Beating the drum for incljusive society

Tramshed - joy, Georgina Bullock
Tramshed - joy, Georgina Bullock
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The smile on nine year old Georgina Bullock’s face says it all.

She loves to join in with fellow pupils at St Bernadette’s Primary School, Bispham.

And Ugandan artist Lillian Mbabazi didn’t have to ask her twice to shake up a storm musically at a very special workshop.

George stuck with the shaker while other pupils seized the chance to bang the drum - and beat out the kind of rhythm which soon had the rest on their feet and dancing the Ugandan way. Including the staff. Some might say, especially the staff!

When you’re nine years old the chance to make a loud noise in school - with permission - is too great an opportunity to miss.

Christopher “Kipper” Ray and Max Swarbrick also picked up the Ugandan handshake.

While Nathan Rigby and Leo Duffy, nine, showed off some nifty moves of their own to Lillian, in with the team from TramShed theatre company.

If you have to sum up the legacy of such a workshop in one word it’s this one - joy. The children loved it. “The drums are well good,” said Max. And swivel hipped Nathan admitted: “I’d quite like to dance like this all the time. It’s better than how we dance in this country.”

Some owned up to being baffled by the thought of TramShed coming to school.

“It’s not a tram or a shed,” said Jude Caragher-Shiers. “But it’s good.”

Tramshed’s an inclusive theatre company in the tradition of the original “ChickenShed” in London.

It’s based at Montgomery High School, just opposite St Bernadette’s, in the heart of Bispham, and continues to go from strength to strength.

Linda Nolan of the singing sisters is the patron. It’s not lip service on Linda’s part - she devotes spare time to supporting members young and old. TramShed recruits from four years old - and there’s no real break-off age.

Co-ordinator Zac Hackett adds: “Linda’s been a great help. Even at a time of great personal stress she makes time for us.”

Linda will be at the official launch of international and intercultural project Muli Mutya, Lancashire! at 7pm tomorrow at Montgomery High.

Funded by Arts Council England, the collaborative project is led by inclusive theatre experts and charity TramShed Theatre Company based rignt here.

It unites performing artists from two very different continents to explore the potential of inclusive arts across communities - both in Lancashire and back in Uganda.

Alison Lloyd Williams, arts practitioner for TramShed, met Lillian while working in Uganda on a theatre project.

“It’s a truly beautiful country and achieving great things,” says Alison.

Lillian works with internationally acclaimed cultural foundation Bayimba based in Kampala.

She’s now in Blackpool to help Tramshed deliver drama, dance and music workshops to groups of children across the Fylde coast.

Lillian’s a lecturer in theatre/drama in the Performing Arts department at Makerere University, Uganda.

She’s no stranger to Britain having gained her MA in Theatre and Global Development from Leeds University - and is a judge at many drama festivals across Uganda.

But she hopes to learn along the way too. She admits there’s little access to arts for people with additional needs in Uganda - and has embraced TramShed’ s approach to inclusivity accordingly.

“Things have improved a lot in Uganda from the old days and there’s a really good spirit there today but I’d like to open up the arts and theatre to all and I know some just don’t get that chance.

“I feel truly blessed to be here. I’ve tried fish and chips - and I am going to see the Winter Gardens and Blackpool Dungeon soon. I have been given such a warm welcome. And children are children the world over.”

Next month, the TramShed team fly out to Kampala to deliver workshops in partnership with Lillian and two other artists from Bayimba.

This work will be celebrated in a performance premièred at the Ugandan National Theatre as part of Bayimba’s International Festival of the Arts in September.

On return to the UK they will deliver a further 10 sessions with the original groups of children here - using their experience from Uganda. Again it will be followed by public performances.

Coordinator Zac adds: “It’s a groundbreaking project in terms of its inclusive intercultural approach and we aim to make the most of the opportunity the funding has provided.

“It’s the first time we have received a grant enabling us to work inclusively on such a large scale. It’s a really exciting project. It’s all about building a voice in the different communities.”

l To find out more about Muli Mutya, Lancashire! and to follow the progress of the project at home and abroad visit www.tramshed.org.uk or @tramshedtheatre.