28th February 2016 Anne Richards

There are two particular moments from last week which I think will be etched in my memory forever.

Firstly the warm-ups before the performance of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, and secondly the moments after the end of the final performance on Friday night.

You can see some of the warm-ups on the academy facebook page – where everyone involved joins in a dance to ‘Uptown Funk’ – for some of us it was quite a challenge to our co-ordination and fitness, but the students had it down to a fine art. In these moments were joy, unity and energy. But then we stopped, and entered into a circle of silence and stillness, where we connected as a team and prepared ourselves to focus, in a way which I have never seen young people achieve in any other context. And then the long walk down to the theatre from the third floor, in total silence. Some of the students walked down with their arms around each others shoulders – demonstrating powerful moments of solidarity and affirmation for one another. It was extraordinary to see and moving to be caught up in it. Every evening we went through the same ritual, every evening treated with utmost seriousness and respect by everyone involved.

As the curtain fell on the final performance on Friday evening, we gathered in the drama studio where the students were congratulated on such a fantastic week of performances. What was most moving though, was the level of appreciation the students had for what they had received through this experience – expressed through a video they had put together, many tears, streaky mascara, laughter and lots and lots of hugs. No one wanted to go home!

In those moments, we witnessed our values lived out – by staff and students alike – trust, in one another, love for each other, and a palpable sense of community. What an absolute privilege and joy!