As if keeping all of the Zoo Creatures in check, teaching on the HND Performing Arts course at Bradford College, and raising three growing children were not enough to keep a person busy, Company founder member and one-woman engine room, Julia has found time to take on another challenge.
Working in conjunction with The Royal Shakespeare Company and Bradford Theatres, Julia is the Learning Performance Network co-ordinator for the Bradford area. Her role is to provide the artistic and creative input into the LPN which links secondary schools, primary schools, and special schools with the RSC to provide a living, active approach to the teaching of Shakespeare's texts.
The first cohort was set up in September 2013 with Bingley Grammar School, in Bradford, acting as the hub school, and has four further schools all benefitting from regular practical workshops from Julia and other practitioners from the RSC. As well as the students, staff also get to learn the techniques used in the rehearsal room to bring to their teaching; techniques that can be used across all subjects in the curriculum. Students get to grips with Shakespeare's language and imagery in ways that make it accessible and fun. Regular trips to Startford-upon-Avon, as well as visiting productions allow the students to experience the excitement of a full-scale production. The three-year project builds upon the learning undertaking in year one and leads to a Shakespeare festival in year three.
The practice of the LPN is backed up by years of active research into learning and play, and has been written about in many books and articles. There is also a link with the education department at The University of Warwick where Julia has been studying for a post-graduate award in teaching Shakespeare.
The second cohort has now been set up with Samuel Lister Academy taking the lead, and things are all set for work towards a series of performances linked to the RSC's production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in 2016.
As Julia says,
"This is a wonderful project that empowers students and teachers, parents and communities to get involved and be part of active learning. Shakespeare features even more in our school curriculum now, and if it is to be enjoyed, and for its wisdom to endure, it needs to be brought to life in an active arena. This is what is being given back to education through the LPN, taking active rehearsal room techniques straight from the heart of Stratford and into a classroom near you."