11th June 2024

A celebration event for the LEPP Arts Legacy Project – a collaboration between Leeds East Primary Partnership (LEPP), Leeds Heritage Theatres, Leeds Playhouse and Northern Ballet – will be held on Mon 17 June at City Varieties Music Hall.

As well as showcasing a screening of Grow Productions’ documentary which evidences the broad and deep impact of the project, the event will also provide a chance for pupils to share some of their creative work, and for the partners to reflect on the project and discuss the next steps, including the current fundraiser.

The LEPP Arts Legacy Project, that was recently shortlisted for the ‘Inspirational Local Partnership Award’ at the Northern Cultural Education Awards, continues the work started during LEPP’s 10th anniversary event last winter. For this, LEPP – a foundation trust of five primary schools in inner-city East Leeds serving some of the most deprived communities in the country – partnered with local arts organisations Leeds Heritage Theatres, Leeds Playhouse, and Northern Ballet to bring together all 1,300 pupils to experience live theatre in their home city for the first time.

Catherine Hayward, Interim Head of Learning and Engagement at Leeds Heritage Theatres, says: “The event at Leeds Playhouse to mark the 10th anniversary was phenomenal but for me, the really exciting bit is what happens next.”

The LEPP Arts Legacy Project aims to ensure that the anniversary event was not a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience for the children involved, but the start of sustainable enrichment opportunities provided by continued access to the arts.

Catherine Hayward continues: “We know the impact and power of teaching creatively in schools, we know it builds young people’s confidence and motivation for learning, and we know that this is how many children learn best. But with all the additional pressures in the classroom, we also know that dance and drama can be intimidating for class teachers, especially those who don’t consider themselves to be ‘creative’. So, we wanted to change that.”

Therefore, as well as all LEPP pupils attending a live theatre production of either Oliver! or The Enormous Crocodile at Leeds Playhouse, the partners held a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) day for the schools’ staff, where drama and dance practitioners shared practical exercises to embed creativity in the classroom.

Pupils were encouraged to respond creatively to their theatre trip, creating poems, dances, and other art forms once back at school, with the chance to win prizes from Leeds Heritage Theatres, Leeds Playhouse and Northern Ballet, including a theatre visit and workshop.

Amy Leach, Deputy Artistic Director at Leeds Playhouse, says: “We believe creative activity is a vital part of a young person’s education; building confidence, resilience, and the skills to communicate about the world around them. Offering access to resources, workshops, career advice and theatre tickets is part of our core mission at Leeds Playhouse. Working in collaboration with the LEPP partners and schools has created transformative experiences for the young people participating and all the organisations and teachers involved.”

Since the initial anniversary event, further creative workshops and drama clubs have been delivered, and all schools will be included in Northern Ballet’s talent-spotting programme to identify potential ballet dancers of the future.

Leanne Kirkham, Director of Academy Operations and Learning at Northern Ballet, says: “It has been a pleasure to get to know the leadership, staff, and pupils of the LEPP schools, and working with colleagues at Leeds Heritage Theatres and Leeds Playhouse has made it even more fun, flexible, and creative. I cannot wait to continue this exciting partnership to ensure children and staff can access the rich and diverse creative theatre opportunities on their doorstep.”

The partnership has also opened new avenues of support for LEPP, including a link with Northern Rail to provide free train travel for future visits, reducing the significant barrier of travel costs. This link will also build pupils’ rail confidence to potentially travel into the city with family.

Planning for further events in 2024/25 is underway. Building on the £1400 raised last year through a fundraiser, more financial support is needed to ensure that the Arts Legacy Project can continue to provide children with as many opportunities to access the arts as possible.

Catherine Hayward continues: “This project has increased teachers’ confidence in using drama and dance in the classroom and we are now working with LEPP to develop a fully creative curriculum across five primary schools, with an extraordinary cultural experience for every child so, by the time they leave primary school, they will have had at least seven engagements with the world-class cultural organisations that are in their home city. Building significant cultural capital that young people can take into secondary school and beyond.

“I hope this project inspires other schools to reach out to their local arts organisations to create extraordinary cultural experiences for their pupils.”

Visit the Leeds East Primary Partnership Arts Legacy Fundraiser to find out more about the LEPP Arts Legacy Project and donate.