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Arts Engagement & Outreach: April News

posted 13 May 2024
Arts Engagement & Outreach: April News

Our Arts Engagement & Outreach team develop and deliver programmes and activities that benefit health and wellbeing, enrich learning and education in and outside school, inspire and celebrate talent. Creating work that will support local artists and tell “local stories”. In everything we do and programme we will seek to improve inclusion and remove barriers, whatever they may be, so that everyone is able to enjoy and benefit from the creative arts.

Our Arts Engagement & Outreach team look to provide more opportunities for our communities to watch, take part and benefit from arts and cultural activities where they live.


April has seen the launch of our new Octagon Youth Theatre programme, over 1,500 KS1 students descend on our venue for two concerts by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and our Year 12 Work Experience week, read more below…

Creative Learning & Education

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra performs in concert to 1,500 KS1 pupils

On the 17th April, 1,500 primary school students in KS1 from across the county came to Westlands Entertainment Venue to watch and interact with, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Designed especially for a KS1 audience, the hour-long concert featured a 14-piece ensemble, who performed a fun programme of movie theme tunes. This event allowed young children to be introduced to the world of music in a professional environment and gave them the opportunity to see first-hand how an orchestra plays together with all the different sections such as woodwind, brass and strings.

The KS1 Schools Concert comes as part of our creative partnership with BSO, who this year delivered CPD training for teachers and interactive music workshops for students of St Gildas (Yeovil), Oaklands (Yeovil), Manor Court (Chard), and Wincanton Primary Schools. The music education programme has focused on upskilling teachers and introducing students to different instruments whilst working together to compose a new song with actions to perform at the concert. The song composed by BSO’s Associate, Sam Mason, Stories in Sound, was also taught to teachers at a CPD training event held in February.

“Brilliant concert. Our pupils were mesmerised. Loved the way you introduced pupils to the instruments.” (Teacher)

BSO Schools Concert

Motionhouse inspire 50 students from Chard & Yeovil to move

Since September 50 students from Westfield Academy (Yeovil) and Holyrood Academy (Chard) have taken part in a series of workshops led by Motionhouse Dance Co. In April each school was once again visited by Motionhouse, where GCSE students participated and built on their learning as led by company dancers but were also fortunate enough to watch a duet performance by the company, as performed to the whole school.

It wasn’t just students who got to work with Motionhouse, in January, 17 teachers from across Somerset attended CPD training which enabled the teachers to take these experiences and implement them into their own work and teachings to further support their students. Students have been able to use their new skills towards their exams, whilst also increasing their confidence in the subject and giving them the opportunity to collaborate with industry professionals.

“Motionhouse created a truly outstanding experience for our students. They were able to scaffold tasks to suit every student's abilities but at the same time inspire the students to challenge themselves and to want to do more! It was really lovely to see ALL of our students growing in confidence and working with the professional dancers on such a complex level. All in all it was a wonderful learning experience.” (Teacher)

Talent Development

Work Experience gives young people a practical, hands-on insight into running a busy receiving venue

A Work Experience week for Year 12 & 13 students gave an intensive practical insight into how The Octagon Theatre & Westlands Entertainment Venue runs.  12 students aged 16-18 from Sixth Forms and FE Colleges across Somerset & Dorset met our Management Team to discover the myriad of progression routes for working in the creative industries, before having a go at mini-tasks associated with each job. Alongside learning about and having a go at the things our Programming, Marketing, Events, Arts Engagement & Outreach, Front of House and Technical departments do on a daily basis, the young people worked with Little Bulb Theatre Company on their new project Listen Dance (which, incidentally, has received a commission from Somerset Council and is being performed at Westlands in July). The students had a positive experience, reflecting on the week that they hadn’t appreciated how much work goes on behind the scenes.

“I really enjoyed the week. It was great to meet different people and have a go at the actual jobs.”

“Like Dom from Little Bulb said, ‘your career begins now.’”  (Participants)

Work Experience

Octagon Academy: Participate

Young people take part in Holiday Activities over Easter

Through funding from the Healthy Happy Holidays Fund, distributed through Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP) we were able to offer 22 free places to students in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM) to join our 4-day Panto in a Week holiday activity at Westlands Entertainment Venue.  30 participants took part in our Panto in a Week over the Easter Holidays, which gave participants the opportunity to work with professional creatives, develop and learn a 30-minute pantomime to perform on our stage at the end of the week.  The young people attending the week came from across the county, participants were supported by SEN staff creating a fully inclusive environment. The participants thrived on working as a team whilst gaining confidence and developing new skills. 

‘Thank you so much for this week, she’s never done anything like this before and has found her place, what an incredible opportunity’ (Parent of participant)

‘I enjoyed that I could express myself and have an amazing time without being judged’ (young participant)


Octagon launches new Youth Theatre programme

This month has seen the launch of the Octagon Academy’s newest classes: Octagon Youth Theatre Juniors and Octagon Youth Theatre Seniors.

Our new Youth Theatre classes are aimed at teaching children acting and performance skills as well as building confidence and making new friends. The sessions run every Thursday during term time. The Junior class (ages 7-11) runs from 5pm-6pm and the senior class (ages 12-18) runs from 6:15pm – 7:15pm. With sessions consisting of games, script work, character development and devising. The students are already working towards their first performance as part of SHiNE 2024, taking place at Westlands Entertainment Venue on Saturday 8th June.

If you want to take part in these classes, you can book online via the Westlands website or through our Box Office.

“my daughter came out buzzing and can’t wait to come back next week, her confidence has improved already.” (Parent)

Arts for Health & Wellbeing

Supporting lives to flourish - of people living with Parkinson’s, and people who have experienced cancer.

In January 2024 our new Parkinson’s Dance and Movement Through Cancer classes launched and are proving to be huge successes. We delivered a 10-week pilot of each project from Jan -March, and evaluations of both have demonstrated significant positive impacts on the health & wellbeing of participants. Due to the success of the pilots, we are thrilled to announce that we will be continuing to offer these specialist projects beyond April and into the future, providing more opportunities for people to move, connect and enjoy the transformative physical, mental and social benefits that these projects offer. 

‘I forget everything else going on in my life and I can be free, be me….these classes make me feel alive’ (Movement Through Cancer participant)

“We are so pleased to be back! … We would like to say a really really big thank you to our teachers and volunteers for making these sessions so fun and entertaining… we look forward to our Monday mornings and hope they may long continue. Thank you again for all you are doing for us.” (Parkinson’s Dance participant)


Artist Support

New grants for creative & cultural activity in South Somerset

Somerset Council’s new Open Grants Programme consists of three funds, two of which are currently live.  The Creative Ideas Fund and the Support Grant have been designed to help independent creatives, not-for-profit organisations and charities delivering cultural activity in South Somerset realise their ideas & their potential.  The third grant programme, the Creative Commissions fund, is closed until the autumn.  These different grants are being distributed by the Arts Engagement & Outreach service at The Octagon & Westlands, and they represent Somerset Council’s intention to invest in local professional creatives, organisations & companies, to nurture ideas that help develop Somerset’s cultural resilience and to make art & culture accessible to Somerset’s residents, where they live.

A Somerset based arts organisations said: “It’s wonderful to see these new Open Grant programmes, giving the county’s cultural sector the opportunity to fairly apply for transparent funding schemes.”


Creative Commissions enables local creative professionals to make new work for Somerset’s residents

Last month, Emma Randall (DanceFit with Emma) delivered the pilot of a new Tea Dance for over 55’s in Crewkerne.  At the same time, internationally renowned theatre maker, writer & performer Vic Llewellyn started two days’ Research & Development on a new show about living with Dementia.  This week, Wassail Theatre begin rehearsals for their new show Birthday Day, which tours to farms & outdoor spaces across Somerset between May-September.  These are just three of the six projects we’re supporting through our Creative Commissions programme.  Watch this space for more information on Listen Dance by Little Bulb, Hire a Ballerina by Caroline Rees and Autopia by MJ Gardner.

“It’s been so helpful to have your support – I couldn’t have done it with out you.” (Emma Randall)

“Feels like we have made a proper start now, thank you for your encouragement.”  (Vic Llewellyn)

“It’s going to be a cracking show – come and see it!” (Wassail Theatre)

Wassail Theatre - Birthday Day Leaflet

To keep up to date with all the activities coming up head over to the What’s On section on our website or check out our Participate page which will link you to all our projects and upcoming opportunities.


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