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  • Arts-Engagement-And-Outreach-May-News

Arts Engagement & Outreach: May News

posted 11 Jun 2024
Arts Engagement & Outreach: May News

Our Arts Engagement & Outreach team develop and deliver programmes and activities that benefit health and wellbeing, enrich learning and education in and outside school, inspire and celebrate talent. Creating work that will support local artists and tell “local stories”. In everything we do and programme we will seek to improve inclusion and remove barriers, whatever they may be, so that everyone is able to enjoy and benefit from the creative arts.

Our Arts Engagement & Outreach team look to provide more opportunities for our communities to watch, take part and benefit from arts and cultural activities where they live.


This May we’ve been reflecting on our achievements over the past year with the release of our Parkinson’s Dance short film, engagement with our published artist blogs & vlogs, and a successful first year for our Creative Learning & Education programme. Plus we are pleased to announce we have received funding from Somerset Activity & Sports Partnership (SASP) to support free places for Free School Meal students at all 3 of our summer schools this August, and funding from Abri to support our Accessible Pricing Scheme, offering tickets for Abri customers to attend our shows and events at a reduced cost. Read more below…

Octagon Academy: Participate

50 FREE places for young people to attend Summer Schools at Westlands Entertainment Venue this summer.

Funding gratefully received from the Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership as part of their Healthy Happy Holidays scheme will mean that 50 young people from across the local area will be able to access one of our week-long summer schools this August.  Places are available for young people in receipt of free school meals with each participant also receiving a free hot meal and snacks during the day, making a real difference to those families on lower incomes during the long summer break.  The participants (aged between 7 and 16) will get the opportunity to work with local and national performing arts companies; ZooNation, Castaways, and Stuff and Nonsense.  Each Summer School runs for a week where the young person will be able to learn new skills, make friends and grow in confidence in a creative and welcoming environment.  At the end of each week, participants will be able to showcase their skills with a performance on our regional stage to friends and families.

To find out more about our summer schools click here

Stuff & Nonsense Summer School

Introducing music to pre-school children

In April we partnered with Evolve Music to run two new Early Years music sessions which gave young families the opportunity to experience music hands on for the first time.  The Mini Musical Maestro sessions saw 19 children aged 8 weeks to 5 years old, and 19 parents & grandparents taking part in these music-making sessions, giving their parents the ability to play instruments with, and for their child.  As a small group session all parents felt supported and left feeling ‘relaxed, calm and invigorated’.  Everyone in the room benefited from the joy that music can bring, the younger babies were glued to watching the older children, and the older children enjoyed experimenting with new instruments.  The early days of parenthood can sometimes be lonely and all those attending were grateful for the ability to mix with others in such a creative way.

Mini Musical Maestro Session

Arts for Health & Wellbeing

Sharing the transformative impacts of our Parkinson’s Dance project

We have produced a short film that provides an insight into our Parkinson’s Dance sessions, and beautifully demonstrates the positive impacts these creative dance classes are having on our participants physical, mental and social wellbeing, from a participant and health care worker perspective. We are already receiving wonderful feedback from members of the public, project partners, Arts Council England and Parkinson’s UK, as our film is helping to improve levels of understanding and awareness of the role arts & culture can play in improving people’s wellbeing and overall health, and is raising awareness of opportunities available. Watch the film here:

A really positive, tangible example of the developing work of the Octagon NPO, and delivery of the wellbeing agenda.” (Arts Council England)

Creative Learning & Education

A successful first year for our partnership schools

September 2023 saw the launch of our Creative Learning & Education programme. Eight Schools (four primary, four secondary) across South Somerset partnered with the Octagon Theatre. These schools opted to work with either Motionhouse Dance, Wise Children Theatre Company or Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and had fantastic experiences working with these companies via a range of activities. Highlights from this year included: several in-school workshops led by industry professionals, teacher CPD, attending live performances, creating performance and, most recently, a concert with the BSO to over 1,500 primary school children at Westlands Entertainment Venue, where one of the songs performed was written by local primary schools. Students got a lot out of these projects and teachers reflected on how confidence had increased in a lot of their pupils and how these opportunities have been invaluable in not only benefitting the students but the teachers as well. Our programme is now expanding by 100% with 16 schools taking part for the academic year 24/25. We can’t wait to see what new opportunities and creative approaches await.

The workshop was fulfilling, sensational, inspiring, and more than I expected. Having chance to act, sing and dance whilst having fun was amazing.” Year 8 student from Stanchester Academy.

BSO Workshop

Talent Development

Blogs & Vlogs: promoting Somerset’s creative & cultural workforce

Somerset is home to a rich array of professional creative & cultural practitioners working in a broad range of roles for a number of organisations locally, regionally & nationally.  We’re publishing monthly Blogs & Vlogs to promote some of these people and how their work contributes to the ecology in Somerset, the South West and the whole country.  It’s an opportunity to promote different careers available in the creative industries as well as the unique pathways that can be followed to build your own career.  The blogs have had excellent readerships with over 118,800 people reading them since February this year.

Artist Blogs: Jusna

Artist Support

Taking ballet into the heart of South Somerset’s communities

This year we’ve commissioned Yeovil-based professional ballerina, Caroline Rees, to take a mini-scale ballet project, Hire A Ballerina, into community settings across South Somerset.  Last week 25 people including staff, residents & their family saw Caroline perform ballet repertoire from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty in the dining room at Immacolata House in Langport.   Between July-September Caroline will be visiting retirement homes, schools & memory cafes across the district to give the isolated older population and children & young people access to ballet either for the first time in many years, or for the first time at all.  If you’re interested in Hiring a Ballerina please contact nick.white@somerset.gov.uk

Elegant, graceful, beautiful” audience from Immacolata House

Caroline Rees

Access & Inclusion Schemes

Funding Support for our Accessible Pricing Scheme

We are delighted to have received funding from Abri Housing Association to support their customers to attend shows and events at our venues at a reduced cost as we introduce our Accessible Pricing Scheme. The Accessible Pricing Scheme will offer subsidised tickets for those in the community on low income who might not be able to afford to attend performance otherwise. It is our hope that by introducing the Accessible Pricing Scheme we will enable residents from across the South West the opportunity to try new experiences, whilst bringing people together, changing perceptions on place, and positively impacting mental health and wellbeing. The Accessible Pricing Scheme is due to launch later this year and will enable 200 audience members to access shows and events at our venues.

We are extremely grateful for the funding received from Abri, and excited to be launching our Accessible Pricing Scheme later this year. It is so important to us that everyone has access to high quality productions, shows and events where they live. This project and scheme will allow us to improve access where barriers such as cost may previously have restricted access.(Katherine Hoskins, Arts Engagement & Outreach Manager at Octagon Theatre & Westlands Entertainment Venue)

Audience at Westlands

To keep up to date with all the activities coming up head over to the What’s On section on our website or check out our Participate page which will link you to all our projects and upcoming opportunities.


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