Phoenix High School transforming lives at the Lyric Theatre


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When I left high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had not been inspired by many of the teachers during my primary and secondary school years (one can only appreciate that that was an unconscious expectation with the passage of time). College followed with the same flatness but I was later advised I should try University; I had the ability, someone said. I would become one of those 'firsts' in the family (from a "non-traditional" university going background) to do so. I would have gone sooner, I think had both my Schooling and family been more encouraging about the possibiity. But I made good time with the late start.

Last week I witnessed something so inspiring it caused me to reflect on my journey through school. I have been doing some academic mentoring with some students at Phoenix High School in Shepherds Bush. For their Enrichment Week they were invited by the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith to experience a range of art forms with some of the best artists in the country. I was so excited to be part of this amazing opportunity for students to explore their creativity during the week's residency.

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I was surprised how cool, how absolutely refreshing the refurbished Lyric looked - it's an especially inviting place for young people. Traditionally, theatres seemed stuffy, appealing to equally stuffy upper/middle class Europeans. The Lyric's make over, cleverly invites diverse audiences, making it perfect for Phoenix students to appreciate that the arts are there for everyone to enjoy.

Phoenix, one of a few remaining state schools has a large number of Black and Minority ethnic students, many of them practicing muslims. Many of the young people have little opportunties to appeciate the arts and explore a broader academic and creative outlook. This collaboration provided year 12 students with the chance to adapt to new skills which will be useful for their extended projects and UCAS applications. As part of the programme they could choose from workshops in Musical Theatre, Music Technology, Film Making and Digital Art in the Digital Space, which included tasters of each discipline.

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I observed students emerging from their comfort zones to craft lyrics, test out their shaky voices and nerves, beat drum, shake fruit shaped shack shacks, strum guitars and violins, come up with interesting 1 minute film scripts and pitches, devise playful props (the purple wig on one of the young men was a cute one), edit their pieces for screening, including adding musical scores, fathom the codes that could lead to the development of 'games of peace'. The rowdy, maybe more confident students magneted to Musical Theatre and seemed to be having the most fun with Pete, their excellent director from