Judy Mackie reports on a bid in the north-east to extend children's theatre and bring in drama from all over the world.
Half a century ago the acclaimed drama teacher Catherine Hollingsworth founded Aberdeen Children's Theatre on the principle that drama should be available to youngsters from all sectors of society and give them a safe and creative environment to express themselves and explore the world.
Today, those same principles provide the backdrop for an ambitious drama project which aims to take youth theatre to new heights in the north-east.
Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils have joined forces in a pound;200,000 funding bid to dramatically extend extra-curricular performing arts provision throughout their area. The bid has reached the second round in the National Lottery Children and Young People's Scheme. Over three years it aims to develop an umbrella organisation, incorporating the hugely successful Aberdeen Children's Theatre and satellite groups throughout the area. The organisation would employ a pool of youth drama tutors and bring in professional theatre groups, musicians and dance companies from the UK and beyond.
The move was prompted by the results of a recent joint review asking pupils, parents, teachers, advisers and local authority officers for their suggestions to promote drama for all.
Aberdeen City Council's arts education co-ordinator, Jacqueline McKay, says the response was enthusiastic: "We had a 100 per cent take-up rate, which revealed an overwhelming demand for greater drama provision throughout the two local authority areas. This applied to performing arts across the board, and judging by the young people's comments, appealed as much to boys as to girls.
"Interest was mostly expressed for after school or evening provision, and there was significant enthusiasm for special courses during the school holidays. Access was also a big issue, with requests for venues near at hand.
"The response showed the time is right for us to think bigger and better." So the scene is set, the dramatic tension is building - but the eager audience must wait until January 2000 to hear the outcome of the bid.