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  • Arts-Engagement-And-Outreach-December-2023

Arts Engagement & Outreach: December 2023

posted 10 Jan 2024
Arts Engagement & Outreach: December 2023

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.

Musical Theatre Workshop

Throughout December the team have been busy delivering workshops and opportunities with activity taking place across Somerset, read more below…

Arts for Health & Wellbeing

Over November and December, the Octagon and Westlands have been working in partnership with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) to deliver Time Together at The Balsam Centre in Wincanton. Time Together is a music-making project to support parents who have reported feeling low after the birth of their child.

This 6-week project saw 8 mums and their babies aged 0-12months, come together to enjoy specialist music making activities in a safe and supportive environment. Musicians from BSO led participants and their babies through sensory and creative based music activities aimed at increasing bonding. The group embraced the creative journey as they made their own music, used their voices, and learnt new songs. Each session ended with tea and coffee and an opportunity for connecting with other parents.

Hear from the parents themselves:

“A highlight for me has been coming together with other mums with support and understanding about mental health and how tough life as a mum can be.”

“I have found this group vital because it has given me confidence and creativity. I sing the songs from this group in the bath to calm my baby down. The people who run the group are absolutely amazing and have made me and my baby feel so special.”

Time Together - Music Making session

Creative Learning & Education

As part of our Creative Learning and Education programme, we gave local schools who had booked to see our 2023 pantomime, Cinderella, an opportunity to enhance their visit with a task that teachers and students could do in the classroom. Children were asked to submit an Acrostic poem, using a character from Cinderella, with an illustration to bring their poem to life. The task made links to Drama, PSHE, Literacy and the love of reading.

Five schools took part in the activity, including Castle Primary School, Chilthorne Domer Primary School, Hambridge Primary School, Kingfisher Primary School and North Cadbury Primary School.

Five of the poems submitted to us have been read by our wonderful cast of Cinderella. Here they are, sit back with a hot drink (and maybe a mince pie) and enjoy!

Acrostic Poem Films

Cinderella Cast

Artist Support

We are pleased to be commissioning six projects from local artists and companies to help us make the arts and culture accessible to rural communities, people experiencing deprivation, those facing mental health challenges and the ageing population, across Somerset.

For 2023-24, we received 17 project proposals for our Creative Commissions programme, highlighting the richness of Somerset’s professional creative workforce.  We are grateful to everyone who took the time to apply, our panel thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the proposed project ideas across Somerset.  We’re thrilled to announce that we are commissioning the following projects:

  • Caroline Rees | Hire a Ballerina
  • Vic Llewellyn | No One Is Listening
  • Little Bulb | Listen Dance
  • Emma Randall | Tea at Two
  • MJ Gardner | Autopia
  • Wassail Theatre | Birthday Day

Find out more on each of the projects here: Our 2024 Creative Commissions

Caroline Rees

 Octagon Academy: Participate

In the week before Christmas we programmed Panto Acting Workshops led by our renown Panto Dame, Gordon Cooper. A total 29 young people aged 11 - 18 years took part in the sessions which explored Panto performance techniques in areas of voice, movement, characterisation and comedy. The workshops engaged a range of participants - some who were familiar with performing in Pantomime and others who had not been to a theatre session before. One parent said, "she has quite severe dyslexia and she normally struggles with reading scripts but she's loved it". We also had students take part who had previously enrolled on our inclusive summer school with Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company. It was lovely to see them returning to Westlands with confidence and enthusiasm. Lots of our workshops participants will be coming back to the venue over Christmas and New Year to see Cinderella and Gordon in action on stage. These sessions have been a great opportunity to break down barriers between participation and our main stage shows, giving young people the chance to act alongside members of the Cinderella company in a fun, relaxed and encouraging environment. 

Panto Acting Workshop with Gordon Cooper

In the lead up to Christmas, we also hosted a Panto Musical Theatre Workshop, working in partnership with Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP). Funding from the Happy Healthy Holidays scheme enabled us to provide 15 places free to Free School Meal Students from across Somerset. Of the 21 participants who attended, 60% of participants had never taken part in anything like this before, and it was a wonderful way to introduce them to the venue and the work we do. The activity was a full day event, with a hot meal included and gave the young people, aged between 7 and 12 years old, the opportunity to work alongside our Octagon Junior Choir Leader and with Associate Chorographer of our 2023 pantomime Cinderella.  The participants were able to learn new singing and dance techniques and perform a sharing to parents and guardians at the end of the day. 

Panto Musical Theatre Workshop

Access & Inclusion Schemes

We know that times are tough for many in our community and appreciate that for many cost may be a barrier. To ensure that everyone has access to the events, shows and activities at The Octagon Theatre & Westlands Entertainment Venue we are developing an Accessible Pricing Scheme offering free/subsidised tickets to audience members who might not be able to afford to attend a performance otherwise. In December, we offered LiveWest and Abri Housing Association customers free tickets to attend the Octagon Theatre’s annual pantomime, to make coming to the theatre more affordable. In total 91 free tickets were taken up through the scheme by Abri & LiveWest customers. With plans in place to continue to develop the Accessible Pricing Scheme and roll it out to the wider population later this year.


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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