Government cash boost to Leeds children’s interactive storytelling experience
The project has received £28,000 from the Government’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund (CCSF), distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund.
The children – aged seven to 16 - all attend Ujima, an award-winning social action project based in Chapeltown, Leeds. They will be supported and empowered by academics, artists from the Story Makers Company - based within the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett - and published writers and literary activists in the Chapeltown community, to create their own fictional ethical company.
The Ujima group is based within the Mandela Centre and works to improve the educational attainment of Black young people in the Chapeltown area of Leeds. This new project will take place throughout this academic year.
Lisa Stephenson – Course Leader for the MA in Drama and Creative Writing at Leeds Beckett, and Director of the Story Makers Company - explained: “Through our continued work with Ujima, we know that Black youngsters are three times more likely to be excluded from schools.
“In our new project, we will position the children as ‘experts’ in creating their own social enterprise. The older children, aged from 12 to 16, will take on mentoring roles for the younger children, alongside our team of professionals; and the project will be fully co-created and designed with the Chapeltown community.”
The children will decide on the focus of their company, based on their own interests and what they feel would be of most benefit to their community. They will collaborate with members of the community to gather ideas, before being guided through an interactive experience.
The focus of the experience will be problem solving – fictional characters, played by teachers, members of the community, and actors from the Story Makers Company, will present dilemmas which the children will need to actively research and work as a team to resolve. The children will act as Story Directors - advising and leading parts of the story development with the artists.
Marina Active, co-founder and director of Ujima, said: “This project will complement Ujima’s academic programme; achieve@ujima, which provides mathematics and English tuition to students to align with their schoolwork. Rather than being teacher-led, this project will really allow the kids to reflect on issues outside the classroom and further improve their communication and creativity along with their reasoning skills.
“Ujima wants to make a difference by providing the platform to enable these children to develop the skills they require to create more opportunities for their future. We are confident that this new project will give the children an opportunity to build teamwork and enterprise skills that will be useful for them. It will create confidence in the children and ultimately have a positive impact on the academic work that we do and create more engagement both with the students and their parents.”
The new project follows on from the team’s successful ‘Reimagining Home Together’ project - which brought together a team of children between the ages of seven and 12 to create stories together online during lockdown earlier this year.
It was the first project of its kind - bringing together artists and communities from a range of creative arts to allow children to explore and develop a storyline in their own way.
Professor Vini Lander, Professor of Race and Education and Director of the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality at Leeds Beckett, added: “As a result of systemic racism, Black youngsters are still one of the lowest attaining groups in education and are more likely to be affected by socioeconomic issues.
“This learning experience will be engaging, empowering and ambitious for the Ujima children - they will need to work together to take on literacy, numeracy and creative thinking activities. The whole experience will be led by the children – and will enable them to explore the importance of aspiration, working together and valuing community.”
The project is led by Professor Vini Lander, with Lisa Stephenson and Ana Sanches De Arede - Story Makers Company Project Coordinator, and in partnership with Ujima.