Workbound was a programme Half Moon developed in partnership with Theatre Venture to train young Black and Asian workshop leaders. It aimed to meet the need of a recognised shortage of Black and Asian workshop leaders, living in the urban development areas of Tower Hamlets and Newham.
The course ran in the summer of 1994 and the spring of 1996. Each year’s cohort was between six and eight young people aged 18-25 from the East End. They received training over ten to fourteen weeks on all the skills needed to run workshops. The young people then embarked on structured employment over a number of weeks to create a workshop tour using their skills. The majority of those on the 1996 programme went on to complete an NVQ in Core Skills (Level 3). 80% of attendees went on to find further employment or into higher education. The first course was coordinated by Mojisola Adebayo and Dee Brecker in 1994 and Irma Innis in 1996.
Academic, Martin Heaney worked on a number of participatory projects at Half Moon Theatre in White Horse Road in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He talks about the company’s contribution to the career development of theatre professionals. Interviewed by Alexia-Pyrrha Ashford.
Those photos [the first nine in the gallery above] were taken at the Mulberry Girls School! Gurpreet [Bhatti] and I were delivering a drama workshop as part of Workbound. It was a great course which I think was an opening for people who wanted to access the arts as a career. Gurpreet is now a playwright and also writes for Eastenders and Doctors.
I remember two tutors in particular: Burt Caesar (actor) who covered the performance and improvisation part of the course; Cilla Baynes (Director of Community Arts North West (CAN)) who delivered a writing workshop, which was brilliant. Some of the exercises she delivered I can still recall now plus I used them to deliver drama workshops.
Half Moon and Theatre Venture gave me my first big job in the arts when I was just 22 years old. I was coordinator of Workbound which was the first ever fully professional training programme specifically for black and Asian unemployed young people to become workshop leaders in community arts. I researched, set up and ran the programme and met so many inspirational younger people who are now leaders in their fields, including playwrights such as Gupreet Kaur Bhatti who is a shero of mine. I’ll always be grateful to Half Moon and Theatre Venture for the opportunity to develop, design and lead Workbound. I was really inexperienced for the job but Half Moon and Theatre Venture saw my potential and gave me a chance and gave me the right support. I also met one of my absolute best friends today, the amazing facilitator and worker for young people, Sandra Vacciana, who was an actor-teacher at Half Moon. Sandra was a total inspiration to me back then, she was one of the artists to develop bi-lingual English / Bengali Sylheti theare in Tower Hamlets which was totally innovative and amazing at the time. Sandra continues to inspire me to this day. Esther Springer also worked at Half Moon back in the day and she has gone on to be a BBC TV editor and producer and she gave me great advice on one of my early plays, Muhammad Ali and Me. Lastly, I am still so inspired by all the young people I worked with at Half Moon. I used to run a youth theatre there, our early shows were The Happiness Game and East End Aliens. I developed my skills as an artist and theatre maker back then with Half Moon. Now I am a published and performed playwright, a director, producer, performer and lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London – back in Tower Hamlets! Thank you so much for being part of my story.