CHILDREN from across Bradford, including young refugees, are getting to hear first hand about the British tradition of pantomime thanks to an arts programme.

Start, created by Children & the Arts, is a three-year engagement programme of arts activity between cultural organisations and local schools. It was set up to tackle inequality by working with the children who need it most, who are at risk of missing out on a creative and cultural education.

Last year year it was announced that the Alhambra would be partnering with the scheme, allowing Bradford children who don’t normally get to experience the theatre a chance to take part in that side of the arts.

It will see children working with the team at the Alhambra Theatre in workshops to develop their critical eye create their own artistic work.

Currently children are visiting the theatre’s annual blockbuster pantomime, Cinderella, leaning about the importance of the uniquely British tradition.

On Friday pupils from Hill Top CE Primary visited the theatre, and later this month pupils from Southmere Primary Academy will visit to take part in pantomime based activities.

Bradford College will also bring students from their English for Speakers of Other Languages, many of which come courses to see Cinderella followed by a back-stage tour. They will also participate in a workshop about pantomime as a form, with an introduction to panto as an English tradition and its cultural origins.

Students taking part in the activities also take part in activities in their school, with a workshop led by Julia O’Keeffe, Learning Coordinator for Bradford Theatres. The workshop is English curriculum based and linked to pantomime, including storytelling, modern fairy-tales and characters.

Des Martin Head at Hill Top CE Primary said: “At Hill Top we really value the contribution the arts make to the development of the whole child and we are really excited and enthused by the opportunities that this project will create for not only our children, but the whole school community. We look forward to working alongside the Alhambra Theatre and other creative professionals and developing a sustained relationship to inspire and motivate our children and enable them to see that they can get a lifetime of enjoyment from, or even have a career in, the arts.”

Esther Wilkey, English teacher for ESOL students at Bradford College says: “From the perspective of an ESOL teacher of 16-18 year old learners, I am trying to facilitate not only language learning, but also enable my students to integrate into a new society and culture. Many of my students have suffered terrible trauma before arriving here and at least half of the class live without any family members around them to offer support.

“This project, that introduces them to arts through the theatre, will enhance their learning experience by presenting ideas and culture through a different medium and opening other avenues for them to express themselves. It is truly a wonderful opportunity and my students cannot wait to be involved.”

The Start programme has been credited with raising aspirations of young people, building confidence and helping with learning and development in school.