News: Akram Khan's Chotto Desh chosen for Newham's Every Child a Theatre Goer scheme

Wednesday 30 December 2015 by Carmel Smith

4,500 school children from 67 primary schools in the London Borough of Newham will see a performance of Akram Khan’s Chotto Desh at Stratford Circus Arts Centre this month.

Between 12 – 23 January 2016, every Newham schoolchild in Year Six will attend a performance of the production, which is an adaptation for younger audiences of Akram Khan Company’s Olivier award-winning show Desh, shaped with director Sue Buckmaster of children’s theatre company Theatre Rites. The performances are part of the local authority’s Every Child a Theatre Goer initiative, and for many children it will be their first visit to the theatre. Newham is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country with more than 170 languages spoken in the area.

‘Chotto Desh’ means ‘small homeland’ and the performance draws on Khan’s Bangladeshi heritage and experiences of growing up in the UK, creating a compelling tale of a young man’s dreams and memories from Britain to Bangladesh.

This is the third year that Stratford Circus has partnered with Newham Council on Every Child a Theatre Goer. Each year, a show is specially selected that will support pupils’ learning experiences as well as ignite their imaginations and introduce them to the magic of live theatre. The scheme has proved popular with teachers, who are provided with classroom materials that can be used to enhance learning across a number of curriculum subjects including English, Maths, Science and Geography. In the first two years of the scheme, 92% of teachers reported that the visit had a positive academic impact on their pupils in areas such as storytelling skills, vocabulary, public speaking, scriptwriting, listening and exploring topics relevant to the curriculum.

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales said: ”We set up our Every Child a Theatre Goer programme to enrich the lives of our young people and give them further opportunities to learn. The feedback from schools has been overwhelmingly positive that it is making a difference to our pupils attainment.”

“Every Child a Theatre Goer is an important programme for a number of reasons,” says Stratford Circus’s Director Tania Wilmer. “It gives all children equally the opportunity to access an exceptional, transformative and world class artistic experience. Critically this happens at their local arts centre developing their relationship with and a sense of ownership over their closest cultural institution, an important stepping stone in their journey to confidently access the wonderful cultural organisations in this city.”

Akram Khan said “I am extremely happy and touched to see Chotto Desh as part of such a meaningful initiative. Stratford Circus gives a unique opportunity for any children from the local community to access dance. It is so important to have that channel open, and not the channel that belongs to the television, so that these children – as well as adults – can begin to express themselves and communicate with others, our deepest thoughts and opinions that matter. Dance is finally being recognised as a powerful and universal language that is as crucial as spoken language. This is exactly how I found my own voice when I was a child, and I wish this experience could be shared with many other children. I am very excited about seeing their reactions to Chotto Desh, and how it engages their relationship with their body through dance, music and life.”

There are two 3pm performances on 16 & 23 January which are open to all. Tickets £8 – £10

Chotto Desh is co-commissioned by MOKO Dance, Akram Khan Company, Sadler’s Wells London, DanceEast, Théâtre de la Ville Paris, Mercat de les Flors Barcelona, Biennale de la danse de Lyon 2016 and Stratford Circus Arts Centre.

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