PRESTIGIOUS ARTS COUNCIL GRANT ENABLES NEWPORT YOUTH THEATRE TO STAGE PREMIERE OF SHROPSHIRE FOLKTALE!
In September 2022, Hannah de Quincey, Artistic Director of Moonstruck Astronaut community theatre company based in Newport, Shropshire, was awarded a ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ grant by Arts Council England. Of the 1,349 eligible applications in her round, only 379 people (28%) were chosen for support and Hannah was amongst them. The £11,700 grant award has enabled Hannah to spend ten months developing her skills in facilitating child-led devised live performances, leading youth theatre sessions and improving her knowledge of how to operate sustainably as a small arts company.
Hannah de Quincey is an experienced secondary school drama teacher and theatre director. She taught at Concord College in Shropshire from 2014-2017, flying the flag masterfully for drama to be expanded at the school. Hannah set up Moonstruck Astronaut as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company in 2017 and has since obtained grant funding and support from several organisations to bring children and volunteers together through theatre projects. Her goal is to empower children and nurture the wellbeing of her local community through Moonstruck Astronaut CIC’s work.
The grant has enabled Hannah to develop the work of the Newport Youth Theatre, with the triumphant outcome being a free performance of ‘Humphrey Kynnaston’, a local folktale by Amy Douglas, on Sunday the 25th June at Gnosall Memorial Hall. Through the grant, she has enlisted the collaborative help of Anna Belyavin, a skilled movement facilitator, to co-run many youth theatre sessions and Kat Hughes, a highly experienced Youth Theatre leader, as mentor. Kat has twelve years of experience running the Youth Theatre at the New Vic Theatre back in Newcastle-under-Lyme (where Hannah is originally from).
Kat Hughes reports, “Since working with Hannah I have seen her artistic and producing skills flourish. She is a talented artist who has a true calling to work with the community and create high-quality work and make precious memories. The work behind the scenes on this type of activity is extensive and I have seen Hannah juggle it all whilst employing local people, managing volunteers and running the youth theatre.”
Anna Belyavin states, “The DYCP is a wonderful opportunity to allow artists to invest time and resources in their own practice and it has been great to see Hannah develop as a practitioner and build two wonderful groups of performers in Newport. The focus on creativity and child-led work has allowed the young people to thrive, explore, feel safe and flourish and they have created a really exciting performance.”
A stellar team of volunteers have gathered to support all the Saturday morning sessions. The grant has enabled a neurodiverse and eclectic mix of big hearted adults to gather around the childen to nurture their talents and confidence. Hannah is neurodiverse herself, having been assessed as dyspraxic when studying for her Secondary Drama Teaching PGCE.
Hannah shares “This grant has been a crucial step forward for my work. Artists are notoriously underfunded and under-represented. On top of that, having neurodiverse traits adds to the challenges of running a not-for-profit business, successfully project managing, marketing and delivering whilst also juggling applying for funding. I’m grateful to the access support programme of the Arts Council as it enabled me to succeed. Through my work I would like to contribute to a cultural movement for more creativity and collaboration in Shropshire. Fostering children and strengthening the community relationships around them makes a big impact on a healthy society and I believe it should be more at the forefront of life.”
Research by the Cultural Learning Alliance has proven that people who take part in the arts are 38% more likely to report good health. The report also states that Theatre and drama improve young people’s social skills and emotional wellbeing. We also know that engaging in the arts increases young people’s resilience – a key component of good mental health. It has been proven that those who engage in the arts are less likely to need to access health services (taken from ‘Key Research Findings: The Case for Cultural Learning’ by the Cultural Learning Alliance https://www.culturallearningalliance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/CLA-key-findings-2017.pdf ).
THE CREATIVE PRODUCT OF THE ARTS COUNCIL GRANT
Hannah’s co-creative work with Newport Youth Theatre is to culminate in an exhilarating first ever stage adaptation of ‘Humphrey Kynnaston’, a powerful local folktale written by Amy Douglas, on Sunday 25th June at 12.30pm at Gnosall Memorial Hall. Owing to the support of the public funding by Arts Council England and other local organisations, the performance is free to attend.
The stage adaption is the end product of the Devising Club section of Newport Youth Theatre who formed in February. The children and volunteers have experienced the process of devising an original Youth Theatre show entirely from scratch, whilst learning more about local folklore, and all have grown their skills and confidence through the process. Hannah was entranced by the folktale of ‘Humphrey Kynnaston’ when she read it in Amy Douglas’ brilliant ‘Shropshire Folktales’ collection of stories. She then shared it with the Youth Theatre who also got excited, and the group have been developing their play every Saturday term-time staging the play from scratch since then.
Amy Douglas, professional storyteller and writer of ‘Shropshire Folktales’ enthuses, “I am delighted that Moonstruck Theatre have chosen Humphry Kynnaston to work with – and have had a very professional, respectful and exciting approach to working with my source material. These stories are the bedrock of Shropshire, a conversation between the land and the people who live on it. They contain the lives, loves, drama, dreams, hopes and fears of the people who trod this land before us. They are a gift from our past and it is a delight to see Moonstruck working with young people to breathe new life into old tales, being a bridge from the past to the future – bravo!”
Hannah states “The process of devising theatre from scratch is always a hearty challenge and staging ‘Humphrey Kynnaston’ has been no mean feat. I am hugely proud of the script we’ve created together and the delightful staging the company have come up with. It’s life-giving encouraging the creativity and talent of the awesome children and adults I have got to work with; there have been so many moments where my heart is singing as we clinch another stage moment or have fun in a drama exercise with the Drama Club. The quality of volunteers this project has attracted has been inspiring, particular mention goes to Jack Rennie, a brilliantly intuitive music specialist and Jenn Harvey who is a magician at making and sourcing props and costume. I feel immensely blessed to be able to bring such super people together and get to collaborate with superb local professional creatives whilst being paid fairly for sharing my creative gifts and experience with my local community.”
Jack Rennie, music volunteer says “I have always loved music but since spending time with Hannah and the Moonstruck Astronauts I have learned ways to build community, improve mental health and introduced me to the world of arts funding, all by shear osmosis. Hannah has taken me under her wing and provided me with a crash course in how to get things done and have fun in the process!”
THANK YOU TO ALL SUPPORTERS
Whilst the Arts Council grant has funded Hannah and her collaborators and mentors as artists, local organisations have helped fund the Youth Theatre project this year. Thank you to Henshalls Insurance, Waitrose, Edgmond Parish Council and Telford and Wrekin CVS for your generous help. Thank you to Mike Layward, recently retired Artistic Director of DASH, Ben Fredericks of Vehicle Arts, Kat Hughes, Anna Belyavin, Lucy Willis. Thank you to my husband Ed de Quincey and parents-in-law Lynne and Phil Scates for their long-standing practical support. Thank you to the Councillors’ Pride Fund, Annabel Lady Boughey Charity, Newport Town Council, Arnold Clark Community Fund, Telford and Wrekin CVS and Lilleshall Parish Council for helping fund the Youth Theatre in 2022. Thank you to the wonderful team of Youth Theatre volunteers and committed parents/ guardians.
Hannah said: “Without the generous support of our volunteers, local organisations and national community funds, the Newport Youth Theatre project would not be able to take place as it would be unaffordable for parents; their combined contributions enable our local children to access the powerful positive growth that arts projects can bring.”
For more info on the work of the theatre company go to www.moonstruckastronaut.com , watch our films on You Tube (search ‘Moonstruck Astronaut community theatre company’) and follow our Facebook (www.facebook.com/moonstruckastronaut/) and Instagram (@moonstruckastronaut).
For more info on the work of the Arts Council go to https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/ProjectGrants