Students take guests back in time on guided tour of Manchester theatre
Published by KBarnes for New Charter Housing Trust Group in Housing and also in Communities, Education
Students from the New Charter Academy at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre
Students stepped into the shoes of Blue Badge tourist guides this week (16 July) as they designed and performed an exclusive tour of a famous Manchester theatre for family and teachers.
Pupils aged 12 – 15 from the New Charter Academy, in Tameside, hosted their own guided tour of the Royal Exchange Theatre taking guests on a journey through time – from the area’s cotton mill past to the day the IRA bomb hit Manchester.
The young people took to the theatre’s main stage to act out scenes from the bustling trading markets of the old Cotton Exchange with its wealthy upper class mill owners and poorer lower class workers.
They also went back to 15 June 1996 when the IRA bomb struck Manchester, just 50 metres from the theatre, to show how it was rebuilt and repaired over a two year project that cost £32m.
Later on the tour, guests were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the wigs, make-up and wardrobe departments as well as a talk on the theatre as it operates today, including the famous people that have performed there.
The tour called ‘Welcome To Our Space’ has taken the young people around two months to create with the help of experts from the theatre. Some pupils also created a map of the building which was given to ‘tourists’ as part of the experience.
The project is the first of many to come from a new three-year partnership set up between the theatre, the Academy and the school’s sponsor New Charter Housing Trust.
The housing association set up the partnership to help improve its neighbourhoods and raise aspirations among young people and their families, some of who are New Charter tenants.
Over the next three years the theatre will run arts-based projects at the school and in the wider community to bring different groups of people together and break down social barriers.
By giving people better access to the arts and culture, it also hopes to improve literacy levels in some of its most deprived communities and provide more opportunities for residents to get back into work.
After the tour, students took questions from their audience before joining family and teachers for a free evening’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the theatre.
Amanda Dalton, the theatre’s associate director of education, said: “These students are the trailblazers for the exciting, creative three years ahead, and we are really excited to be able to run this project in partnership with New Charter Academy and New Charter Housing Trust.
“We hope the project will give young people an opportunity to explore the theatre and meet the people who work here. By allowing them to create a tour of the theatre for themselves, they will develop a sense of familiarity and ownership over the building.”
Housing association New Charter owns and manages around 15,000 homes across Tameside which were transferred from the council in 2000.
Tony Powell, New Charter’s executive director of neighbourhoods added: “By working with the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre we’re giving tenants and young people a chance to get involved activities that may not have been available to them before.
“The visitor tour is an example of the work the theatre will do in the Academy and the wider community to help bring different groups of people together, change perceptions and improve neighbourhoods.
“We hope the link to arts and culture will open up new doors for people while helping to build their confidence, raise aspirations and even help people to get back into work or further training.”
Executive director of the New Charter Academy, Stephen Ball, said: “Some of our students and their families have only had a little experience of live theatre and we’re already starting to see the effects the project is having on them.
“They’re incredibly enthusiastic about the work the partnership is giving them and really enjoyed showing their family and teachers what they’d learnt about the theatre during the tour.”