New Creative Learning Associate Nicky Bellenger talks about her first few weeks at Derby Theatre.

Since I took on the role as Creative Learning Associate at Derby Theatre, I’ve had a really busy & exciting first couple of months; there’s been so much going on that it feels like I’ve been here a lot longer!

In my first week I had the pleasure of seeing our 8-10’s and 11-13’s Youth Theatre groups perform a double bill of devised work in the Studio. What better way to get stuck into the job than with the Youth Theatre. The performances were created by both groups from scratch, on the theme of ‘our school’, and were clever, funny and heart-warming. It’s exciting to see the whole creative team here at the theatre coming together to support the Youth Theatre productions.

Over the Easter holidays I ran the ‘play in a week’ workshop for a brilliant bunch of 8-12 year olds. The group devised a piece inspired by David Walliams’ book Grandpa’s Great Escape, exploring themes of growing up, memory loss and family. I was astounded throughout the week by the children’s insight and approach to the subject matter, and the amount they created in just a week was quite incredible (the piece even featured live music played by a couple of pianists in the group). I’m looking forward to the next one in the summer holidays. Who knows what we’ll create.

Last month we hosted the National Theatre’s Connections Festival, across 9 days with 18 youth theatres & schools performing in total. It was great to see the building being taken over by young people (not to mention the excitement over bunting, beanbags and the selfie corner!) Our Theatre Thinkers group did a brilliant job of helping to organise workshops, decorations and live music/open mic sessions. Other than having such a variety of brilliant shows each night, a particular highlight for me was an open mic session after the monologue writing workshop with Jane Wainwright. Seeing work written by creative young people being performed by other talented & creative young people with such an energised and positive response from the audience just summed it all up nicely.

And of course there’s been work experience, back stage tours, Discover Days, bespoke workshops in schools (including some storytelling in a nursery with very fun 3-4 year olds), and plenty of other projects on the horizon to keep me busy. And in between all that I’ve managed to squeeze in seeing some excellent theatre here so far: Milk Presents’ Joan, Look Back in Anger and the accompanying Retold piece Jinny, plus some great work in the Studio, including productions by the University’s Theatre Arts students.

There’s plenty to look forward to – I’m particularly excited about the upcoming Youth Theatre productions 28 – 30 July. The 14-16’s will be performing David Lane’s I Am England, and the 17-19’s group have taken Lee Hall’s Spoonface Steinberg and turned it into an ensemble piece.  Our Young Technicians have also been joining rehearsals, and will be operating lighting and sound, as well as working with stage management, to complete their yearlong course here. Rehearsals are coming along nicely, and it promises to be a really exciting evening of theatre: get your tickets! 

Click here to book for I Am England and Spoonface Steinberg