The School has worked with a number of organisations that are connected with older people. In 2005, it was asked to work with Thornton Heath Darby and Joan Club. The Theatre strand ran workshops and performed a piece of ‘reminiscence theatre’ that explored the stories of the people who attended the centre. In 2007, the Musical Theatre strand began working with the Elms Residential Care Home in East Dulwich. They also took a reminiscence approach using ‘verbatim theatre’ techniques and sing along approaches to their project, of which Ms. Baterip, the Care Manager at the Elms, wrote to the School to say:
“We are still getting over the wonderful performance... it really was beyond words. You have made a big difference, what you do is very special and gifted, and how you share it with others is outstanding.”
In 2007, the Music and Theatre strands began to work with St. Christopher’s Hospice. Since that time, the School has developed this relationship by making films, radio programmes, writing plays, composing songs and creating artwork with and for this very special place. Year 13 student Darren Holland explained how the experience:
“… changed how I saw the world. It touched me in a very powerful way.”
In 2008, the School was asked to perform at the International End of Life Conference in Earls Court. Nigel Hartley, Creative Director of St. Christopher’s said:
“The BRIT School students are amazing. They have energy, kindness and a real ability to work with us. What they have created is extraordinary.”
Every year, The BRIT School performs to and works with thousands of children from other schools. Every summer, the whole school comes together to perform an original musical written for children at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon. This event alone is seen by around two thousand local children. This performance is repeated in central London to equally large audiences. In 2008, The Silent Streets explored the plight of World War II evacuees and in 2009, The Circus of Disbelief focused on immigration, allowing young people to consider complex ideas through accessible performance work.
The school has an impressive track record of working in collaboration with Special Schools such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind College, Nash College and St. Giles School. Based in Croydon, St. Giles is committed to an arts provision for all of its pupils. The BRIT School has been collaborating with them for their arts week every summer since 1999. A number of BRIT students have also collaborated with the innovative Orpheus Centre in Godstone; running workshops, writing plays and performing there. The school also has a very good relationship with the local children’s centre in Selhurst. Over the years, BRIT students have painted their walls to give their environment a colourful and vibrant look, played Christmas concerts and written shows about the children’s favourite books.
Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy
The BRIT School shares a special relationship with Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy which now has a centre on The BRIT School site. Nordoff-Robbins was founded on the principles of the pioneering music therapy work of American pianist and composer, Paul Nordoff (1909–77) and British educationalist Clive Robbins (b.1927). A national charity established in 1976, becoming registered in 1980, Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy is the largest charitable provider of music therapy in the UK.
Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy promotes health, well-being and social inclusion through the skilled use of music with individuals, groups and communities who are challenged by disability, illness or injustice. Its special relationship with The BRIT School stems from the generous funding from The BRIT Trust. The BRIT School and Nordoff-Robbins are the two main recipients of BRIT Trust funding.
Croydon Commitment is a corporate-led social responsibility charity that promotes the work of local charities and voluntary groups and is supported by local businesses. Croydon Commitment fundraises on behalf of other charities and promotes community involvement amongst local companies and their staff. It bridges the gap between the needs of the local community and that of businesses in the area, identifying and facilitating activities for them to participate in so that local charities benefit. The BRIT School has supported many fundraising events for Croydon Commitment including the annual Charity Ball at Crystal Palace fc which, since 2007, has featured performances by students from the Music strand.
In 2009, Music and Musical Theatre students performed Festiva at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon to raise funds for Croydon Commitment.
Since 2007, the School has worked with Dance4Life, in collaboration with Red Zebra; an international organisation that uses young people and the performing arts to promote aids education throughout the world. This has led to students performances in nightclubs in London on International aids day that have been broadcast around the world.
Two students were so inspired by their work with Dance4Life that they visited Africa to work with victims of aids and hiv in the summer of 2007. The School has also worked closely with the Children With AIDS Charity (cwac), Crusaid and the Terrence Higgins Trust.
In 2007 and 2008, The BRIT School went to Glastonbury. Music students, supported by Technical Theatre students, BDC students and several staff members, performed on the Leftfield stage at the world famous music and arts festival. The School was invited by the Workers Beer Company, who have a presence at most of the main festivals and are strongly associated with Leftfield, which represents one of the last bastions of political activism at Glastonbury. Financed largely by the trade unions, Leftfield is a not-for-profit enterprise aimed at raising awareness of important political and social issues among the festival crowd. Also appearing on the stage in 2007 and 2008 were such acts as Billy Bragg, The Enemy, The Beat, The Levellers, The Noisettes, Joss Stone and speakers such as the legendary Tony Benn. In 2008, students and former students such as Tawiah and Dockers MC worked in partnership with Dance4Life to spread the message of AIDS and HIV awareness to the festival crowd. Audience responses were overwhelmingly positive, and the students drew large crowds for the Thursday afternoon slots both years running. Student, Adam Gaworski said of the experience:
“Months of rehearsal, three days of pouring rain, 30 minute walk to the stage. Somehow this sums up one of the best weekends of my life so far. From playing soul to 5000 people to an acoustic set at 2am to 400, it really couldn’t have been
BRIT Kids offers classes on Saturdays in theatre, dance, singing, photography and fashion for 8–15 year olds. The classes promote a dynamic environment for children to pursue their interests in the arts and develop their confidence. Saturdays are a fantastic time for taking advantage of the specialist studios and equipment. It is by no means a small affair; Saturdays are a buzz of activity with 200 young people and 15 teachers. Teachers are all professional practitioners and often BRIT School teachers. Student helpers from the School work in support and often develop into teachers at BRIT Kids.