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Creative English celebrates a milestone anniversary!

This month marks 10 years since the first ever Creative English session, which took place in a Lifeline venue in Goodmayes, Essex. Charlie briefly interviewed our Lead Trainer and founder of the programme, Dr Anne Smith, about where it all started.

Charlie: How did Creative English begin?

Anne: So, the research actually started off about young people in schools – looking at how drama can be used to help secondary school students entering the British education system to build a circle of friends and find a sense of belonging. I quickly discovered, however, that for many of these kids, their biggest barrier to building community at school was their home life. For example, if a child’s parent doesn’t understand a consent form for a school trip, and doesn’t have the courage to speak to someone at the school about it, then that child is much more likely to miss out. So I realised I needed to take it to the parents, particularly the mums. When you empower the mum, the rest of the family reap the benefits.

Charlie: That’s amazing! There must be a certain nostalgia when you look back on that time? Did you have visions of it becoming a nation-wide project at the time?

Anne: I had no idea! What motivated me initially was simply making a real difference to the learners in my room and partnering with them to find the best solutions to the challenges they faced. I was keen to create a model of best practice for reducing social isolation and increasing belonging in a community-based language context, and it’s incredibly exciting that it’s been rolled out on a big scale. Looking back, one of the things that has struck me is how many of the fundamental principles of the programme as it is today were there at the beginning, such as modelling activities to learners in the sessions so they know what to do… and the first Family Learning session actually involved bin liners and newspaper! Another amazing thing about the longevity of the programme has been the privilege of working with long-standing volunteers as well as getting to train new people with each licence sale or new round of funding. There are volunteers who have been delivering sessions for a week, as well as volunteers who have been part of the programme since the initial research. And I have friends today who were learners then… That’s really special.