Tales Retold is the write stuff at The Grand Theatre Blackpool

21 July 2023

Spread the word! Blackpool Grand Theatre has the write stuff to help young minds following the successful Tales Retold Storytelling Festival this July.

As part of The Grand’s ground-breaking Story-Led Resilience Programme, the Tales Retold project invited over 700 young story makers from 12 local schools to tell their stories of resilience, hope and a sense of belonging; featuring literary characters from The Ugly Duckling, Sleeping Beauty, and Michael Rosen’s Unexpected Twist.

The Grand’s innovative drama initiative began in December 2020 and has helped schoolchildren from Blackpool primary schools to strengthen their resilience and confidence as well as gain new skills and assurance in storytelling, drama, and oracy. Tales Retold forms part of a broader commitment in Blackpool to help strengthen resilience and literacy for children and young people across the town and will continue to run until July 2024. The schools involved are Westminster Academy, St John Vianney RC School, Our Lady of the Assumption, Roseacre Academy, Armfield Academy, Marton Academy, Highfurlong School, Gateway Academy, Baines Endowed CE School, St Kentigern’s RC Primary, Revoe Learning Academy and Kincraig Academy.

The Grand has commissioned renowned North West theatre company, The Knotted Project, as lead artists and drama practitioners for the scheme and as part of the project, pupils from Years 4 to 6 (aged 8-11) explored storytelling and story-making. Last year, pupils worked on an adaptation of Gangsta Granny by David Walliams, watched the hilarious play at Blackpool Grand, and retold parts of the story through performance. In their roles, they advised the characters about resilience and practiced ‘resilient moves’ that could improve the outcomes for the characters. This year, the children worked on Michael Rosen’s Unexpected Twist before enjoying a live performance of the exciting beatbox musical and then shared their own performances on stage.

Pupils are encouraged to spot resilient behaviour – such as planning, being brave, trying new things, being helpful, and expressing feelings. The Grand’s trailblazing Story-Led Resilience Programme, of which Tales Retold is a part, seeks to improve young people’s resilience and confidence, helping them to communicate more effectively and strengthen their ability to cope with life’s ups and downs. The impact has been profound. Since taking part in the project, more than 75% of young people agree they’ve increased their skills in a range of areas, including being organised, making friends, calming down, following rules, making decisions, joining in, understanding others and sharing ideas out loud.

Head of Creative Development and Learning at the Grand, Celine Wyatt, said: “Tales Retold draws on our unique Story-Led Resilient Practice that uses stories as a gateway to identify and explore resilience through characters’ journeys. This allows children to stop and pause the action, identify when characters are responding well to challenges and when they could have used a different approach.”

Children from St. John Vianney RC School shared their thoughts on the venture. One said: “During Tales Retold, I’ve learned to be confident and express my feelings, and just experiment,” another commented on the link between friendship and resilience, saying: “Resilience can help when you’re making friends because you can’t make friends if you don’t speak to them.” A third child simply said: “I felt like loud and proud of myself.”

In focus groups that explored reactions to Tales Retold, young people overwhelmingly reported that they believe resilience means never giving up and keeping going when times are tough, as well as being helpful to each other. This suggests that the project is deepening young people’s understanding of the idea of resilience. “Children have gained so much confidence from the Tales Retold project,” says Dr. Elaine Allen, Executive Headteacher of St John Vianney RC School in Blackpool. “It’s helped them to feel safe and secure when they’re speaking to each other. They’re thinking about what they should say and how they should say it.

“We’ve also discovered that children often feel safer talking about how characters in stories have behaved in a resilient way, rather than referencing their own experiences. So, the project has helped them to evaluate different ways of dealing with people and situations in their lives.”

As further proof of the power of the Grand’s Story-Led Resilience Programme, it was shortlisted for the ‘Community Project of the Year’ at this year’s prestigious Stage Awards and Grand Theatre employees were thrilled to attend a stunning ceremony at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Blackpool Grand Theatre Chief Executive, Adam Knight, said: “I am delighted that all the theatre’s hard work and determination in continuing to forge important community links and working so closely with our local and regional schools, has been underlined with such a special recognition. We are thrilled that the Goldsmiths’ Company Charity is our main funder and that the Arts Council continues to support us to deliver this transformational programme of work.”

Think of Blackpool and you think of the Illuminations, candyfloss and holidaymakers enjoying themselves. But behind the bright lights is another story of a place where young people can face considerable challenges as they grow up in a town where there are high levels of deprivation and more children entering the social care system than in any other part of the country.

The Story-Led Resilience Programme harnesses the power of stories and storytelling and emphasises the importance of telling your own story to build capacity to cope with life’s challenges. The theatre has worked with a wide range of artists and theatre companies to deliver these activities and the initiative has been rigorously evaluated and proves that this project is no ‘sticking plaster’ but embeds real change.

For further information on the Blackpool Grand Theatres vital education and community work please visit www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk


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