The Mary Neal Learning Programme kicked off in autumn with over 40 year 6 children participating in workshops over 6 weeks, and the kicking, jumping and frolicking hasn’t stopped since!
Two artists from the Mary Neal Research Day were approached to develop a strategy for exploring the stories, and Freddie Opoku-Addaie and Laurel Swift took up the challenge. Both have found ways to play to their strengths, and the result is a unique and thrilling mix of traditional English folk and contemporary dance. Laurel brings her fiddle to every session and has children learning country dances and songs, as well as Morris dance steps. Freddie has developed a code with the children which both honours and transforms the steps into a work led by the caller of the code. Nonny Tabbush joins them on the fiddle.
At Bentley, some children in the class have decided to play fiddle with the musicians, and also plan to spend part of their rehearsal session teaching the year 5 class the dances they know.
Edith Neville, based in Somerstown, near the original Espérance club site, is in contrast to its Hampshire counterpart as there is little space. The children attend sessions after school and during their half-term and learn quickly and are ‘up for anything’, according to Laurel. Their teacher has also been quick to recognise the richness of the Mary Neal stories and is looking for ways to integrate the learning across the entire history curriculum at the school.
Both schools will present work to their peers in November, and are also preparing for the Mary Neal Day on Feb 7th.
‘Fun’ as the US artist Roy Faudreé once said ‘is a very silly word, but a very productive state.’