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OnOff stage

This past week has seen seven world premires in the theatre capital of Tyneside. In Newcastle, seven youth theatres from the northeast performed plays in the BT National Connections repertoire of specially commmissioned work from writers including Christopher Hampton, Snoo Wilson and Judith Johnson.

The final showcase of all 200 participating youth theatres in the scheme will be performed in July at the National Theatre.

Two new initiatives were launched at an international conference this week on Researching Drama and Theatre in Education at Exeter University. A twice yearly journal, Research in Drama Education, edited by John Somers, senior lecturer in education, will appear in 1996. The first publication of its kind, it will have an advisory board of academics from around the world.

John Somers is also planning an international research network. The indefatigable Somers is planning, in addition, to get together a working party to develop an integrated policy paper on drama to present to the Shadow Heritage secretary. "It's ironic," he says, "that in the birthplace of drama in education there is no national curriculum document for drama. We need a policy paper to argue for it."

For more information on any of these activities, you can contact John Somers at the University of Exeter on 01392 264824.

An unusual war story, now available to schools in the form of a score and script, is Tony Cottrell's musical adaptation of Robert Westall's The Machine Gunners. About a group of children during the war whose capture of a German pilot develops into an empathetic relationship, it could be an inspirational breath of fresh air amid all the hot stuff being generated in the run-up to VE Day. Tony Cottrell wrote the script with secondary schools in mind. For a copy, contact him at 10 East Street, Polruan by Fowey, Cornwall PL23 1PB.

A date for your diary: the Association of Professional Theatre for Children and Young People is putting on a festival at the Oval House, London from May 3 to 6. Sponsored by the London Arts Board and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the event is a mix of theatre and puppetry for different age groups, discussion and workshops.

Included in the programme are a workshop for teachers and artists on writing for children and young people led by Tim Supple of the Young Vic and Vicky Ireland of the Polka, "Theatre and the Curriculum," a discussion on issues including racism in football, sex education and Shakespeare, plus a number of Shakespeare workshops for primary and secondary school teachers and artists, workshops for people working with under fives and sessions on creating culturally diverse work and theatre for and with young people with disabilities.

Among the companies performing are The Hairy Marys, Pop Up, Arc Theatre Ensemble, Half Moon YPT, Quicksilver and the London Bubble's peer sex education piece. Priority seating for daytime performances goes to Southwark and Lambeth schools.

For a full programme and bookings, ring 0171 240 8488 and leave a message with your phone number.

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