Chickenshed Young Producer, Eleanor Kettleton, gives us an insight into the inspiration and collaborative process involved in creating the New Routes Festival.

This summer, Chickenshed Young Company, the new name for Chickenshed Southgate’s youth and children’s membership groups, will present a three-week long festival of brand new work. Preparation for this vast and varied project began over a year ago when the idea for a project of this size was shared between members of the Youth Theatre. From conception to delivery, this festival has been youth guided and youth led.

Back in July 2017 the Summer Scratch, a week-long series of workshops introducing young people to Chickenshed’s creative processes, provided a platform for initial ideas to be shared and the seeds of the festival to be sown. Words, phrases and concepts were scattered around the space and the participants were invited to contribute and play with the possibilities the stimuli provided. Exploration into potential topics and concepts were then developed through discussion with groups of Youth Theatre members, writing workshops, devising workshops and creative planning meetings throughout the year.

Concepts for four productions were then spread further amongst the Youth Theatre with larger groups exploring movement, text and how they would identify with the subject matter. Throughout this phase, understanding and investment in each project deepened, and budding writers, composers and choreographers emerged from our Youth Theatre who went on to create and lead on these shows now programmed in the New Routes Festival.

Decisions about marketing, costume, set design, post-show talks, casting and content have also been guided by young people. Each show in the festival is supported by the Youth Theatre and deeply influenced by the Young Company as a whole. In its many different facets, the festival has blossomed during these last months, showcasing the quality and dedication of our young people. The music for Stig of the Dump, for example, has been composed by a Youth Theatre member and the rehearsals have been planned and supported by a team of our young people, sharing their experience with the Children’s Theatre who are also an integral part of the New Routes Festival. In contrast, The Space Between Us was an intergenerational project created with a group of over 50s alongside our young people at Chickenshed to share and celebrate their differences, commonalities and all the space in between, forging new relationships, artistic collaborations, and ultimately become performing partners.

Creative contribution is central to our methodology; our working processes reduce individual ownership and generate collective responsibility for the theatre created. The trust, relationship and experience shared between staff and members of the Young Company lends itself to collaboration, which is key to the inclusive creative process that Chickenshed fosters. The idea that all the work is intrinsically linked to Chickenshed’s way of working, that each piece has and will be influenced by the experience of its members who will continue to grow and develop themselves during this term, is the essence of our New Routes Festival.

Have a listen to Eleanor, and her fellow Young Producer Ellie Morton, talking with Gaby Roslin (from around 1 hour, 11 minutes in) on BBC Radio London!