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Skool of Street Haz Dun Wyre!

At Marine Hall, Fleetwood on Sunday 26 April over 60 young people aged between 7-16 years and sporting “SOS 15” T-shirts with a graffiti-ed picture of a Jolly Roger on the front jigged onto the stage of this beautiful and aptly situated venue and shook up a storm of urban arts.

Samantha Bell and Aishley Docherty started the innovative charitable initiative Skool of Street initially as a one-off summer-holiday project taking place in 2014 designed to pull together a range of urban arts activities for young people to try out and then to showcase these at a culmination event at the Grand Theatre. It was a great success; engaging over 400 people, both as participants and audience members, and so they approached Wyre Council for some funding and on Sunday completed their second public offering in style.

They had obviously learned the elements of a winning formula and so again offered the crowd-pleasers of a ukulele-playing song-writer sharing her own music, soloists with big voices doing able versions of current RnB artists’ numbers, FY Wingz Crew, high-ranking in UK and Europe championships, doing some set pieces, plus the whole piece was MCeed by the amiable Jay Madden. They also once again had video footage to capture the process and share the focus as well as fun of the past few weeks of workshops that have resulted in the performance.

However, this time around they had clearly handed over much more of the responsibility to the young people; the more advanced dancers had choreographed and taught routines and youngsters were encouraged to share their talent, passion and interest area and so, this time around, we were also treated to a monologue from Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, a comedy sketch from two young Men in Black where the lines of physical theatre and dance blurred beautifully into a short sketch routine; plus one brave girl who tested her skills in the mind-blowing art of beat-boxing  in front of the crowd of 150 audience members.

We were also rewarded with a set from the magnificent Freefly Crew who hail from Blackpool but who now travel the UK performing at a range of events and showcases including being part of last year’s Breakin’ Convention team. These extremely talented young men put on a great show but may wish to better consider their pre-amble when working with impressionable young people in future.

One of the objectives of this project is that participants learn new skills as well as performance techniques and build general confidence levels – the organisers obviously achieved their goals. As a relative newcomer to street dance, I’m starting to see that it isn’t all about the ego, or about the precision of movement or even the technique; it’s more about the energy, the enthusiasm – for the dancing as well as the crew that you’re with – it’s about a different kind of attitude than the tits-and-teeth brigade, it’s about pushing yourself to find your own style, your own moves and finding the confidence to do them as brilliantly as you possibly can in front of each other; and what’s more it’s about doing all this to some cool tunes and with a great sense of style!

SOS is no cry for help, other than for people to continue to support excellent ambitions such as these; if you’d like to find out more about how you or your young person can get involved with future schemes, check their Facebook Page.

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    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

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