Last weekend saw the Squire Performing Arts Centre take part in its first Heritage Open Day, welcoming visitors to participate in dance and drama classes, backstage tours and technical theatre skills workshops.
As an independent school, we acknowledge how lucky we are and what a great privilege it is to have a fully operational theatre and all the trimmings right here on site, but we want it to be so much more than just a facility for use by our girls, and we are not alone among independent schools who share this vision. A recent article in The Spectator rightly commented that music and drama tend to be the first subjects to face cuts in a cash strapped state system, but also declared that “schools which boast top-class facilities are opening them up to the world, and encouraging the local community to benefit from them as well” which is exactly what we are doing here at Nottingham Girls’ High School.
Along with some outstanding school productions, our versatile performing arts centre has also hosted external theatrical and dance performances, as well as meetings and conferences. But it is the inclusion of the local community that really resonates for us as a school. Our Reach Out community partnership initiative works closely with local schools to provide fun and educational opportunities for young children in lots of different fields, focusing recently on STEM based subjects. Steph Dann, who worked as part of our Reach Out team on maternity cover, was involved in one such event in April and had this to say about her experience:
“I was [also] involved in running our first ever architecture event, which we hosted in our performing arts theatre, The Space. This event allowed many children from local schools, who had never been to the theatre before, the opportunity to see behind the scenes of a professional theatre. They were able to learn about the architecture involved in building The Space. They were then taught by a subject expert about how this linked into all the technology needed to bring the theatre to life. This is just one event of many in the Reach Out calendar. It was during this event that I first witnessed the impact the events have on the children and staff involved.”
There are other similar Reach Out events pencilled in for the future, some of which will also include free theatre tickets to pantomime and other performances in Nottingham. Local children will also be invited to attend matinee performances of some of our own school productions – we really want to enhance their exposure to and enjoyment of the arts.
The article in The Spectator begins by saying, “first-rate drama facilities are part of the reason why so many privately educated actors are on our screens”, but it’s not just about that and it’s not just about us. Of course we would be thrilled to see our girls recognised in the future, not only for their acting skills but also as writers, directors, producers and technicians. Our incredible facility, our expertise and dedicated staff mean that our girls have all of the opportunities to learn and succeed in these areas. But we also believe in the community of which we are a part, and that the arts should be accessible for everybody to enjoy, as participants and/or as spectators. As we concur, and the article concludes: “Whatever the reasons for the goodwill shown by independent schools in sharing their facilities, if it allows less privileged children the opportunity to experience more of the arts, it can surely be no bad thing.”
The Squire Performing Arts Centre launched its new website to coincide with its participation in Heritage Open Days – take a look, it really is impressive, it’s available for hire, and it’s right here in the heart of Nottingham.