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Creative festival provides young people with insights into performing arts industry

Published: 07 February 2023

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Two students acting out a scene holding scripts in their hands

Norton College students taking part in a Co-Create workshop

York St John University hosts performing arts festival for school pupils in Yorkshire.  

Co-Create is a one-day festival produced by York St John University that celebrates the making of music, dance and theatre with, and for and by members of the youth community. Collaborating with schools in York and North Yorkshire, the festival brought together creative professionals, university students and around 100 pupils in the region on 3 February to offer inspirational insights into the possibilities for higher education and a career in the performing arts industry. 

For several weeks prior to the festival, staff and students from York St John toured schools, working with pupils to devise a piece of music, drama or dance to be performed at the festival. This year all schools performed a short piece based on the theme ‘transitions’, with interpretations ranging from what constitutes a ‘hero’ in World War Two, to Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man reimagined as Seven Ages of Woman, to exploring the various transitions children go through at school. The schools from across the region who took part in Co-Create were Millthorpe School (York), Norton College, New College Pontefract, Northallerton School and Graham School (Scarborough). 

On the day of the festival each school participated in workshops in musical theatre, acting, dance and music, delivered by both staff and students from the University’s School of the Arts. The pupils also watched York St John student performances and were given a tour of the campus to further their experience of university life. The festival drew to a close with evening performances by each school in the York St John Creative Centre.  

Dr Sarah O’Brien, Associate Head of School of the Arts at York St John University is lead organiser of the annual festival. She said:  

“The Co-Create festival offers York St John students the opportunity to showcase their own work, to facilitate the creative composition of music and drama work with school-age children, and to run workshops for 11-17 year olds. No matter what area of the creative arts industry our students may find themselves in the future, the skills gained in these areas will be highly valuable and much sought after by organisations offering educational or outreach opportunities. 

“Working alongside the teachers and students in the schools in the run up to the festival has been a pleasure. At every school the passion and engagement of the children has taken me aback and we were delighted to welcome them all to York St John University.” 

Katy Sladen, Head of Drama at Millthorpe School in York, added:  

'Taking part in the Co-Create Festival has been an incredible experience for our students. We are hugely grateful to the University for giving us the opportunity to be involved in the festival and the support to make our students' performances a success. I hope this will inspire many of our students to continue studying Drama post-16 and beyond.” 

The Co-Create Festival is one of the many ongoing activities, placements and events on offer for students in the Performance department at York St John University. These include Mind the Gap, NSPCC, Prison Partnership, Dance for Wellbeing, Moving Minds, Converge, Tang Hall Smart – Jam Factory, and the York Theatre Royal Takeover Festival.  

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