Yesterday Growtheatre was working in the woods with the lovely Education Team from Ecclesall Woods and Y4 pupils from Carterknowle Junior School. They were learning about the Iron Age Hill Fort in the woods and settlements. Check out the fantastic models they made of hill forts out of natural materials. In the afternoon I ran a drama session where we ‘built and lived’ in a settlement. The kids were friendly, creative, enthusiastic and a joy to be around! The whole day took place outdoors with sunshine peaking through the trees and bluebells as far as the eye could see. The torrential downpour started a minute after we had finished! Work doesn’t get much better than that.
The Youth Theatre have loved working with archaeologist, Toby Pillatt and students from the University Of Sheffield and Toby has kindly agreed to share his experiences in our blog.
Over the past two months I’ve been working with students from the University of Sheffield to help Growtheatre learn about and dramatise aspects of Ecclesall Wood’s rich history. One area we have been focussing on is that of the enigmatic ‘Q-pits’ – Q-shaped earthworks that can be seen dotted throughout the woods. These were used from the 16th to 18th century to create whitecoal, a form super-dried wood used as a fuel for lead smelting.
We asked the children to develop characters associated with the Q-pits. These might be people from past, such as wood colliers and their wives, gamekeepers and outlaws, or they might be people from the present: archaeologists and their apprentices. I found it quite challenging to draw the line between ensuring the characters remained grounded in facts and letting the children’s abundant, often slightly zany, creativity shine through. Indeed, it was particularly interesting and amusing to see how the children’s archaeologists referenced myself!
This weekend these activities came together at the Ecclesall Woods Spring Open Day. Whilst the students built their own experimental Q-pit, the children performed in character, describing the process of making whitecoal and, hopefully, giving the audience an insight into woodland industry in the 18th century. Given the short time the children had to practice the roles, I think the result was superb and hugely entertaining.
Overall, I have been really impressed by the way the children have learnt about the past, and then used that new knowledge to spark their imaginations. It’s been really exciting collaboration to be involved in, and I hope to continue working on similar projects in the future.
On Thursday we started a new project at Growtheatre Youth Theatre. We are working with an archaeologist called Toby and a small group of archaeology students to unearth and discover stories of the past. We will then take these stories to create a performance for families and friends in the summer.
Tonight we put Toby, Kate and Rob on the hot seat and asked them tonnes of questions about archaeology – it was fascinating and the youth theatre members didn’t want to stop (they had so many brilliant questions!). Next, we ooh part in excavating a test pit and found lots of amazing artefacts from Ecclesall Woods, some things were hundreds of years old! After exploring what these objects were, youth theatre members and archaeologists created some brilliant freeze frames of ‘postcards from the past’. Finally, we played an improvisation game – Toby got to be a 14 century King of the Woods and had to be persuaded by a range of characters to let them into his woods. Take a look!
Henk came in this week and we had a fun packed session. We refreshed knife skills for whittling and reminded ourselves of knots we have learnt and then with some wood, twine and things foraged from the woods. Everyone worked very hard and pretty much independently and designed their own puppet characters. Those that got finished first went onto rehearse and perform puppet shows. Lauren, Rudy and Dillon came up with 3 wonderful monologues with both a narrator and puppet character. We can’t wait to see everyone else’s next week.
Thursday was the Youth Theatre’s first night back. It was lovely to see everyone so delighted to see each other and made for a very fun evening session. Despite the bad weather, we managed to get out into the dark outdoors for a vocal and physical warm up. This term we are exploring dramatic ways to tell a story and we started with the idea of modernising traditional fairytales. Our young people came up with some fabulous ideas and used a whole range of brilliant techniques to tell their stories. We saw some creative examples of physical theatre, playing multiple parts and narration. With their retellings of the Three Little Pigs, we saw tragedy, dark comedy and a hilarious TV spoof.
Recently, Sophie was asked to run a session for the Wakefield Creative Learning Network, based at The Hepworth Wakefield. This network meets monthly, and is made up of primary, secondary and special education teachers, teaching assistants and artists who are interested in creative learning. Sophie was asked to answer the enquiry question: “Pupil progress in creative subjects: how can you show progress when it’s not written?”.
Saturday 14 December
Free, Family Drama Workshop on
12.1.5 – 1.15
Come and join in the fun!
Collecting stories and memories of Ecclesall Woods
Visit us on our stand outside the Woodland Discovery Centre, Ecclesall Woods and share your stories!
When I first joined Growtheatre Youth Theatre I was scared because I didn’t really know many people. Now, I think I know everyone and feel more secure. I now know everyone is kind and we have a good laugh. Rachel and Sophie, who run Growtheatre, are kind, funny and help us with lots of different things.
A few weeks ago we played a fun game where we needed to improvise giving each other presents – Jess gave me a coffee machine and it made me laugh because it was supposed to be birthday cake!!!! My favourite game is called Huggy Trees, half us have to be trees and the other half have to be monkeys – it is exciting!
Sometimes Henk comes and does outdoor skills workshops with us. One of the things I have learnt is to use tools like loppers, saws and knives for whittling. Working with Henk is fun because there are lots of things to do.
Altogether, Growtheatre is the best drama group ever!
We have been learning how to tie knots over the last few weeks – some of our members get it really quickly and have been a great help to the rest of us who have got in a tangle! Week 2 of knots found us really impressed to hear how everyone had learnt during the week to do a clove hitch! Other members had taught themselves lots more knots! We used our knots skills to make props and simple scenery from sticks and rope these were incorporated into great scenes. Well done guys!
The Woodland Discovery Centre ran a fantastic day at the start of the October Half Term; it was called Feast In The Forest and there were lots and lots of fun outdoor activities and stalls. Growtheatre was there running making sessions – check out the fab bogarts made with clay and things from the woods and wooden picture frames made by children and parents who came to visit our stall.
We have a huge THANK YOU to our Growtheatre Youth Theatre member Emily and her friend Alfie who worked all day with us! They arrived at 8.30 in the morning and helped set up, went to gather berries, nuts, leaves etc. from Eccalsall Woods, helped to run the making sessions. They was superb at teaching children and adults how to make bogarts and their positive, helpful and friendly manner put many people at ease and were encouraged to get their hands mucky and get creative! WELL DONE EMILY AND ALFIE, WHAT STARS!
We also ran drama workshops with our youth theatre members and visitors to Feast In the Forest – they were a lot of fun and had people laughing and smiling. Thank you to everyone who came and supported us! A great day was had by all.