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The Newcastle School's Participation Programme for The Lost Happy Endings

Friday May 17th 2019Share page

During the Spring term we ran the Newcastle Schools Participation Programme for The Lost Happy Endings, our newest family dance theatre production, which premieres at Northern Stage in October. The programme consisted of a 4-week pilot project at Knop Law Primary School, before embarking on a 6-week main programme which was delivered at Central Walker C of E Primary School, St Paul's C of E Primary School and Westgate Hill Primary Academy. In total 340 children (5-9yrs), took part in workshops to develop movement based on well-known characters and stories.

The Lost Happy Endings is an original story by Carol Ann Duffy, in which the main character, Jub has to invent alternative endings to bedtime stories after a witch steals the originals. The children we worked with brought fantastic ideas as to how some of these stories could end, as well as incorporating ideas from other stories they had grown up listening to. In each workshop, they explored the ways in which different characters move, developed partner skills, and created movement scenes from 4 fairytales, Cinderella, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. The movement vocabulary and the fantastical alternative endings to stories which the children created will influence the narrative of the final piece.

At the end of the project, pupils shared dances they had created in front of their peers, having lots of fun, celebrating their creativity, and demonstrating extraordinary talent and commitment.

The children were able to engage with stories in a different way and help them enjoy them in another way. It helped them to explore their creativity and was good exercise for them. Teacher


I feel different, I feel like I’m a ballerina now confident with a huge group of people in front of me, I just feel confident. Pupil

In addition to the dance workshops, 116 children from Central Walker CE Primary participated in Arts Award Discover. Each child completed a log book capturing their reflections, and understanding of dance, music and storytelling, and will receive a certificate from Trinity College London acknowledging their achievements.

The children really enjoyed every session they had! It was fantastic to see their personalities come out. Teacher

Creative Associate Gavin Coward explains some of the approaches to delivery: 

“As part of the process, we asked the children to rewrite and think about more up to date versions of well-known fairytales, which stories and characters they liked, which they didn't and why. This allowed children to listen to each other's views, perceptions and opinions. For example, one boy said he didn't like Cinderella because it was girly. Further discussion amongst the group allowed us to explore stereotypical roles of girls and boys and how this may change if someone is from a different country. For example, Cinderella could be from Africa, Pinocchio could be a girl, the frog prince is happy remaining a frog.

This was useful in terms of the children understanding the stories from within their own perspective, their own world, their own culture as the children who attended were from a range of backgrounds.

In delivering the workshops we also adopted a non-verbal approach - the thinking behind this was due to the diversity of the group and English not being the first language for a number of children. We felt that adopting this approach would assist with managing the group and improving how they observe, listen and concentrate.”

Brilliant, children were really engaged especially when instructions were given through gestures and not verbal. Teacher


Creative Associate Natalie Trewinnard noted the development of some of the children throughout the project:

“Over the project I have seen the children grow with confidence, as they have come back to skills we were developing with them. While watching and helping them discover new things, I have noticed that there were progressively fewer mis-haps as the weeks went on – not that there were many! I think this is due to the children learning about spatial awareness, considering their actions and movements, and building their skills up.”

I felt happy. When you are angry and you do balletLORENT, then it calms you down. Pupil


The children really enjoyed every session they had! It was fantastic to see their personalities come out. Teacher

balletLORENT Dancer Toby Fitzgibbons also shared some feedback about the workshops:

“I loved seeing the way the children are able to cooperate and throw themselves into tasks. I love that at these ages they are not tainted and can be truly immersive with the tasks.

We worked with prompt words "crackle, sparkle, smoke, flame'' that we had connected to the 4 stories we worked with and linked this to moves from the stories, running through the woods etc. This task has worked very well, and they really began to remember some of these characterisations, loving the freedom it gave them.”

It’s made me very, very, happy because when I do it, it doesn’t make the outside but the inside better. Pupil

It was great! I loved the way they communicated with the children just through watching and less talking it enabled the children to be fully engaged. Teacher

We are grateful to the school staff for their support in this project, and to all the children whose creativity, imagination and physicality inspired and enthralled Liv and the company dancers who worked with them.

We will continue to work with some of the children we met in out of school sessions, and some may even join the community cast for premiere of The Lost Happy Endings in Newcastle.

The Lost Happy Endings