I Am Festival

We are delighted to partner with A New Direction on the I Am Festival 2022 that empowers D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent young people to explore their creativity.

Through a series of workshops that explored music-making, design, and storytelling, over 80 young people were introduced to opera in creative, multisensory ways in Spring and Summer 2022.

This project feeds into ENO Engage’s wider Research & Development of bringing opera into SEND settings. We’ve been exploring how the ENO can bring opera to all communities and provide immersive, multisensory operatic experiences, allowing space for participants to co-create with the ENO. We look forward to taking forward our learnings and develop this idea in the near future.

Learning about Opera and design at the London Coliseum, May 2022

“The Cultural Ambassadors got so much out of it and you could see how much thought and effort had gone into making the day feel so dynamic… I love how the Cultural Ambassadors could see a through line from their participation to how it informs the immersive design when it translates into the school.”

The I Am Festival’s 8 Cultural Ambassadors (young people aged 19-23 who co-develop the activity with festival partner organisations, supported by My AFK) joined us at the Coliseum for an introduction to opera and set design. Led by award-winning designer Nicky Shaw, the Cultural Ambassadors learnt about the stage and set design process, before creating their own 2D and 3D designs. Using Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel as a stimulus, they made their own model boxes of an enchanted forest setting. This informed and influenced the next stage of the project.

Experiencing Hansel and Gretel up close at Watergate School, Lewisham, May 2022

“The classroom was transformed, it looked amazing, beautiful large brightly coloured props for our pupils.”

“The whole experience was beautiful; it was nice to see the pupils react to a different genre of music.”

Designer Lucy Sierra brought the Cultural Ambassadors’ creative designs to life and transformed a classroom into an immersive, multisensory, enchanted forest in which to deliver Hansel and Gretel up close. Forty pupils from across 7 classes at Watergate School participated in these interactive performance workshops: watching and listening to performances from our opera singers and responding, interacting and initiating movement and sounds, and embracing the musical and multisensory forest setting. In addition, we delivered surprise ‘pop-up’ performances from the singers in the school canteen and playground for other pupils, teachers and support staff to enjoy, bringing the whole school community together.

“A fabulously engaging workshop which gave our pupils lots of opportunities to respond, interact and initiate”

“The pop-up moments added another element of surprise and gave the whole school a chance to hear live opera and to sense the excitement that brought”

Discover Opera at the London Coliseum, June 2022

As part of the I am Festival Week in June 2022, we will invite 18 pupils with Special Educational Needs from 2 school groups (from Croydon and Surrey) to the Coliseum to experience our Hansel and Gretel interactive performance workshop. They will also experience an interactive hands-on introduction to Opera: with props, costumes and a tour of the Auditorium. We look forward to welcoming them to the ENO.

Note: due to the rail strikes in June, this workshop is currently being rescheduled.

To learn more about the I Am Festival, see A New Directions’ webpage here.