Angel Shed Theatre: Charity links Islington child poverty rate with rise in bursary demand
PUBLISHED: 14:57 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:57 11 December 2019
An inclusive theatre company dedicated to opening up the performing arts to children of all abilities and backgrounds turned 15 last month.
The Angel Shed Theatre Company, headquarted in Camden Road, is a charity offering courses in dance, music and drama to youngsters aged 5-19.
But families are increasingly struggling to afford it course fees and about 80 per cent of kids now use its free bursaries, up from 50pc two years ago.
Chair of trustees Andrew Duncan told the Gazette: "Children we encourage to get involved are either from disadvantaged backgrounds or children with with special needs.
"We have a number of children who, one way or another, we can provide them with a means to express themselves, which is sometimes missing in their lives, which has proved to be a huge benefit to their emotional and physical wellbeing. [...]
"For any child to be involved with the creative arts I think is crucial. It happens we are going through a period where things like drama and music are being struck off the curriculam, so many secondary schools and certainly primary schools no longer have the wherewithall."
Andrew said the high levels of child poverty and deprivation in Islington make services offered by Angel Shed "indespensible".
The government published its updated English Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for the first time in four years in September. This estimates 33.6 per cent of older people and 27.5pc of children in Islington are living in impoverished neighbourhoods.
Islington ranks joint fourth with Manchester for the scale of hardship affecting those over 60, while it ranks 10th overall for deprivation among children. Andew added: "We have notices, over the last two or three years, that there have been a growing proprotion of children who rely on bursaries, which we can only take as a reflection of the level of deprivation in the borough."
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"We are an inclusive theatre group. The emphasis is on inclusive. We don't turn anyone away because of their abilities, all the children work together using their imaginations."
Angel Shed Theatre also runs bespoke outreach sessions with partners including Solace Womens Aid, which helps women and children to get away from male abuse and violence, and with Arsenal Foundation.
Staff also run workshops in Islington schools. It has a core team supported by a wider network of volunteers and is reliant on donations to provide services. Chickenshed Theatre founded the charity after it got money to expand some 15 years ago, however they've been run seperately ever since, despite sharing ideas for projects owing to their similar ethoses.
Angel Shed recently delivered a six-week dance and drama project for girls living in the Finsbury Park. Some 50 people attended the performance on December 3
Islington Council gave Angel Shed funding for the projects as part of its 'supporting Families against youth crime' programme.
One of the girls from this project told organisers: "When I dance and listen to music and do what we're doing, it makes me feel like myself, because other people don't make me feel like myself… lately." Andew said Angel Shed's 15 year anniversary was a "huge milestone" and Sadler's Wells Theatre, in Roseberry Avenue, let them use the space to put on a gala event last month.
Anderw added: "Jeremy Corbyn [who was at the event] is our patron. He has been hugely supportive of Angel Shed over the past couple of years, despite the fact he is a busy man."
Jeremy Corbyn told the Gazette: "It has been a pleasure and an honour to be a patron of Angel Shed Theatre. I have been to as many performances as I could get to, but the stand out one was clearly the big night they had at Sadlers Wells." He praised the charity for enouraging the "artistic endeavours of young people, whatever their differences" and "the way Angel Shed gives them a space to imagine and to perform".
Mr Corbyn added: "I will continue supporting them because they have done so much good for so many people".
Angel Shed runs two youth groups for those aged five to seven and seven to 10 on Mondays.
It also runs two youth theatres for youngsters aged 10-13 and 13-19 on Thursday and has two new classes called music collective and dance company startiing in January. All workshops take place at City & Islington College in Camden Road. Visit angelshedtheatre.org for more information