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  • Arts-Engagement-And-Outreach-February-News

Arts Engagement & Outreach: February News

posted 06 Mar 2024
Arts Engagement & Outreach: February 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.

BSO CPD Training for Primary Teachers

February has kept the team busy, with activity and projects taking place across Somerset, from funding success to a sold out dementia-friendly Cake Concert to the launch of our Octagon Buddies scheme, read more below…

Creative Learning & Education

Primary School Teachers Upskilled with Training from BSO

This month, as part of our on-going relationship with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) 15 teachers from Primary Schools across Somerset & Dorset took part in an early-evening professional development session learning how to bring singing into a creative curriculum. Teachers learned an original song called, Stories in Song, composed by BSO’s Sam Mason following a series of workshops with our four partner Primary Schools (St Gildas (Yeovil), Oaklands (Yeovil), Manor Court (Chard) and Wincanton Primary School. The teachers are currently teaching their pupils the song ahead of BSO’s Schools Concert at Westlands Entertainment Venue in April, which they will perform as accompanied by the orchestra.

“A great, exciting workshop which is excellent for broadening children’s knowledge & horizons.”  Teacher, Oaklands Primary

Armonico Consort’s Choir Creation programme reaches 80 primary school children

80 primary school children from 3 local primary schools performed 300-year-old music from the Baroque era – in Latin – in a concert workshop alongside Armonico Consort’s professional singers, and musicians playing on instruments of the Baroque period. The 3 primary schools are All Saints CE, Preston CE and Kingfisher Primary. It’s all thanks to a long-standing partnership between Westlands Entertainment Venue and music charity Armonico Consort, which it’s hoped will result in the venue becoming a centre of singing excellence.

The Concert even caught the attention of BBC Radio Somerset who were invited along and broadcast the piece during the Breakfast programme. You can listen back here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0h791r1

Armonico Consort Schools Concert at Westlands

Octagon Academy: Participate

Funding supports 22 participants in receipt of Free School Meals to attend our programme free

We are thrilled to have received funding from Somerset Activity & Sports Partnership (SASP) Happy Healthy Holidays scheme to run a four day ‘Panto in a Week’ activity programme during the Easter holidays for 8–16 years. In addition to places available through our Box Office, funding from SASP will allow us to offer 22 places free to students in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM). Participants eligible will be able to attend the whole week for free and receive a healthy hot meal each day. The workshops will be fully accessible with SEN support for any young people who may require additional support. The funding enables us to offer everyone an equal chance of taking part in enriching holiday activities.  Participants will be working with two of our cast from last year’s pantomime, Cinderella.  Both Gordon Cooper and James Bamford are experienced and dynamic workshop leaders, and we are excited about the prospect of a new fun creation! Our holiday sessions allow young people the opportunity to make new friends, try out new activities, and be a part of a company, coming together to devise and perform on our regional stage to family and friends.

Opportunity for 20 young dancers to learn with James Wilton Dance

Ahead of James Wilton Dance’s production The Four Seasons at Westlands, their Education Manager, Ollie, delivered two participatory workshops for local young dancers in our studio. 20 young people aged 7-16 learned some repertoire from the show as well as gaining an insight into what it’s like to be a professional dancer.  We were delighted to welcome a range of experiences, abilities and a mix of boys and girls, many of whom take part in other Octagon Academy groups.

“I really enjoyed the workshop with Ollie.  I learned about timing, placement and how to conserve my energy.  I can’t believe we only covered 20 seconds of material in a 2-hour workshop!”  Participant, aged 14.

Community Production sees over 200 singers take to our stage

On Friday 9th February we welcomed over 200 singers to the stage at Westlands Entertainment Venue for our first community production of the year, A Festival of Song.  School choirs: Bucklers Mead Academy and Countess Gytha, Long Sutton and Milborne Port Primary Schools, joined adult community choirs, The Octagon Choir, Phoenix Voices and ROKiT Choir.  Also making their debut performance was the newly formed Octagon Junior Choir, made up of 25 singers aged 7–12, who have only been meeting since January. Together they performed in front of 320 audience members and their peers.

“..the event was very inclusive, and the atmosphere was lovely. Those choir members who came to watch commented on the great enthusiasm of the children and audience and we agree!” Chair of Phoenix Voices

It was an uplifting evening showcasing and highlighting the power of music and the benefits that singing together brings.  The evening finished with all groups gracing the stage singing together, and a standing ovation. 

Octagon Choir

Arts for Health & Wellbeing

Dementia-Friendly Cake Concert is a huge success

This month we held a dementia-friendly Cake Concert at Westlands Entertainment Venue in partnership with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), with 100 people attending. The concert was aimed at reducing isolation, supporting carers, improving wellbeing and encouraging connections via beautiful and relaxing music provided by the BSO.  A trio of BSO musicians performed a selection of classical favourites whilst the audience enjoyed a hot drink and a slice of cake. Live music can have a profound impact on people living with dementia, encouraging reminiscence, improved communication and an improvement to wellbeing. The concert was a sellout with an audience of 100, including carers who were able to attend for free through our Essential Companion Scheme. A total of £89.50 was raised for the Alzheimer’s Society at this event.

“Thank you for a wonderful morning, so lovely to see 100 people enjoying the beautiful music by BSO. I have already had lots of feedback, smiling faces says it all, all of the people I support who have attended today are living with difficult circumstances.” Julie Woan, Alzheimer's Society

‘I am in tears, so beautiful, so pleased I came, thank you’ – Person with dementia.

‘We have come from Somerton and so pleased we made the effort to come, its been lovely’ – Carer

‘So pleased I came, thank you, I have had a lovely time and even though my wife had her eyes shut she was enjoying the music and smiling’ – Carer

Reducing Isolation and Improving Wellbeing of People with Parkinson’s

Our new Parkinson’s Dance project is helping to improving the health and wellbeing of 25 Somerset residents living with Parkinson’s Disease and their carers in Langport. The sessions are taught by experienced specialists and are helping to improve confidence, mobility and co-ordination of participants in an uplifting and social environment. The project positively contributes towards reducing isolation and loneliness, as participants form new friendships, offer peer support and enjoy a social chat at the end of each session over a cup of tea or coffee. Participants have reported that the project has positively impacted their lives already, only being 6 sessions into the pilot project.

“Since attending this project I’ve noticed my husband’s mood has been uplifted, we look forward to these classes, he is happier and I’ve noticed an improvement in his mobility and anxiety.” (Carer)

Parkinson's Dance in Langport

Access & Inclusion Schemes

Introducing our Octagon Buddies Scheme

Our Octagon Buddies is a free scheme that will match you up with a companion if you are attending the venue for the first time or are anxious about coming to the theatre alone and looking for someone to talk to and guide you through venue. If there is an event you wish to attend but would like a buddy when you come, please get in touch.

Head over to our website to find out more information on how to request an Octagon Buddy and on how to become one of our Octagon Buddies: https://westlandsyeovil.co.uk/discover-more/octagon-buddy-scheme/

Access Fund enables Wincanton residents to attend Concert in Yeovil

Our Access Fund is aimed at enabling Somerset residents to attend activities and events where cost and transport may be a preventative barrier to attendance. Our support enabled 12 residents from the Memory Lane Group at the Balsam Centre in Wincanton to attend the BSO Cake Concert at Westlands Entertainment Venue in Yeovil.

“I would like to thank you for making this possible for us all, as you kindly provided funding from your Access Fund to cover the cost of the transport. This was enjoyed by all and meant that those who wouldn’t have been able to afford the transport were able to attend. Thank you for your support and generosity.”

BSO Cake Concert

Talent Development

Applications for 2024 placements have now closed, with 33 young people interested in taking part and building their career in the creative industries. Our work experience programme will teach year 10 & 12 students about the different jobs involved in running a busy receiving venue, enable them have a go at a range of practical tasks designed to give a flavour of day-to-day tasks across different departments, and highlight training & progression routes into cultural careers. Successful applicants will be notified in early March, with placements taking place in April and July.

“It was really interesting finding out about all sorts of job opportunities, and I learned a lot about opportunities I may be interested in when I'm older.” Participant

“My child has blossomed under the programme and so thoroughly enjoyed it that I cannot thank you all enough!”Parent

Work Experience Programme

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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