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Monsters of the Marshes brings young people together

Young people aged 11-19 came together for a week of workshops at Hackney Empire that culminated in a performance of ‘Monsters of the Marshes’, their own take on a classic tale.

Some of those taking part in the initiative are involved in one of two Inspire! programmes – Families First and Inspired Transitions – designed to smooth their transfer between primary and secondary school. Both projects introduce a variety of activities that bring the pupils together to build self-confidence and help them make new friends. A key aspect is to match them with teenage mentors who help them prepare for life at ‘big school’ and see them through the settling in period.

‘Monsters of the Marshes’ combined acting, song and dance to tell the tale of three characters – one who is greedy, one who lacks confidence and one with a bad temper. They are transported to a magical world where a sequence of events makes them realise what they need to do to change.

Iona Henderson and Kemi Olayemi both attended Millfields Primary School. Iona, a Families First participant, is moving on to Mossbourne Academy in September whilst Kemi, who is part of the Inspired Transitions programme, is heading to Clapton Girls’ Academy. The pair were chosen for the roles of bullies in ‘Monsters of the Marshes’. “I think it was because she shouts a lot,” said Kemi pointing at Iona, “and I’m quite tall and intimidating.”

Both girls said they had enjoyed being part of the Inspire! projects and had made new friends as a result of it. “Normally, I want the summer holidays to go as slowly as possible but now I can’t wait for September so I can see my new friends again,” Kemi added.

Another student taking part summed up what Families First meant to her: “”For me it’s not playing about like it is for the little ones. I now have the confidence to try new things and really feel inspired about my future and am now looking forward to secondary school.”

Mohammed Ebrahim is a BSix student who signed up for Families First as a mentor. He said: “I’ve always loved being around children so that’s why I was keen to be involved as a mentor. It’s great to see them all smiling and having fun.”

‘Monsters of the Marshes’ was performed to an enthusiastic audience of families and friends on 1 August. “It was great to bring together so many young people from different groups this week,” said Yamin Choudhury, an associate producer at Hackney Empire. “Our longer term aim is to make this project even more inclusive and to have young people of all abilities involved.”