At Kelmscott School, Walthamstow July 2023
This CMMF Project at Kelmscott Secondary School in Walthamstow has a very different ‘back story’ to all the earlier ones; this being that it was not initiated and directly ‘linked’ to a former MDC member.
The detail of our significantly different and ‘unsolicited’ approach to Kelmscot Head of Drama, Krystina Lawrance, follows after this resume and photo gallery of their production of ‘Whose Myth is it Anyway’
After the initial contact and agreement with Krystina to go ahead with a CMMF funded project, several ideas were quickly developed and an enthusiastic group of around 20 interested pupils were recruited; some from the existing After School Drama Group and others for whom this would be their first experience of the performing arts – so an ideal ‘mix’ to help achieve all the aims we hoped to see achieved through our involvement with the school.
Some of the early decisions were that the project would be entirely devised by the youngsters, that it might in some way be linked to their other studies within the school and that they would also look to ‘interest’ other members of staff who could help widen its scope – such as a tutor from the music department!
It was also agreed, within the funding brief, that a professional theatre company could provide a training workshop which would focus on ‘mask work’ and ‘physical theatre’ skills; as this would offer a new and quite challenging experience for the young people involved
During the period leading up to the production the relationship with Krystina and the school steadily developed and the same progression was seen within the group of young people themselves; of how they enthusiastically converted their own ideas into a play and, in particular, how they took on board the ideas they gained through the Workshop provided through the Trestle Theatre Company.
It was particularly encouraging that they choose a Greek/Roman theme to the play, rather than a Venetian one, as this linked into some of their current studies within the school; this despite, perhaps, the temptation of the latter and more obvious choice that might have replicated the well known ‘masquerade’ scene from Phantom of the Opera!
The regular visits to the school saw the youngsters developing their characters, their self confidence and the story line around the stresses and strains in the relationships between these two distinct communities in ancient times.
Their work over this period resulted in a slick, lively and entertaining performance with really good use of props, music, song, costume (including the masks) and a limited, but effectively placed and used, scenery – so all in all – a very creative and atmospheric presentation – and all in front of an equally enthusiastic audience of parents, school staff and several former members of the MDC!
The post performance gathering gave the opportunity to spend some time with the cast (who were on a real ‘high’ by then) and to hear of how much they had enjoyed the whole experience. Similarly, to say something to the parents about Markhouse, the Drama Club and the significance of the project being in the school that eventually replaced our own; also of our hope that our support had enabled the youngsters to be creative, work as a team and above all to enjoy the experience of being involved in drama – all as we had done some 50 plus years ago – just half a mile further down Markhouse Road!
As with the earlier CMMF Projects, the cast and backstage youngsters will receive a CMMF/MDC Certificate to remind them of their time together performing in, significantly, this first ever production in their new Drama Studio; also to provide a record for their future CVs of the experiences and skills they gained
‘The Back Story’
The ‘back story’ of this CMMF Project is significantly different to the earlier ones for two reasons; firstly, as already mentioned, it was not directly ‘linked’ to a former MDC member which, up to this point, was the main funding criteria; this having been designed to continue the relationship between Cyril Malyon and the young people with whom he had worked.
The second reason was that the decision to directly seek a new project ‘outside’ of this criteria was partly a response to the disappointment of having the previous ‘anti knife crime’ themed one at Tendring College cancelled just a few days before ‘curtain up’ and the subsequent performances at four other local schools. The hope of this being just a short-term postponement was equally affected by the resulting constraints of Covid and even, in the longer term, the option of moving the project to the College’s other campus in Frinton, where some of the original cast had moved to, eventually proved not to be possible.
After the Covid restrictions eased there were no clear links to a replacement project within the MDC membership, so the alternative of directly initiating one felt like an appropriate option; especially when a ‘eureka moment’ of suggesting that this ought to be located in Walthamstow raised the anticipated nostalgia quotient; with the resulting nods of approval – for obvious reasons!
Whilst the enthusiasm for this was only momentarily dampened by the thought of there not being any apparent ‘former member link’, it quickly became obvious that there was an alternative and very appropriate one. This was to Kelmscott – with the ‘link’ being that it was both located in Markhouse Road and it had ‘replaced’ the school that should have been built before Markhouse closed in 1966!
What made this idea particularly significant was that this was also likely to be the final CMMF Project. So where else could it have been more appropriate to locate and provide a fitting end this tribute to the part Cyril Malyon had played in our lives.
Indeed a ‘eureka moment’ – thank you John!!!
The resulting, perhaps even ‘a bit of a long shot’ approach to Kelmscott, met with a really positive and encouraging response and this was equally reflected in the initial meetings with Krystina Lawrance, the Head of Drama. Krystina, as suspected, confirmed that little, if indeed anything, was really known in the locality about the original Markhouse School – and certainly nothing of the Drama Club that existed within it!
However, she had clearly been through the website and even before the initial meeting, could see what Markhouse, the Drama Club, the CMMF Projects and Mr Malyon’s leadership meant to us. It was equally and immediately clear that her own aims and approach exactly mirrored what ’Mr M’ sought to achieve with us – so what better start could there have been?
Although all the work that had been undertaken at Tendring and the experiences and skills that the young people had gained, up to the point of its cancellation, were still important and valuable to them, the onset and aftermath of Covid resulted in this new and final CMMF Project being a long time coming – but it undoubtably proved to be worth the wait!