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School constraints hinder arts festival fun

You can see the philosophy behind next week's annual Inspiration arts festival for children in Glasgow. With the October break passed and Christmas still two months away, a fortnight of interesting fun is a very welcome prospect for schools.

Groups such as Das Papiertheater from Glasgow's twin city of Nuremberg, Theatre sans Fronti res, which promises to take primary children Around the World in 80 Minutes, and YDance with The Story of the Blues, about jeans, look set to fill the bill.

The sad truth is that the constraints laid on Glasgow's secondaries stop them from making the best of their chances, as Maggie Singleton, the city's arts development officer for children and young people, who is organising the festival, is only too well aware.

"It was so much easier in the old days," she says. "If the ballet or Shakespeare came to school, the headmaster cancelled classes for the afternoon. That cannot happen nowadays.

"This year, for example, a company offered German language workshops for S1-S3 in connection with the Adventures of the Baron (von Munchausen). One school was very interested until it learnt the company needed two-hour slots. This was out of the question.

"When the company offered to compress the visit to only one hour, they were told that the iron glove of the timetable allowed only 40 minutes.

"Almost the same thing has happened with Visible Fictions, who are coming to Glasgow as part of their national tour. They are offering a challenging play about contemporary education and society, but the schools have already spent their budgets for drama, so none can take it."

This is a loss, because Visible Fictions is touring Big Baby, a play Brendan Murray wrote five years ago in the throes of anger and disappointment at remembering the newly-elected Prime Minister's promise of "education, education, education". The director, Douglas Irvine, describes it as hovering somewhere between Frankenstein and Little Britain, as it narrates the story of a prodigious baby, the "nine days' wonder" of Britain, and its monstrous passage through society.

"It's a fantastic play in every sense, with a wide appeal, one that excites, moves and angers the audience," says Irvine.

"The ending, when an actor who bears more than a passing resemblance to Tony Blair comes on to deplore the waste of a young life and blame its parents, is hardly more or less than a slap in the face for the audience!"

Keen to know how audiences, young people in particular, have been reacting, he has been asking for comments. One 15-year-old told him that she thought it was about being "killed with kindness". She explained: "Parents and teachers are always trying to do their best for young people, but instead are killing them."

One success with schools is Poetry Slam, back for its second year. The driving force behind this unusual brand of competitive poetry is poet and performer Rachel Jury who, with poets and fellow members of ConFAB Anita Govan, Donna Campbell and Jane Forrest, has been leading writing workshops for S1 and S2 in Cleveden, Hillhead, Bellahouston and Smithycroft.

Each school will enter three items in the competition: two individual poems and a group performance, from two or more pupils. Four of the individuals will go into the final at Patrick Burgh Hall on November 9 for the title of Slam Master 2005.

"We judge on two counts: content and performance," explains Jury. "We don't take the competition too seriously. We're more into the fun, the business of making it live. We want to stretch the idea of poetry wider than the classroom anthology. We want it to be more things, to include rap, stand-up comedy ...

"In fact we have a rap group on the night, three young asylum-seekers. We would have preferred Glasgow rappers, but that was too much swearing for S1 and S2."


October 31-November 11

Animated Rhythms (all ages) Street Level, 26 King Street, October 28, 6-9pm

Centro Lorca - La Feria Latina (all ages) Espana Lorca, STUC Centre, October 29, 10am-midnight

Flipped to the Funny Side (3 plus) Blueboat Theatre, Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre, October 29, 2pm

Open music and animation workshops (all ages) Street Level, 26 King Street, October 30, noon-4pm

Kugelmenschen (Round People) (6 plus) Das Papiertheater, Tron Theatre, November 2, 6.30pm

Around the World in 80 Minutes (7-11) Theatre sans Fronti res, Gilmorehill G12, November 3, 7pm

Broomsticks in the Sky (3 plus) Kenspeckle Puppets, Scottish Mask and Puppet Theatre, November 5, 2pm

Adventures of the Baron (11 plus) The Working Party, Britannia Panoptican Music Hall, Nov 12 and 13, 7pm

For further details or a brochure, tel 0141 287 9843

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