Melbourne: In Session, an internationally-based musical theatre arts programme, was launched in Australia last week to applause from local politicians and youth worker Les Twentyman. Present at Footscray Community Arts Centre were Les Twentyman, Abeselom Nega, local celebrities Kevin Harrington and Ross Daniels , plus Members of Parliament Elizabeth Miller and Bernie Finn, who made a passionate plea to make In Session a sustainable reality.
Les Twentyman saw the programme’s success as a pilot project in Shepparton, Victoria, in 2011. Twentyman is adamant that In Session be sponsored by government, private trusts and the corporate sector to re-engage troubled youth.
In Session has been conducted, internationally, by Multi-award winning, Australian composer, and pianist, Warren Wills and Yamin Choudury, an international ‘inclusivity’ expert in performing arts. The programme has proven successful in areas where gangs, violence and disengagement of young people are rife, such as in Haringey, North London, the scene for the August 2011 Summer riots.
“A project like this is critical, as more and more kids are falling out of mainstream activities, education and employment. This is a great way of re-engaging with them.” Les Twentyman OAM, 20th Man Fund
In Session provides children and young people, from underprivileged and socially isolated communities, the opportunity to participate in musical theatre, often for the first time. Local communities are brought together by their participation in the process of developing performance events, culminating in a gala public performance. These sessions are conducted over an intensive 2 week period, resulting in a sense of community spirit and social cohesion. In Session’s programme has 10 years of proven international success.
ABOUT IN SESSION - THE PROJECT
The Australian programme was originally conducted in 2011, in Shepparton, Victoria, under the title the ‘Shepp Shed’. It encouraged the sharing of individuals’ experiences with others, recognising that accepting difference in communities is the way towards social cohesiveness and community empowerment. It had as the project patron, celebrity Pamela Anderson, who inspired participants via Skype video hook-ups.
The programme creates revealing performances of original, world standard musical theatre. Participants work together on all facets of the production. They are guided by musical theatre and drama experts plus aided by community volunteers.
The process within the programme builds on social skills training, self-esteem building & education. These include lateral and creative thinking via drama, dance and music performance. Difference dissolves into a communal oneness. Outcomes include an increase in school community involvement, such as auditioning for school productions, a boost in emotional competencies and enhanced self-worth.
"Music and Theatre can be used by anyone to release a voice" ... Solomon Salew, In Session Youth Mentor (quote from news footage)
In Session promotes the importance of the individual and that one person can make a difference in their community, no matter their race, religion or physical ability. All are accepted, as difference is celebrated and explored to attain an understanding of the multi-cultural facets within communities.
"The program will definitely assist disadvantaged youth, unleashing their hidden potential through performing arts and music in particular. It will further build on the work iEmpower is doing in this space with our key partner The 20th Man Fund. We are very delighted to have been selected as an active member of this exciting project." Abeselom Nega CEO, iEmpower
IN SESSION - THE DEVELOPERS
In Session, a collaborative project, had humble beginnings in Tottenham, North London. Developed by Warren Wills & Yamin Choudury under the name Haringey Shed Youth Theatre, young people from a mixture of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, including those with disabilities and special needs, formed the pilot of the program. This programme has since impacted over 10,000 young people globally since 2000.
Warren Wills has authored 8 original operas, 10 musicals, 13 children's musicals, 8 albums, 5 major orchestral works and music direction credits on more than 50 productions. Currently Wills is involved with work on the London Olympics involving the historic Hackney Empire Theatre. Amongst Wills’ various awards is the prestigious Best Musical: Carling London Award, The Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and he was a finalist for the Vivian Ellis Awards.
Yamin Choudury is an award winning Inclusive Performing Arts Director and Facilitator, who has a unique expertise in inclusivity. He has worked extensively in the Performing Arts sector for over ten years and has conducted this project on a global level. From 2007 to 2010 he directed over 15 performances for Haringey Shed
Susie McKenna is Creative Director of the historic Hackney Empire Theatre. She is also involved in co-ordinating the London projects for Wills & Choudry. The Empire is East London's largest theatre, one of London's key heritage buildings and an advocate of multicultural arts and comedy.
The original project won The UK’s British Home Office’s Philip Lawrence Award in 2009, in memory of teacher Philip Lawrence, who was stabbed outside his school in 1995 going to the aid of a pupil. Lawrence believed that every child is capable of greatness. The programme also won the Community Hero Award in 2009 in the UK.
"It is fantastic that Warren is able to bring together such a diverse group of young people and create an inclusive, nurturing environment. This wonderful initiative brings together multi-racial and multi-faith casts to produce performances of the highest quality" Elizabeth Miller, MP State Member for Bentleigh, committee member for Education and Training.
STAKEHOLDERS AND SPONSORS
In Session is seeking funding from Philanthropic Organisations, government grants and individuals. Events will also be planned to ensure funds to deliver these programs across Australia, from cities to the outback. Stakeholders interested in supporting this proven, international project should contact the media representative, Ms. Jacquie Schell.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Judie Gade - In Session
Photo Left to Right - Les Twentyman, Warren Wills, Abeselom Nega
IN SESSION is a global, award winning musical theatre programme for disengaged youth. It was developed and introduced by Australian born, international, multi-award winning composer, and pianist, Warren Wills. The programme is being supported by Les Twentyman's 20th Man Fund and iEmpower.