Always Community. Always BRIT.
Over the last six weeks, students from Year 10 and Year 12 have worked with 20 different partners on an incredible variety of projects that saw collaboration across the whole school community. The total number of people we reached through this challenging work was well over a thousand but the social and emotional impact of that work is unquantifiable.
Term 5 kicked off with our first ever community play, Hope to be Good by Frazer Flintham, a play about Croydon performed by the people who live, work and go to school in the borough. It ended with ‘Our Voice’, a performance by students at St Giles Special School facilitated and rehearsed by our talented Year 12 students. From providing a child’s first ever experience of the performing arts in the form of our Little People’s Day celebrations to reflecting the journey of a person’s life through video and spoken word at The Elms Elderly Care Home, our outreach work has touched many lives this Summer.
We were lucky enough to work with Mind on two separate projects that challenged our students to address the stigma surrounding mental health and stretched both their heartstrings and their powers of self-reflection.
When BRIT students were offered a slot at a new music festival celebrating the Outer London Boroughs it seemed like a great opportunity for us to partner our talented year 12 musicians with local Mind service users interested in being part of a community choir. This was an idea that Mind’s social networking manager, Matthew O’Gorman, had been trying to get off the ground for a while. So, when Chris McInnes stepped up with a brief to create a community choir in five short sessions for an evening performance at Stanley Halls, the tension and excitement was palpable. Needless to say the gig went without a hitch, kicking off with Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal and building (via Bowie) to a Bob Marley finale that summed up the project’s ideals beautifully, ‘Let’s get together and feel alright’. Last week one of the participants wrote to us to thank The BRIT School for this opportunity and spoke from the heart about our ‘unfailingly friendly, generous, good-natured and non-judgemental students’ before going on to mention that it has inspired him to attend the ‘Mind and Soul Choir’ at the Maudsley hospital and take up the drums.
“I have struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my life, so it was uplifting to spend some time with such positive, enthusiastic and good-humoured young people. “
Mind also worked with us on another project that saw a collaboration between Theatre, MT and Music students. The aim of this project was to start an open dialogue about mental health, through game play, discussions and activities. The group chose to create a relaxed pop-up cafe to share their work and show their appreciation for each other and the charity that brought them together. Highlights included a 60’s dance party to ‘Twist and Shout’, a special version of Sam Cook’s ‘Like I can’ and some freestyle rap that spoke about the importance of Mind in Croydon to the lives of its service users.
The BRIT School’s collaboration with patients at St Christopher’s Hospice goes way back and this year we have been even more ambitious and broad ranging than ever: live radio broadcasts, a painting project, songwriting collaborations and a cross strand performance reflecting the rich lives of the patients all took place over the last six weeks. VAD’s inspired ‘canvas swap’ project saw patients and students collaborating on paintings from week to week with magnificent results. Visual Arts workshops, inspired by the beautiful garden at St Christopher’s, were messy and magical as jokes, stories and conversations were shared over the pastels, ink and paint pots.
It has been an emotional term and the depth and poignancy of the work produced by, with and for St Christopher’s was really brought home last week when one of our students was asked to sing at the memorial service of the patient they had been working with. Although the patient never heard the finished song in life it will be performed for his loved ones at his funeral and the lyrics (co-written with our student) will be printed in the order of service.
It’s been a term of new partnerships and old alliances. A warm welcome to Harris Academy Dulwich, Beckmead PRU, Red Gates Special School, TBAP Residential PRU in Crawley, Age UK and The Streets; we very much hope to work with you all again next year. A big thank you to all our treasured long term collaborators including: Certitude, Croydon Day Opportunities, St Giles Special School, Linden Bridge, Heavers Court, Generate UK, The Elms, St Christopher’s Hospice, Mind in Croydon and all our local primary schools and children’s centres. BRIT School students, teachers and staff have worked incredibly hard this year to make sure our community work stays right at the beating heart of the school and the results, as always, have been life changing.
Always Community. Always BRIT.
Community Projects Co-ordinator