The Royal Court, famous for nurturing new writers and already respected for its young people's playwriting festival, has recently gone a stage further. Thanks to a pound;30,000 cash injection from John Lyon's Charity, London school and college students have, since last October, had the opportunity to work with a professional director and playwright for two hours a fortnight. The resulting scripts are being given performances and readings in the schools and some will be professionally produced at a festival, Class, running from July 1 to 9.
In sessions with writer Neil Biswas and director Steve Gilroy, Julian Chapman has learned how to develop dialogue to meet plot requirements, how to give characters depth, and how to rewrite and rewrite again.
The festival will include two-minute plays by primary children as well as one-acters and extracts from an epic called Love Risk written by a student at Mulberry School, east London. The intention in all the workshops, says Carl Miller, artistic director of the Royal Court Young People's Theatre, has been "to demystify writing".
Festival contributors did not seem overawed by the Court connection; 15-year-old Sarah Ferguson from Kidbrooke School in south London, whose piece about girls at a fair has sparked much discussion around the theatre, was observed hitting Mark Ravenhill on the head with her script the other day. Ravenhill, author of Shopping and Fucking, remains sufficiently impressed with the offending article to have offered to direct it.
Playwrights under 26 have until August 31 to submit scripts for the Royal Court's regular autumn festival. For details, teephone: 0181 960 4641. Tickets for the July festival (all pound;5): 0171 565 5000.
Columns such as this attract enough publicity material to paper the walls of a modest Lord Chancellor's residence, should such a thing exist. Among so much competition, Artsparkle: Midsummer Park Dreams deserves an award for its presentation: a pretty green opaque folder full of enticing posters, pictures and brightly designed information. A millennium project, supported by funds from the National Lottery, Artsparkle is a programme of events and installations in Mile End Park, east London, that will run between June 21 and July 19. For more information and tickets, call 0171 377 0481.
The TES is proud to present a new opportunity of its own. The first TES Schools Prom Scotland will provide a celebration showcase for 250 young Scottish musicians at City Hall, Glasgow, on June 25. Instrumentalists and singers will appear in a programme organised, like the Albert Hall Schools Proms, by Music for Youth. It will feature everything from early music to Tchaikovsky and film scores played by brass and wind bands. Tickets (0141 287 5511) are pound;5-pound;8, with pound;1 off for concessions, but take along a copy of The TES and you can get two tickets for the price of one. For information about Music for Youth, call 0181 870 9624.
Apparently Salvador Dal! was obsessed with Millet's "Angelus" - the famous painting which shows two peasants pausing in their work to pray. Curator Fiona Bradley demonstrated echoes of it in the popular surrealist's work in an illuminating talk at the Spanish embassy last week. It augurs well for an exhibition, Salvador Dal!: a Mythology, which will draw for the first time on the collection housed in the Salvador Dal! Museum, St Petersburg, Florida. The exhibition is scheduled to run from October 24 to January 31 1999 at the Liverpool Tate. More about activities in that particular gallery in the coming weeks (0151 709 0507).
Sixth-formers who enjoy debate can choose from two passionately acted, tightly directed plays by Bernard Shaw: Major Barbara (Piccadilly Theatre: 0171 369 1734) is up-to-the-minute on the arms trade; The Doctor's Dilemma discusses the morality of the medical profession (Almeida, then touring: 0171 359 4404). The responsibility of the nuclear scientist is dissected in Copenhagen by Michael Frayn at the National Theatre (0171 452 3000).
Last month Penguin Audiobooks announced a new series of recordings of Shakespeare's plays (TES, June 5). TES readers can buy copies of Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night at the special discount price of pound;5.99 (inc pamp;p) each. The retail price is pound;8.99. These first four releases boast outstanding casts including Julian and Jamie Glover, Joseph Fiennes, Niamh Cusack and Roy Hudd. Please send a cheque or postal order (made payable to Penguin Books Ltd) or credit card details to: Shakespeare Audiobook Offer, Penguin Direct, Bath Road, Harmondsworth, UB 0DA. Offer closes July 31.