Barbican, Complicité and Sydney Russell School collaborate on innovative youth theatre project

Students from Sydney Russell School present their first performance of Barking Nuns on Friday 29 June, crafted during a residency with artists from world-renowned theatre company Complicité as part of the Barbican’s Change Makers project.

Thanks to a National Lottery grant of £48,200 received by the Barbican in January 2018, Change Makers brings artists to one of Britain’s largest secondary schools, Sydney Russell School in Dagenham, for a year-long residency with students and teaching staff.

Marking 100 years since some women gained the vote and 50 years since the Ford worker strikes in Dagenham, Change Makers celebrates the rich feminist heritage of Barking and Dagenham with performances and events at Barking Broadway and an exhibition at Valence House in Dagenham.

The performance on 29 June is the culmination of a research project led by the Barbican alongside volunteer researchers from Valence House Museum, Sydney Russell School students and artists from Complicité, exploring the powerful story of the first female Abbess of Barking Abbey and the subsequent intersecting histories of religion, suffrage and women’s lives in the borough. As well as looking back, the project boldly imagines how young people will go on to define the future and become the change makers of tomorrow.

Ancient music specialist Belinda Sykes will also work with a choir made up of teachers, parents and others from the local community to explore the ancient choral music that would have been an important part of everyday life in Barking Abbey.

Change Makers at the Broadway takes place across Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June, and includes spoken word poetry, theatre, film, photography and hip-hop at the Broadway Theatre in Barking. It is programmed by the Barbican in collaboration with Sydney Russell School, The White House, Company Drinks, Complicité, Boy Blue, the Huggett Centre and local creatives form Barking and Dagenham.

Jenny Mollica, Head of Creative Learning at the Barbican, said: “Barking Nuns neatly encapsulates what we at Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning strive to do. A group of young people in east London have a great opportunity to work with a world-renowned theatre company at the same time as discovering the heritage of their local area. I hope the performance will encourage everyone involved to continue to engage in the arts and learning.”

Change Makers is part of the Barbican’s 2018 season, The Art of Change, which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Change Makers at the Broadway is generously supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Barking and Dagenham Council, Arts Council England and the City of London Corporation.

Tickets for the performance of Barking Nuns are available to book on the Barbican website.