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This spring, each of Derby's five Reimagine Hubs is taking the chance to share their work, learning and experiences from the ambitious city-wide project, with the spotlight on a different Hub every month.

From April to May, the team at Déda will share our journey with Reimagine2020 and the Derwent/Chaddesden Hub; from Zoom choreography through the first lockdown, to socially distanced workshops in our theatre last autumn and returning to work with schools this spring.

Déda's four part blog series will be told through the voices of some of the young people and artists that we have worked with, along with the members of our team who have pulled the project together behind the scenes.

In the last in the series of Déda's blogs, we ask Learning Coordinator [Reimagine] Simon Marshall for his final thoughts on the project so far.

Image credit: Graffiti and wood reserve: SF, Lees Brook Community School

Please introduce yourself and your role at/relationship to (partner organisation)

I’m Simon Marshall, I’m the Learning Coordinator on the Reimagine project for Déda, working particularly for our hub in Derwent and Chaddesden. I previously worked alongside the Dance Development and Learning Team on the This Is Derby project for Déda from January 2019, and I am also a freelance playwright, creative writing facilitator & producer too.

What hub have you been working with/in and can you describe this hub?

I have been working with the Derwent and Chaddesden Hub and Déda. Derwent and Chaddesden are separated from Derby city centre by the busy ring road, and with major roads to the West and North, the area is almost its own urban island. The Derwent Racecourse playing fields provide space for sporting activities, but there is a distinct lack of access to arts provision especially, with no local arts centre. We have found our place in Derwent through the remarkable efforts of Derwent Youth and Community Centre and Ruth Hardy-Abdullah, the Youth Worker based there, and through the schools and community partnerships across the area who help to greatly improve the life chances of children and young people from the area.

Please describe the learning programme, ethos and values which relate to your organisation

The young people we work with have a real appetite to participate, create and share, and I feel this has been the ethos we’ve operated with throughout our work in the hub. By introducing local professional artists to young people at this stage in their lives, they can better believe in making the most of their own creative potential too. Déda prides itself on being where education meets the professional, and I think this is true in our community approach too. There’s been a strong feeling of exploration, expression and communication in our work, and young people feel most empowered when they get to make choices.

Who are the young people you are working with (age, size of group) and where are they from (school/area)

Most recently we’ve been working with 12 young people in Year 9 of Da Vinci Academy as part of an afterschool Performance Club.

These students came together as there currently isn’t the option to pursue Dance, Drama or Performing Arts at GCSE in their school, and we felt it important we offer a provision that allows them to experience all of this, and more.

It’s been a privilege helping them arrive at new ways to express and share with their community, and we hope to invite their families, friends and our local Primary School partners to their sharing day to celebrate with them too.

Can you please describe the project you worked/have been working on - and before you embarked on it, what were your ambitions and hopes for it??

As this is a co-created project, I went into the space with a number of questions and prompts, and the hope that we could inspire and energise the group to want to share.

By having a number of artists from different disciplines from Day 1, the group have naturally been able to explore their strengths as individuals, and will work together on group elements too.

Zee Musiq is an artist who young people find empowering to be around, and already some music has been created with the young people which I feel will mean a lot to the group for years to come. Daniel Longhurst went to school in the Derwent and Chaddesden hub himself, and has an affinity with young people looking to express themselves through movement.

I’m leading an enthusiastic creative writing group, and already the themes of their work have shaped the programme of performances, exploring ‘the before’, ‘the pandemic and stillness’, ‘what next? and choice’ and ‘our community.’ These are the things they’re looking to make sense of for themselves and their futures.

Who else was involved in the project - partners, schools, communities?

We’ve been lucky to collaborate throughout the Reimagine process with a mix of other partners in Derby city, as well as professional artists who have trained or studied with Deda and our local contemporaries. Ruckus from Baby People and MSDC Dance helped shape our 2020 Primary school delivery, and we were pleased to work again with Danni Chell from MSDC Dance on our Reimagine Journey video series in 2021. Daniel Longhurst supported Gareth Woodward on our Reimagine2020 series, and is now co-facilitating our Da Vinci Performance Club with Zee Musiq from Baby People. By having artists share practice and experience with each other, we create a shared physical language between the participants in the Hub, and a sense of excitement for future opportunities.

Dani Bello, a Derby-based Creative Wellbeing Practitioner has begun working with us to further embed wellbeing and opportunities for young people to build their self-esteem into our delivery process. Her warmth and kindness are a hugely affirming force, and through pre-recorded videos and in-person workshops she will collaborate with our young people to celebrate themselves.

What do you think this particular project's legacy will be?

I hope the Da Vinci Performance Club becomes a recurring group for years to come – evolving to produce their own original work both in school and in their community. I’d love to see them continue to work with additional artists and opportunities, and feel proud of their commitment to performing and expressing. We hope to help improve the perception of Derwent and Chaddesden, both for residents themselves, and for other wards in the city. There is a real sense of identity in this area, and it is worth celebrating.

What do you hope the young people have learnt and achieved from being involved? What have you learnt from leading on the project?

I hope that the young people recognise that the only difference between the way they are in a room with us and outside of a room with us, is that we loudly give them permission to be creative and express themselves. They can take that with them – it is a gift to get to celebrate what you are capable of everyday.

I’ve learned that for young people to be engaged and motivated, you’ve always got to be rooting for them, even when you’re unsure what the outcome of the work will be. As long as you believe in it being a positive experience, and communicate that you believe in them too, they will find their way to achieve it, and believe in themselves too.

Why do you think the arts and culture are so important in the lives of young people? What role do they play?

So often arts and culture are our means to explore the things we hope for, are curious about, are worried about and wish we could make happen for ourselves. This is especially true when you’re a young person trying on new elements of your identity and personality, and reckoning with accepting yourself for who you are. Collaborating, creating and performing are rehearsals for life – you’re trying out feelings in readiness for when they come your way in another form, through another situation. That’s why we find comfort in music, in poetry, in movement and theatre – they sit so close to our human experiences.

About Reimagine2020 and Reimagine

Reimagine

Reimagine is an ambitious, strategically connected, performance programme delivered with young people in the city's areas of lowest cultural engagement.

Through the project, Derby’s performing arts organisations collaboratively support the young people across 5 ‘hubs’ through progressive encounters with inspirational artists and settings.

The young people will produce their own work, reimagine everyday spaces and author the story of their lives in innovative and extraordinary performances.

As new skills are nurtured, families will be engaged, teachers will gain new knowledge and the young will uncover routes to creative careers.

The five Reimagine Hubs are...

  • Abbey, working with Derby Theatre
  • Chaddesden/Derwent, working with Déda
  • Normanton/Arboretum, working with Artcore
  • Sinfin, working with Baby People
  • Virtual Hub, working with Sinfonia Viva and SEND schools (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities)

Reimagine has been made possible through £1.1 million of investment from Arts Council England through the Young People’s Performance Fund, with additional support from Derby’s Opportunity Area, Derby County in the Community Trust and Derby City Council.

Reimagine2020

In spring 2020, Derby Theatre, Baby People, Déda, Artcore, and Wrongsemble called out to young people and families to reimagine a future after Covid-19 and get involved in a new digital creative project during lockdown.

There were 3 ways to get involved to make a creative response to this question: how would you reimagine the world differently when lockdown ends?

The project has now ended, but there will be more opportunities to get involved soon!

Find out more at https://www.derbytheatre.co.uk...

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