Mulberry Schools Trust’s first Partnership of Equals conference took place at the QEII Conference Centre on Friday 12 October 2018. The conference brought together 400 young people from schools across London and further afield to discuss and explore themes of gender inequality, with the arts as a key focus for the day. Following an opening discussion between Grayson Perry and Jude Kelly, students explored gender in dance, helped by a panel which included choreographers Shobana Jeyasingh and Matthew Bourne.
In the afternoon, the focus was on Shakespeare and students had the chance to watch an open rehearsal facilitated by Director Carrie Cracknell, before hearing from a panel of actors and directors including David Lan, Paapa Essiedeu and Jade Anouka. Keynote addresses to the conference were made by Edwina Dunn of the Female Lead and Baroness Shami Chakrabati. In addition to contributions by guests, there were also several student performances, including a dance performance by Mulberry School for Girls in collaboration with Heston Community School, and a Shakespeare performance by Mulberry Academy Shoreditch. Many students submitted poems on the theme of gender inequality, which were published in a special anthology. A selection of winning poems was performed at the conference itself, alongside a performance by renowned poet Dave Neita.
Over the course of the academic year 2018-19, Mulberry School for Girls is partnering with the English National Opera as part of their Operasquad programme. On Monday 15 October, singers, musicians and creatives from the ENO took over the whole of the school, running workshops and masterclasses and performing everywhere from the dining hall to the English Corridor. For the whole day, the school was alive with song in unexpected places, and almost every student in the school experienced the takeover day.
This is just the beginning of our relationship with ENO - throughout the year, there will also be opportunities for students to visit the ENO’s home at the London Coliseum to see productions, and to take part in a variety of programmes inspired by the operas in the ENO’s season. Mulberry UTC will also host a half-term project delivered by the ENO for young people from across London in February 2019.
In August 2018, 15 students from Mulberry School for Girls and Mulberry UTC, accompanied by Mulberry staff, travelled to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to perform a new play, Cry God for Harry, England and St George! The production was performed by a cast of 8, with support from production assistants, caterers and a film crew. Students spent 11 days in Edinburgh promoting and performing the production, as well as having the chance to see a wide variety of performances themselves.
The play was written by Mulberry students with support from the Director of Arts, and explored issues around leadership and Islamophobia, as well as Shakespeare. It was hugely well received in Edinburgh by both audiences and critics, with a string of positive reviews and many commenting on the professionalism and power of the production.
Following the eight performances in Edinburgh, the production was performed in London’s West End, at the Duke of York’s theatre, for one night only.
This was an extraordinary opportunity for all the students that took part, and the experience of being part of the world’s largest arts festival is something that they will never forget.