At Z-arts, we pride ourselves on creating a welcoming, safe space for children and their families to play, explore and have fun. Over the past year this has been more important than ever. We have worked hard to ensure that our ethos of theatre and the arts being for everyone has remained at the heart of everything we do online, as well as prioritising the health and wellbeing of our young people.
“Z-arts is a key part in many Greater Manchester young peoples’ literacy and cultural education, and the speed at which the team brought sessions online for their participants after lockdown was announced was outstanding,” says our newest trustee, Freya Bennett-Nielsen. “The quality was certainly not lost either. Existing and brand-new audiences had access to educational, fun and inclusive activities throughout such a tough period, and I think their output is absolutely testament to how much the organisation cares about access to great arts, theatre and learning for children and families.”
Recognising that we would be spending a lot more time on Zoom, we created a video guide with open captions to show our children and families how to use the platform for classes and participation at Z-arts. Our fantastic facilitators have been delivering their regular classes online, and we also teamed up with our friends Ged and Lily at Triple C (a collective of disabled and non-disabled creatives focused on changing access to the arts for children/young people & adults with disabilities) to bring Z-access Drama Stars, an online creative drama workshop for children with access requirements and/or additional needs. We understand that balancing school life with Z-arts has been tricky for some, so we created downloadable activity sheets linked to the themes of the Family Make and Believe sessions to ensure that anyone can join in and get creative at any time.
In response to the needs of young people at the beginning of the pandemic, we released digital activities and creative challenges as part of a wellbeing and confidence building series. The aim was to encourage young people to use creativity and imagination to help navigate their thoughts and feelings during this difficult period. From Rainforest Yoga to Mark Making, there were plenty of ways to reflect and unwind. We also felt it was important to celebrate Christmas in our usual Z-arts way! So for the month of December, we released lots of fun content over social media for our children and families. From Christmas crafts to riddles and recipes, our advent got everyone in the festive spirit, including us!
Big Imaginations also brought a new online theatre festival over February half term. Streamed across theatres, libraries, museums, and galleries, all the shows in this festival were low-cost or pay-what-you-feel to allow as many people as possible to see amazing theatre from the comfort of their own homes. Filled with wonder, magic, adventure and stories, there were lots of digital shows to watch.
Zoe Pickering, Head of Programming and Big Imaginations says: “It has been brilliant to be able to programme shows for our children and families to enjoy. We had some pre-recorded and some live experiences. It was really special to have the Big Imaginations commission ‘Curious Investigators’ by One Tenth Human to share with our audiences, it was so popular we had to run 2 days.
Artists really are amazing and have adapted to make sure we still have great, high quality experiences to offer. We can’t wait to get back in the theatre, but we will always consider what digital programme we can offer as well.”
We are excited to be bringing back some in-person classes after a year of incredible digital activity! Why not get involved?