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Drama students take time to stop and listen

Civic Engagement Fund 2015

Civic engagement

The Stop and… project encouraged drama, applied performance and theatre students to gather stories from Newham residents and turn them into exhibits, performances and other forms of expression. 

“The objective is about engaging our students with the Newham community. We really wanted to make sure we were extending into the community, meeting our neighbours, connecting with the lives and stories of those around us,” said project leader Ananda Breed, a lecturer in drama, applied performance and theatre. 

Student Abdul Yoonis asked passersby at the Stratford Library to write down something they disliked about Stratford, then throw the paper at a map of the area until it stuck. The catch? The maps and papers didn’t have glue or anything else that would make sticking actually possible. 

“When you try to do something and you fail it gets frustrating. And the frustration builds up – until you stop,” Abdul said. The exercise was meant to be therapeutic, he added.

Stop and… “allows you to experience the world outside, Abdul said. 

“As young people we’re usually concerned about ‘us’ and everyone we know. Whereas in this situation we’re going out and meeting new people, asking them questions,” he said.

The success of the pilot, which was paid for by the Civic Engagement Fund, led to the creation of a larger, multi-year project which has been integrated into the performing arts curriculum. 

As part of the BA (Hons) Drama, Applied Performance and Theatre curriculum, Stop and… will involve a year of collecting stories under the theme of labour, a year of reflecting on and gathering responses to the stories, and a year of curating and presenting the stories, likely in an artistic format.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms has agreed to lend his ear to the students’ material. 

“I like it. It’s something totally new to me. It opens up a lot of questions and new learning environments,” student Rose Uwakah said.