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Bristol Old Vic’s ‘Made in Bristol’ – theatre for children and young people that’s transforming lives

“When it came to the end of my sentence, I had two choices: to either stay in London and be around the same people and get caught up in the same thing, or move to Bristol, work at the Bristol Old Vic and make work as part of the Made in Bristol scheme. It was the best decision of my life.”

When he was 16, Joseph Langdon was sent to a Young Offender’s Institution. 

It’s not an unusual story.  In 2016/7, according to the Youth Justice Statistics Bulletin, there were around 74,800 arrests of children and young people aged 10-17 in England and Wales. 

The unusual bit of the story is what happened next.

Joseph says: “I was about 10 months into an 18-month sentence and a guy called Jesse Jones came in.  He was from the Outreach Dept at Bristol Old Vic and he taught drama every Monday.  They saw my GCSEs and they saw that drama was one I was good at.  They said, ‘Do you want to start coming to this drama group?’ and I was, like, ‘Oh, yeah, alright, why not?’  I went to it and yeah, it’s changed my life.”

Although arrests of children and young people have fallen significantly over the past 10 years, the really mindboggling statistic is that over 42% of the children and young people convicted of crime reoffend.  That’s compared with 28.2% for adults.

And that’s what makes Joseph’s story special.

“I was coming to the end of my sentence and I had a chat with Jesse and he said that the BOV do a scheme, it’s [part of] the Outreach Dept called Made in Bristol.”

Made In Bristol is a group of twelve young people aged 18-25 on some sort of gap year – be it having graduated from university, finished school or being in part time employment – who become resident at Bristol Old Vic for two days a week for one year.  The annual scheme is designed to give young theatre-makers an opportunity to train together, to become workshop leaders, facilitators and theatre makers, creating work that can reach out across Bristol and the South West, engaging with other local arts organisations as well as performing their own piece of work at the end of the course.

The group gets the opportunity to work with freelance directors and arts practitioners (in the past these have included Tom Morris, Melly Still, Sally Cookson, Mike Shepherd and Emma Rice) as well as to participate in the wider Bristol arts scene through collaborations and touring work nationally.

For Joseph the opportunity was life-changing.

“I’d have the opportunity to work and get money as well as learn stuff and become a workshop leader…Throughout the BOV scheme they also offered me a job, so for two years I worked in the box office.”

Today Joseph is an actor and final year student at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts – “one of the best things that has ever happened to me” – and looking forward to the future.  He’s hoping to come back to Bristol and continue working with the theatre that changed his life. 

Bristol Old Vic - an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation – is a world-renowned theatre.  Built in 1766 as a place where the people of Bristol could come together, it is the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world.  The theatre is brilliantly placed to deliver education, outreach and participation work, and is recognised as a leader in UK theatre education.

One of their most important projects is the Bristol Old Vic Young Company, one of the largest regional youth theatres in the UK and home to over 350 young people aged 5-25 from across the South West who take part in an on-going programme of weekly sessions, theatre master classes, community projects and full-scale performances.

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