Making youth Theatre accessible

When Highbridge Youth Arts was born it was the depths of lockdown, we were determined to create something that was made by Highbridge people for the children of Highbridge to have when they could eventually re-engage socially.

The idea had been a dream for Sharon (our lead teacher for many years), our ethos was that we wanted to provide affordable and easily accessible dance and drama.

The area had a number of dance schools or theatre clubs that, if you could afford £60 a term you could send your children to work through lessons, achieve levels and get certificates. We wanted something different, something truly for Highbridge.

So with the help of SEED, The Arts Council and later on the Town Council we put together HYA. Like all great things it was built around the kitchen table and from the scribbles and coffee stains, there emerged a CIC with volunteers, funding, places to hold sessions and above all else a burning desire to give Highbridge something good.  The early sessions were challenging, we were over subscribed, grappling with COVID risk assessments, helping children to be together again while at the same time telling them they had to stay within their marked out circles (ropes on the floor was our solution!).  Before we knew it we were putting a short piece together and the children performed at BOSFest in the park on a Sunday.  In all my years of music gigs I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous as that day but oh boy did they smash it, so many happy faces!

At HYA the creativity comes from the children, fees are voluntary, £2 a week. This has allowed us to reach children who otherwise wouldn’t access the arts.  Inclusivity and community are key to us, we have several special needs children and they are just part of the gang, doing the same as everyone else. We have a solid group who come week in, week out, even in -6 degree temperatures. They challenge us as teachers to do more, grab their ideas and help them interpret, create, script, choreograph and perform.  We don’t have rules, codes of conduct or other nonsense but we do have boundaries and respect which makes for a solid friendship group and children doing things because they really want to.  The children have learnt how to support each other, develop confidence, ease anxiety and engage in their community.

The children have devised and produced a range of shows, Peter Pan Panto, self scripted pieces on sustainabilty and life in lockdown, Bugsy Malone, a spoof talent show and now we are starting on “Musical Mayhem”.  A tour through some well known musical films ranging from 1960’s to 2010’s all joined together with a narrative of what was happening in Highbridge in each year.  As only our children can do, the creative is Highbridge Horrible Histories TV.

Expect robust comment on the 1991 renaming / misappropriation of our railway station from HIGHBRIDGE to Highbridge and Burnham.  Shock on the scene coverage of the Town Clock being destroyed in a lorry crash in 1964 and then replaced by the Iconic 3 faced clock at the roundabout!

If you, your child or anyone you know would like to come and join us, we meet at King Alfreds Drama Studio every Thursday in term time.

Younger group 5-8 years old at 5pm

Older group 9-18 years old at 5.45 to 7pm