It's no secret that the arts have a positive impact on young peoples' lives. Whether it's painting, dance, theatre, singing or playing an instrument, there are so many ways to get kids' creative juices flowing in and after school. But creativity isn't just for the 'artsy' ones... This week, we caught up with Claire Doyle - an inspiring performer and teacher who spreads the joy of theatre to all with her social enterprise, 3Theatre. Based in Edinburgh, 3Theatre is an inclusive approach to theatre education which helps young people build confidence and learn important skills in self-expression, resilience, positivity and so much more, regardless of who they are and what background they're from.
As an educator who's passionate about encouraging young people to believe in their abilities, we've teamed up with Claire for this week's blog to share her thoughts and ideas about the value of the arts for children. Check out our Q&A below!
What first motivated you to create 3Theatre?
It was a combination of influences really, including some extremely inspirational teaching I’ve received, especially while studying at The Royal Academy of Music in London. Whilst there, I was encouraged to work hard, of course, but to also have fun! When I was a performer I would also freelance as a specialist tutor. I was acutely aware of the brilliance of young people's imaginations, but also noticed that the students who had an outward self-confidence flourished while more introverted personalities tended to withdraw into the background.
I started to experiment with my teaching style to try and increase engagement with all students. In short, I found working on the person, building belief in their personal abilities and individuality was key.
That was a breakthrough moment for me. I felt that the arts, at that moment in time, were generally viewed as a good thing for people ‘who were into that kind of thing'. But it was evident that the benefits were universal and I couldn’t find a place dedicated to this style of teaching. That’s what inspired the inclusive part of 3Theatre. Designed for anyone and everyone. A place where you can simply give things a go.
The final inspiration came after a difficult time in my life. I realised it was the skills from a life and training in the arts that had contributed to my ability to cope. I believe that these skills saved my mental health and positivity.
3Theatre was launched with our very first ‘Smile!’ project in October 2016. Since then I’m so proud of how it’s growing and reaching out to all ages, empowering creativity.
In my opinion the positivity of the arts is essential to the development of young people.
Why do you believe it's important for children and young people to explore the arts?
It’s now widely recognised that participating in the arts helps us both physically and mentally. In my opinion the positivity of the arts is essential to the development of young people.
Storytelling (whether through dance, song or creating a story on paper, podcast, audiobook, on stage or film) takes us out of ourselves. It helps connect with characters, empathise with situations and see the world from differing viewpoints. It can also give young people a sense of possibility; to enter into worlds beyond our imaginations that spark ideas and debate.
The practical skills covered in the arts are also transferable into real work/ life situations. Communication, voice work and confidence in your ideas can help in all things from asking for help, forming opinion, job/ university interviews, public speaking etc.
The benefits really are endless….it depends on how much space you have here…I could go on all day!
In your experience, how has theatre and performance affected your students' self-confidence?
In so many ways. Simply having fun, working with others, feeling part of something exciting can have a positive effect in itself. Providing a place for self-expression, using energy to create, feeling the buzz of singing, dancing, creating character or storytelling can leave you feeling uplifted.
Rehearsal time is vital as it helps develop an understanding and respect of individuals. Exposure to music takes it all to another level as another way of expressing emotion and gaining inspiration.
So many of my students and ex-students (now adults!!!) have found their sense of self through the arts. Many students have found a typical classroom setting demoralising as it doesn’t suit their style of learning. This can affect confidence leading to a ‘can’t do’ attitude.
Working through the arts opens up other possibilities resulting in a discovery of strength and skill. I believe that everyone should have a strong sense of value and worth. Training in the arts can help you find it.
What strategies do you use to help your theatre students who aren't as confident?
There is no set formula but I do try to understand each student’s style of learning. We start from a place of safety and comfort and work from there. Finding their unique strengths and making the student aware of them is really important. From here we can encourage new skills and challenges.
I try to inspire my students to feel confident in taking risks. Developing the understanding that by making mistakes we show progress and to never be afraid of that.
The key is getting each student to know themselves - trying to give back control and choice to them. It’s important to understand the things we can control and then be able to let go or work positively through the things we cannot. It’s an individual process that can take time but the results and benefits prove amazing!
The key is getting each student to know themselves - trying to give back control and choice to them.
Do you think schools can do more to provide creative opportunities for their pupils?
This is a tricky question because I do think that a lot of schools try. They have their own sets of challenges and cover a lot of subjects with big classes. I am in awe of teachers who give so much, over a broad range of subjects every day.
Creativity can take on many forms. For example, you don’t have to put on a show to cover the arts element. Exposure to live theatre, music, dance and all the inspiration that brings is important. A chance to meet and talk with some directors, actors, singers, musicians, designers, writers is also golden.
It's strange to me that in Edinburgh, where 3Theatre is based, state schools resume after Summer break in the middle of the biggest arts festival in the world and, from what I've experienced, very rarely do they engage with it as part of their school culture. It seems like a real missed opportunity.
The arts cover much more than Singing, Acting and Dancing. Winston Churchill has been quoted as saying, at an April 30, 1953 Royal Academy Banquet, “The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them…Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”
Creativity and self-expression are obviously what drive the arts. But how can these things be applied by children and young people who aren't necessarily 'arty'?
You don’t have to be ‘arty’ to share and develop ideas. To be immersed in a story and connect with the characters, ideas and emotions is universal. People who innovate and think differently are the ones who drive society forward. The creators and inventors of our time and times gone by may not have considered themselves ‘arty’ but found the power of an original idea and were able to bring people together and their ideas to life - and in doing so changing the lives of everyone. Creativity can offer solutions to practical problems.
Are there ways that creativity and the arts can help teachers in the classroom?
I think part of creativity is being open to new ideas, and understanding that creativity is not confined to the arts. Creative thinking and problem solving can be applied to all subjects.
On a very practical level learning voice technique can help teachers look after their own vocal health. Teachers require stamina and strength to project, day after day, over large groups of energetic children.
I think part of creativity is being open to new ideas, and understanding that creativity is not confined to the arts.
You’re obviously a really creative person! What ways do you apply creativity and self-expression outside of the arts, in your everyday life?
All the time. In everything I do. I am a mum and setting a safe routine and home environment is important for my children but can also be repetitive for me... so finding new ways to tackle the same jobs helps me a lot!
I find that my creative brain needs to be engaged, so I’ll set challenges for myself or find ways to feed my brain when I’m doing the housework. I now love doing dishes because I can put a podcast or audiobook on and find things out or find out what happens next in the story I’m listening to. It also helps me feel less isolated as I discover new things about the world or other people.
I talked briefly, in the first question, about coping with hard times or situations. That experience paved the way for 3Theatre and the first ‘Smile!’ project. I am determined to learn from sad experience to create something positive.
In your opinion, what are the most important lessons the arts can teach you?
Now that’s a question! The most important lessons will be different from one person to the next. It depends on where you are at in life, where you’ve been and where you want to go.
Personally, it was understanding how stress and fear affect me and how to combat that. Having this awareness enabled me to show my talents and as a result my confidence increased. It was a loop and applied to both professional and personal areas of my life.
Resilience, communication, creativity, creative thinking. Mindfulness. Awareness of personal potential, the value of ideas, teamwork and community. Increased empathy, self-expression… Nope, I can’t choose. In my opinion, all the core lessons involved with any of the arts have universal importance and value.
At My Online Schooling, we’re passionate about finding new and innovative ways to support and encourage young people, in and outside of the classroom. So a huge thank you to Claire for chatting with us and working with us on this blog to provide such amazing ideas and information. Hopefully you find Claire’s responses as inspiring as we have!