Parkour, performance & participation on Isle of Sheppey

Daisy Farris, Project Manager for STEAM, reflects on the amazing team effort involved whilst working on STEAM Local Line on the Isle of Sheppey. The UPG Team’s Local Line national tour is supported by Arts Council England. STEAM Local Line was presented at Barton’s Point in partnership with Ideas Test.

STEAM Local Line

On the 11th and 12th of June, internationally renowned The Urban Playground Team came to the Isle of Sheppey in partnership with Ideas Test. Hosted by Sheppey Model Engineering Society and Barton’s Point Coastal Park, Urban Playground Team presented STEAM Local Line, a show that uses performance parkour to narrate stories from the Wild West, James Bond, World War II and the future of commuting. The entire performance takes place on the skeletal remains of a large steam train.

In each location that STEAM Local Line tours, The Urban Playground Team work with a group of young people to create an additional scene to be performed alongside the professionals. Joining The Urban Playground Team for the Isle of Sheppey performances were an exceptionally talented group of students from Oasis Academy and local young people, including James Walsh and emerging dance that Ideas Test has supported in the past. Head of Dance, Chantelle Crofskey, and dance teacher Helena Smith, worked with myself and Urban Playground Team to organise the rehearsal schedule. Both Chantelle and Helena went above and beyond to ensure that their students had a wonderful experience and walked away from the project with skills that they could carry forward with them.

In the week leading up to the performances Urban Playground Team were in residence as Oasis Academy. Each day after school they worked with the performance group to create and perfect their additional scene. I witnessed first hand the transformation of the students: initially reserved, the cast grew into confident performers in just 5 days. As well as rehearsing with the performance group, Urban Playground Team also offered daily workshops to groups of students from across Oasis Academy. Each day from 2-3pm a different group of students were inspired to learn parkour. This means that over 100 students were introduced to this unique performance style and given the opportunity to work with Urban Playground Team.

Chantelle Crofskey, Head of Dance at Oasis Academy gave her thoughts on the project:

“Working with the Urban Playground Team has been a truly inspirational experience for everyone involved. At the beginning of the project our students were nervous of the concept of performance parkour, but from working alongside the company and attending focused workshops, it didn’t take long before they began to gain confidence. Our students were fully engaged in the project and the experience brought out the very best in our young people. The final performance piece was a huge success and a proud moment to see our students performing alongside the professional artists. We feel so privileged to have been given such a valuable opportunity and would like to thank Ideas Test for facilitating the project for us. We hope to be able to continue to embed the skills that our students have learnt across our curriculum and are already investigating future opportunities we can create in order to grow and develop the abilities of our students and enrich their lives through the arts.”

After dynamic rehearsals and disciplined preparations the participants arrived at Barton’s Point on Saturday raring to go. We were welcomed whole heartedly by the Sheppey Model Engineering Society; Bob Dawson and his team were excited to have the performance taking place on their site and offered their help wherever they could. Mandy Shade, who runs the Barton’s Point site, assisted us in planning the event and ensuring it ran smoothly.

On hand to assist me with setting up was Jade, intern for Ideas Test, and Nathan, volunteer for Ideas Test. Both Jade and Nathan went above and beyond to ensure that the entire event was a success. We also had the Sheppey Event Marshalling Unit (EMU) on hand to assist with first aid and stewarding. The EMU’s team of friendly and enthusiastic volunteers were fantastic to work with.

Performances took place at 1pm and 3pm to an enthusiastic crowd. Urban Playground Team had the audience transfixed with their acrobatic skill as they traversed the metal structure. The participants demonstrated with precision and confidence the skills they had gained throughout the week, to an audience who were clearly impressed. It was wonderful to see all of the participants performing alongside Urban Playground Team with such professionalism and dedication.

After each performance Urban Playground Team host an open workshop for anyone in the audience who would like to have a go at parkour themselves. Their teaching ethos means that they are able to offer these workshops to all members of the public in a safe and secure environment.

The weather brought clouds and showers on Sunday, but this did not stop Urban Playground Team and the participants from giving two more exceptional performances. Audiences braved the weather to come and see the performances at Barton’s Point.

Alister O’Loughlin, Artistic Director of Urban Playground Team, had this to say about their experience in Sheppey:

STEAM LOCAL LINE on the Isle of Sheppey was a fantastic experience for the UPG Team and set many bench marks for us in how the project should be run. Firstly the work of Daisy Farris, for Ideas Test, in project managing the whole event was exemplary and we certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed such a successful outcome without her. Secondly the work of Chantelle Crofsky, Helena Smith and their students at the Oasis Academy was of an incredibly high level and reflected the extremely strong foundation which the Dance Department has achieved. Students arrived open, inquisitive, optimistic and ready to work and this attitude paid off. The level of skill and commitment shown by the students exceeded everyone’s expectations and they were rightly acclaimed by the audiences who attended the performances. These were hosted with a huge amount of warmth by the Sheppey Model Engineering Society and Barton’s Point Coastal Park who could not have done more to help. We loved working with all involved and very much hope that, with Ideas Test, we will be able to return to extend the project’s legacy further.”

Both Ideas Test and Urban Playground Team value the importance of engaging and empowering young people through the arts. Ideas Test wish to continue working with Oasis Academy, Urban Playground Team and other local organisations to leave a lasting legacy for STEAM Local Line and the young people who were involved. Parkour is a discipline that forms communities; knowledge and skills are passed on through sharing practices, experimentation and passion. STEAM Local Line in Sheppey has encapsulated the ethos of parkour and I hope that this is just the start of the legacy.

The participants were inspired by their experience The Urban Playground Team and many of them are now looking at pursuing a career in the arts:
Sophie C: “STEAM was an extraordinary experience; it has really helped with my confidence in working with new people. It has made me realise that I want to try and follow in the footsteps the Urban Playground Team, because watching them perform and being a part of it has been inspirational.”

Jodie R: “I felt absolutely privileged to be a part of such an amazing company. Working with STEAM has inspired me to want to be a dancer and has opened my eyes to what I could become!”

Hollie D: “I loved STEAM! The project you did was incredible and I felt so privileged to be in it. I LOVED the army scene where Miranda and Alister danced together #emotional. I would love to see you all again and have the chance to be in another project. I wanted to be in the performing arts when I’m older and you have boosted up my confidence so much.”

Holly S: “STEAM was an amazing experience for us and it gave us a lot of confidence and happiness. The Urban Playground Team were brilliant and fun to work with so thank you for coming to our school. Our career now is to try and follow in your footsteps and would love to be involved again in some way in the future.”

Jordan M: “I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity, it has completely inspired me and would love to do this for a job. Thank you again, it was amazing!”

A special thanks to Bob Dawson, Mandy,  Model Engineering Society, Bartons Point Coastal Park, Chantelle Crofskey, Oasis Academy, EMU Sheppy, Jade and Nathan for supporting, The Urban Playground Team and all the young people who participated and everyone involved!

Read a review of STEAM by Ideas Test intern Jade Joseph.