National Friendly and the Bristol Hippodrome have announced a wide-ranging Creative Learning Programme for Bristol schools, supported by Ablaze Bristol, a long-term charity partner, which tackles inequality of opportunity for young people in the West of England.

The Creative Learning Programme gives pupils insight into the variety of careers available at the theatre, and opportunities to try performing while enabling them to examine their anxieties around transition to secondary school through creative activities.

Pupils were visited in school by a team of The Bristol Hippodrome’s qualified theatre practitioners for a half day, followed by a second half day session at the theatre.

In-school Sessions

The in-school sessions led by Natalie Flynn (Senior Creative Learning Producer) and Kyle Pyke (Creative Learning Assistant) were insightful and engaging. The children completed a range of tasks and activities to demonstrate that it is OK for us all to approach tasks differently. They discussed how people in the theatre deal with change and how that relates to the changes the children will experience when transitioning to senior school in September. The children drafted poems to be read aloud highlighting their thoughts, their worries and what they are looking forward to.




In-theatre Workshop

In the theatre the children were welcomed by Technical Managers Steve (Chief Electrician) and Kerry (Deputy Technical Manager) who gave the children an overview of the theatre, what skills and qualifications are required for theatre jobs and how creativity can take many forms.

They also met the Hippodrome’s Head of Customer Experience in the Carey Grant Bar to learn about the food and beverage offering, and its impact on the venue’s success. The theatre’s marketing and communications assistant led discussions around target audiences, demographics and engagement levels across different outreach methods as a marketing task, demonstrating that an interest in people and social media could also lead to a theatre career.

The session wound up with an exclusive dance class by the dance captain to Mamma Mia, which was enjoyed by all.



Pupil Feedback

Feedback from the pupils who took part showed that they thoroughly enjoyed the programme especially the novelty of being in the theatre, and were able to remember quite a few of the careers discussed, particularly the technical and front of house ones.

Anxiety about transitioning was a big topic. The pupils talked a lot about their worries and remembered writing the poems well. This cohort of pupils are particularly anxious due to Covid, making the change of moving to secondary school seem scarier.

Kurtis Reece, PR & Corporate Partnerships Executive at National Friendly says, “The Creative Learning Programme gives students a unique opportunity to develop and build communications skills with theatre practitioners who lead workshops designed to bring a school’s existing learning objectives to life, in groups of up to 30, while developing critical and creative thinking skills.

Creative partnerships such as this illustrate how National Friendly and Ablaze are able to partner with an established, world-renowned arts organisation to add opportunity and real benefits to the communities they serve.”

Sally Melvin CEO of Ablaze, said: “We were very happy to partner with the Hippodrome and National Friendly to pilot a Creative Learning Programme for year six pupils at Glenfrome School. We believe giving children real life experiences in workplaces is a powerful tool for inspiring them to make positive choices about their future careers and career pathways. Our focus is on those cohorts who are under-served, hardest to reach and who lack the support and connections to facilitate their career pathways and ambitions. Research shows that young people who have four or more encounters with workplaces while in education are 86% less likely to become NEET.

Learning about the variety of jobs within the arts sector at a young age will help these children to widen their aspirations as they progress through school and beyond. Seeing the different aspects of the workings of a theatre from the inside and meeting the people who make it run smoothly was a unique experience.”

Naomi Kilcoyne, Sales and Development Manager at The Bristol Hippodrome says, “Created for schools, colleges, universities and youth groups, these bespoke workshops delve into the extensive career options available in the theatre, from customer experience and hospitality to marketing and technical. The tailored sessions which aim to inspire young people are a great way to ensure we are continuing to open our doors to an even wider and more diverse audience, and we look forward to welcoming more young people into the venue through our Creative Learning Programme.”

Inger O’Callaghan, Head Teacher at Glenfrome Primary School says, “It has been such a brilliant opportunity to be able to offer our children. Many of them have never been to the theatre before and to get inside and have a tour was a fantastic experience for them. The activities were really well thought through and gave the children some really good ideas about future career pathways, and the opportunity to talk further about the transition to secondary school. Thanks so much to all involved from National Friendly, Ablaze and The Bristol Hippodrome for making this happen.”