This spring, Laura has been working with Year Five children at two primary schools in Plymouth to inspire a new generation of playwrights.
Since taking on the role of Plymouth Laureate of Words in January, playwright Laura Horton has written commissions for the city, appeared at various online events and been part of the Blitz 80 commemorations across Plymouth. A key ambition for Laura’s laureateship is to share, amplify and help to tell the stories of people right across the city.
As one third of the creative partnership behind Laura’s laureateship – alongside Plymouth Culture and The Box – we are always on the look out for ways to connect the work that Laura is doing with the prospect of inspiring young people to discover the joy of words. That’s why we were delighted when Laura developed her Plymouth Primary Project. Here, we ask Laura to tell us about the project and why she wanted to run it.
For my first project as Plymouth Laureate of Words I wanted to work with primary schools in the city. As the first Laureate to be a playwright, not a poet, I’m keen to encourage young people to consider it as a form they could work in. There’s very little theatre work on the syllabus through primary and secondary education. I don’t think a child would necessarily read Shakespeare and think they could be a playwright. I certainly didn’t. I was a very shy child in my primary school and it took me years to gain the confidence to write. I wanted to help inject some playwriting into the classroom.
Playwriting is such a collaborative medium and theatre is a great way for people to work together and find ways to be involved that suits their different personalities. Even the way playwright is spelt – it’s someone who has wrought words into dramatic form, just as a wheelwright has wrought wheels out of wood & iron, it’s a word for someone who builds things.
I contacted local charity Millfields Inspired and suggested working with two primary schools in Stonehouse, running workshops and helping the young people to each write a short monologue. The plan was to engage local actors from Plymouth Conservatoire to perform the pieces. Writing for other people’s voices is really powerful, there’s something about hearing your words interpreted by someone else that inspires confidence and new ways of thinking. I wanted to give the children the opportunity to create something in the hope it might galvanise them in their creativity.
I ran two sessions online with each school (St. George’s C of E primary academy and St. Peter’s C of E primary school) and both were joyous, the enthusiasm and imagination of the young people was so exciting. The project will culminate in two short films, featuring the work of the young people read by local actors. As we gear up to premiere these short films, I hope the children are proud of what they’ve created. If it encourages a few more future playwrights, I’ll be thrilled.
We would like to thank the Plymouth Octopus Project, who supported this project with a grant from their ‘£250 a POP’ community fund.