A New Year for Chickenshed Young Company!

Matthew Lyons, Head of Young Company, reflects on the progress of Chickenshed Young Company as it enters its first full year and develops its working practice and methods of being youth-led.

2019 is Chickenshed’s 45th year and is the first full year of Chickenshed Young Company so there is plenty to be getting on with!  Chickenshed Young Company comprises our Children’s Theatre, Youth Theatre and Young Creators, and the initiation and facilitation of all Youth Theatre and Children’s Theatre programmes are now completely youth-guided. Over the course of this year we will be documenting and sharing all of the Young Company’s developments and giving an insight into how the work is created by our young people.

The youth-guided process fully emerged during the New Routes Festival last year and this year Chickenshed Young Company will be developing two pieces from that festival.

First comes (L)able, which will continue to explore the labels that make us and break us. (L)able is spearheading the Young Company’s work this year and will be performed at Chickenshed in February and then at the Battersea Arts Centre in March as part of the Occupy Festival. In conjunction with this project, five cast members of (L)able have been working on London Youth’s YouthLeads programme to secure funding that will enable them to take the project out into the community. Earlier this month they successfully pitched their idea to an independent panel to secure £700 for the project.

The second piece that emerged from the New Routes Festival is our adaptation of Clive King’s Stig of the Dump. This project will focus on the Young Company approach to creating work with different age groups.  Using an original score from Youth Theatre member Joffe Walters, a team of Youth Theatre members will be working with our Children’s Theatre to create new work across three casts.

 Production images from (L)able & Stig of the Dump

Work has also begun on our summer Youth Theatre production. A steering group made up of current and former members will be delivering this work and various themes and creative concepts have already emerged from workshops that were held in autumn. A member of the steering group, Joe O’Brien, spoke about how it felt to take on the responsibility of delivering a workshop to a room of over 100 Youth Theatre members:

“Building up to the delivery was tense. I had butterflies right up until I started speaking, just praying that I wasn’t going to mess up. When it came to delivering I looked into the eyes of some of the YTs (Youth Theatre members) and I tried my best to deliver. I was amazed when my activity took shape. I felt accomplished with the idea that I was able to feed my creative ideas to a group who explored it and enjoy playing with it in a way I never expected. A lot of the time, I trusted my instincts because I knew that deep down I was able to deliver and fortunately I did. I was proud with what I had done and when Robin (Artistic Staff Member) said from an objective point of view it looked really good, I felt pleased with myself that I have a strong starting point in a skill I wish to develop in the future.”

The Young Company is also looking towards its future with two returning members, and graduates from Royal Holloway University London, Eleanor Kettleton and Sophie Escobar. Eleanor and Sophie will be working with a small group of Youth Theatre members to develop their new piece this is how water thinks. This is a very exciting new initiative that will allow space for young professionals to develop their work with Young Company support and mentoring. this is how water thinks will be presented in a scratch performance in early April before plans are confirmed as to the next part of its journey. We’ll be keeping touch with the project along its way.  

So, a busy year ahead, and we haven’t even mentioned development sessions for the next Christmas show or the developing project with Keats House in Hampstead as part of the Keats200 celebration! Watch this space!