THE ROYAL EXCHANGE THEATRE’S FIRST EVER HAPPY 2 BE FESTIVAL SAW EIGHT GREATER MANCHESTER SEN SCHOOLS WELCOMED ONTO OUR STAGE FOR A DAY OF FANTASTIC PERFORMANCES.

The festival featured performances from Piper Hill Specialist School, Springside Primary, New Bridge School, Cromwell School, Chatsworth High School, Pictor Academy and Brentwood High School, Ladywood Primary School and Elms Bank School. Happy 2 Be was built around the theme of Acceptance & Understanding and all the schools did a brilliant job at making sure their voices were heard loud and clear!

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Katie Jones, teacher at Piper Hill Specialist School said ‘It was an immensely positive experience, building upon their confidence and creativity. They were so proud to be on such a distinguished stage performing in front of their family and friends…They felt so much support and received many compliments on their performances.

Each school has been working with the Exchange since April to develop their performances. Professionals form the theatre went into each of the schools to run practical workshops on creating and fine tuning the performances and each school group came into the theatre for workshops and a final on-stage dress rehearsal earlier this month.

Alongside those performing on the stage, pupils were nominated by their teachers to become Festival Producers. This group were tasked with creating the festival theme, giving its a name and developing all marketing material for Happy 2 Be. The producers were on hand throughout the day to help gather feedback, audience members said ‘I’ve never felt so welcome in a theatre before, this has been such a lovely day’, ‘Autism is awesome!!’ and ‘Well done to all, what a triumph!’.

Festival Technicians were also recruited by their schools to take part in lighting and sound workshops and were involved in assisting the theatres technicians during the performances.

Simon Birch, Deputy Head of Pictor Academy commented
‘They will all remember it and they will embrace drama opportunities in the future thanks to this experience. The whole positive atmosphere, ethos, joy and quality was incredible.’ Head Teacher of Springside Primary School Richard Kershaw added ‘I think that was one of the highlights of my 20year teaching career in SEN’

After such an inspirational day, roll on next year’s festival!

Special thanks to the Co-operative Foundation and the Belong network for their generous support of the project.