Jack Petchey Foundation
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Stories we are proud of

Theatre leader puts young people centre stage

Sheree Vickers has been awarded a Jack Petchey Foundation Leader Award and grant after her tireless work as the Artistic Director of Savvy Theatre Company in Sutton.

The 45 young members of Savvy Theatre Company unanimously decided Sheree should be recognised for her dedication to young people since starting the youth theatre in 2001. The group has been incredibly successful at engaging young people. Sheree has seen several of her students go on to study the arts in higher education – including at The Brit School, Central School of Speech and Drama and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts

Adam Newbold, a Jack Petchey Achievement Award winner, has also highly benefited. Sheree says “Two years ago Adam didn't have the confidence to be onstage. Now he is not only taking the lead in our production for the National Theatre's Connections Festival, but supporting the Action Replay Drama Group's Christmas production - which is for adults with a learning disability.”

Adam speaks just as highly of the Artistic Director, stating that she “works tirelessly to ensure the young people who come to Savvy have fun, are in a safe and welcoming environment and are constantly raising their expectations as to what theatre is and can be.”

This time Sheree has brought the backstage aspects of theatre production to the front of young people’s minds. After winning the Leader Award, Sheree received a grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation to support Savvy’s ‘Art Ambassadors’ programme.

This scheme was born last year after Sheree asked the young people if they wanted to design a poser for a show Savvy was taking to the Brighton Fringe Festival. Within 24 hours they had come back with a selection of designs – all drawn on paper. A friend scanned these designs and used various design software to create a poster. “From there I started to consult with them more on other design ideas,” Sheree says.

Now the grant Savvy Theatre Company has received will be spent on a laptop for participants to produce posters, update their rehearsal blogs and post on social media about the project’s progress. Many of the attendees are in foster care and do not have regular access to a computer. A third are no longer in formal education so this would allow them to contribute to the ‘Arts Ambassadors’ programme in ways that do not necessarily require literacy skills - such as video diaries.

Savvy will also purchase a colour printer to improve their advertising. Although membership is £50 a term, a quarter of the students can only afford to pay half – and a few cannot pay anything. Therefore, using promotional materials will widen Savvy’s audiences and hopefully raise funds to continue their incredible work.

The last of the grant will be used on a projector to share the ‘Arts Ambassadors’ programme with other local groups like the ‘Sutton Youth Forum’ and the ‘Arts Network Sutton’, who they recently joined.

Sheree is extremely excited about these new purchases, claiming that “by including the young people, it has not only enabled us to really galvanise their creative energy but it has also given them more responsibility and ownership of the SAVVY Young Company… It is a very eclectic mix of young people, however they all come together to create drama projects and enjoy leaving their everyday problems behind”.

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