EastSide Story is an original piece of theatre, commissioned by London Borough of Culture 2019.
It has been created by young people from Waltham Forest through transformational youth work and dynamic cultural arts sessions.
We chatted to Robin, Director of Catalyst in Communities, who has been working alongside local arts programme RAW Academy to guide young people in creating EastSide Story.
1. What attracted you to work on this project? How does it align with Catalyst in Communities’ mission?
Young people are very often cast in a particularly negative light in the media and in many people’s minds these days. EastSide Story showcases the amazing creative talents of our local young stars. At Catalyst in the Communities we don’t see young people as the problem, rather that they face the problem. We know that they are solution, and strive to provide opportunities for young people to develop through workshops and projects.
2. What approach did you take when working with young people from Waltham Forest?
Initially we worked with two separate groups of young people on local housing estates and then later in the process they became one group. I have worked with young people professionally for over 20 years, and my approach to all my work is that developing a deeper understanding of what our emotions are, where they come from, what they are for and how they help us to live is the key to people being able to live lives that they love.
3. What are the main themes of the theatre piece?
The performance is loosely based on WestSide Story (which was based on Romeo & Juliet) - the core themes of love, family, rivalry, revenge and anger are all still very relevant today. The casts’ stories weave a 21st Century Waltham Forest version of this ancient tale together. Some of the young people have managed to show a side of them that they did not know they had - writing and performing some amazing songs that brought the whole room to tears!
4. What benefits do you think that this type of cultural programme has on young people within areas like Waltham Forest?
Enabling and supporting young people who might not have participated directly in any stage performance to take up the opportunity to collaborate with others in EastSide Story is a huge step forward. Meeting others and working together through challenges to a common aim is of massive benefit to the participants and also to the wider community in the borough.
5. What has been your favourite part of the project?
My favourite moment so far on this project was the weekend trip. The two different groups met at a weekend residential trip we held in February (in the snow). This trip was a deeply impactful weekend that I will remember as long as I live! The groups bonded almost instantly and we spent time really getting to know each other well through more of our transformational coaching, performing arts and music workshops.
EastSide Story will be performed at Chingford Assembly Hall on Saturday 13 April at 8pm.
Catalyst in Communities is an ethical not for profit social enterprise that provides a supportive framework to enable powerful conversations within and between communities to create transformative change.