October 13, 2015

10 Years of Drama Changing Students Lives – Part 1

“I believe arts education in music, theater, dance, and the visual arts is one of the most creative ways we have to find the gold that is buried just beneath the surface. They (children) have an enthusiasm for life a spark of creativity, and vivid imaginations that need training – training that prepares them to become confident young men and women.”

– Richard W. Riley, Former US Secretary of Education

During August this year Actorshop held three Summer school workshops for Newham youth – Street Dance, Filmmaking, and Drama.  It only dawned on us after reflecting on the success of the course in early September that this was our 10th year of creating and leading creative workshops for Newham youth.

Arnie Hewitt and Icy Mustafa started reminiscing about their different experiences leading the workshops over the years and as I listened the main thing that struck me was how much they could see the youth blossom because they had the opportunity to be apart of creative workshops which allowed them to express themselves in ways they wouldn’t normally have the chance.

It reminded me of my youth.  I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the transformative power of drama.  I was lucky as a child because my school had a wonderful theatre programme which afforded me the opportunity to explore my creativity and boost my confidence in the unique way that drama and the creative arts can.

There is a lot of austerity talk in today’s world. Funding cuts to the arts are happening and it saddens me to think what we’re actually cutting out of the youth’s lives when we cut a programme such as drama or dance?  I know if I didn’t have those programmes I wouldn’t be who I am today.

For this blog post Arnie Hewitt and Icy Mustafa, who have been leading the Actorshop Summer Workshops for the past 10 years, have written a piece about what it means to them and the youth to be apart of these important and life changing programmes.  Here’s to 10 more years and many enriched lives.


As a resident of Newham, I am writing to thank you and your colleague for making the above course a worthwhile and enjoyable experience for my grand-daughter.  It was  nice to see her so enthusiastic and happy every day when she left home to attend this summer school session at Little Ilford Youth Zone.  And, of course, to have a copy of the short film made and participated by all the youngsters – is a reminder and testament to the course and to you as the Drama teacher. I am aware of the financial difficulties the Council is facing in the coming years, but I do believe we all need to play a part in nurturing our youngsters by encouraging them to capitalise on the opportunities that may come their way.  As well as the funding for the summer school programme, we must not forget the commitment by your and others to support the project.

Once again, thank you and best wishes for the future.”

-Jean Jeffery
Newham Council  | Commercial Officer

My 10 Years As An Actorshop Drama Facilitator
-Arnie Hewitt

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 10.56.30

Arnie Hewitt and Icy Mustafa with the 2015 Summer Film Course

I discovered drama at an early age back in the 70s when it was part of the weekly curriculum at school. It was a subject I excelled in because I got the chance to escape, become somebody I wasn’t, be somebody famous or infamous.  Drama allows young people to dream bigger than they can possibly imagine, it opens doors for them in their quests as young people discovering the world.

I never imagined I would be working as an Actorshop drama facilitator for 10 years, especially as its a job I didn’t go in search for. It definitely found me.  Derek Brown, the C.E.O of Actorshop, approached me after seeing me perform in a show at Theatre Royal Stratford East.

I was born in Forest Gate hospital back in the 60’s and then brought up in Nottingham.   Coming back to London and teaching drama in the borough I was born means a great deal to me especially as there was a lack of diversity in the teaching world back then.

My first year teaching summer school 10 years ago was definitely the most challenging. Newham council started off a programme with 7 to 18 year olds combining music, drama and singing. Some of the older teenagers didn’t want to get out of bed to attend a 10am drama session during the summer holiday. They would toddle into the class at all hours of the day bearing, in mind the sessions were from 10am-3pm, and we were working to put on a show in five days – this was far from perfect.

We were also performing Shakespeare extracts back in 2005 and a lot of the teenagers hated (strong word I know, their words not mine) having to learn lines from a script about a man who some of them hadn’t heard of or for some of them didn’t relate to. On the day of performance the young people pulled it together and the combination of classics mixed with street dance and Gospel singing put smiles on their parents faces and statements from the students such as – ” I’m glad we did it sir” or “I didn’t understand Shakespeare before, but I do now”.

This year marks our ten year anniversary and we’ve grown from strength to strength incorporating film making into our repertoire as well as street dance classes.

Last year the summer school made a zombie film inspired by Michael Jackson’s Thiller video utilising the special effects students who used the same venue the film class was held.  This year the students made several short films and a 12-minute piece on being a resident of Newham. It was great to see some of the students return from last years course and see their enthusiasm in creating film. Some of our students have even gone on to perform on Britain’s Got Talent and West End shows, but most have just enjoyed the experience of making new friends during the long summer break and creating a piece of drama.

I enjoy my work tremendously and the minds and creativity of the young people endlessly surprise me. So thank you young people of Newham and I raise a glass (non-alcoholic) to future summer projects.

Arnie Hewitt
Drama Facilitator

How has drama or the creative arts enriched your life?  Leave a comment below and share your experience with us.



Back to Actorshop blog