahs have a long history of working with young people, originally in youth clubs, before moving onto focus on primary and secondary schools. For a long time, this work has been grounded in the strong belief that young audiences are discerning, critical, curious and capable of dealing with great complexity. In fact young audiences and participants can be far more demanding then their adult counterparts and will vote with their feet if something does not hold their interest or ring true.
The Blahs recently had a sense of the long standing impact of its work, when it reconnected with Francesca Collier. She experienced the Blahs work for the first time at Victoria Primary School in Leeds when she was a Year 6 student in 2001. To read more about Francesca’s story, visit our blog page: http://www.blahs.co.uk/conversation-francesca-collier/
What endlessly surprises and delights us are the responses of our audiences/participants – the Arabic speaking child who hears their home language spoken in a performance in the school hall and grows visibly taller amongst his peers; the elective mute who driven by indignation in a drama vocally challenges her teacher in role; the young person who is often disengaged from learning, who launches into an impassioned argument for saving lives as a survivor on an imagined shipwrecked raft.
We are also very lucky to attract some brilliantly skilled and experienced practitioners to the Blahs who enable our work to be both rigorous, high quality and engaging, and to have formed some strong partnerships both home and abroad with teachers, artists and organisations…reminding us of the real value of collaboration! This includes having Bill Nighy as our patron!
The arts, if well planned, expertly led and accessible can offer real opportunities for children and young people to think, to imagine, to question and to act. In the context of the Blahs’ work this can provide young people with a renewed sense of creative and intellectual agency, an empathic understanding of other people in other situations (and hence a curiosity about the world beyond their own doorsteps) and refreshed skills in literacy, oracy, critical thinking and performance.”
For further information about The Blahs, please visit their website: http://www.blahs.co.uk