Yesterday The Pegasus Theatre Oxford was filled with pupils from four Oxfordshire secondary schools. Each group had worked with an arts tutor to create a 20 minute exploration of their own local history. Exploring local history is a usual activity in schools across the land, I’m aware of that. However, in Oxford, the locals (or Towns as we are known) need to reclaim their history, the history of the common folk. It is swamped by tales of greatness emerging from our very beautiful university. Half of our town, the splendid buildings, tranquil gardens and indeed access to many a facility is closed off from us, we are not allowed to enter, it is for university use only. So it is really important that the young people understand that they too have a place here, that it’s not all for the countries super-brains and/or super wealthy.. their town is for them, and some of the people like them, have in that past gone on to great things.
Back to The Pegasus. The schools met yesterday for an intensive day of dress rehearsals and performances. The four pieces were all very different, from the sublime to the comical with hints of darkness and reflections of their lives as they see them now. It was great. We had tales of blanket weaving, of lunatic asylums and quiz shows in which Headington’s finest ghosts returned to pit their wits against a studio audience in “Are you Smarter than a Ghost….?”.
Of course, the best thing all round were the different groups meeting up and having a whale of a time getting to know each other. At one point we had a group teaching the others a morris dance that they had developed (under duress during rehearsals) for their piece!
As one of the tutors, and with my community hat on I can say that the finest moment for me was watching a girl, (whose mother I taught many years ago) who is living with her carer progress through the rehearsal process to really shine out. At the start I was told by her teachers that because of her circumstances she was quite unreliable and probably wouldn’t turn up for the show. yesterday I watched her perform her heart out, overjoyed because her mum was in the audience. Now drama is something that she and her mum can have in common. Something that might unite them, if only briefly. That is fairly top stuff for me. What a great job I have, what an honour to work with these young people.