As part of her role in developing educational enterprise in a disadvantaged area, Karen Jaundrill-Scott considered ways of stimulating both educational excellence and social awareness outside the boundaries of traditional pedagogy. The task upon which she embarked was to draw on the resources of a local authority, national funding, collaborating artists and experts, local schools and facilities but perhaps most importantly the support of the local people. This book records an experiment in the teaching of local history to children from a number of schools in the borough of St Helens. St Helens is an industrial town, earning its earlier wealth as a coal, chemical and glass-making centre. While there is a vast reservoir of written, photographic and physical evidence, it was felt that a more active approach would stimulate the children’s interest in finding out more about the lives and interests of the people at that time. Like many similar towns, the people needed recreational activity to give temporary relief from the ‘daily grind’ and within St Helens was an early example of working class entertainment, the Music Hall. The Citadel, formally called the ‘Theatre Royal’ took entertainment from the street side-show into a small wooden theatre and then onward to a more substantial theatre. a group of dancers, actors and historians performed examples of this genre within the music hall and then visited the audience in the schools to encourage their own versions of the art. This collaboration was both exciting and stimulating for artist and child and began to take the shape of a performing apprenticeship. Groups visiting the borough archives, took back information on the names of the day and this helped in authenticating the acts. This form of research interpretation encouraged a more self-inspired experience in the assimilation and revision of information. Finally the children then revisited the theatre with their own performances. The latter half of the book evidences the children’s engagement in the project and their acceptance that they were ‘re-enacting’ part of their history. The theatre, for a while taken over as a Salvation Army place of worship, reopened as a theatre and Arts Centre in the mid eighties and this project drew the attention and interest of the resident art groups who became part of the activity, sharing their skills in the completion of the book. While the extended project was a social and educational success at many levels perhaps the most important learning to come from it is that by re-creating our past society we see how we can create our future society. Whilst offering a history of this particular theatre for a specific audience, the book outlines ways in which similar approaches could be made to inspire a creative and active study of other topics.
|Heritage Lottery Fund, St Helens EAZ
|Published - 2006