Beckenham drama workshop looks to beat school bullies
PUBLISHED: 10:10 30 November 2012
Â© Spotlights Theatre School Ltd
Whether it's verbal, emotional, physical or online - bullying is an issue many of us have had to deal with.
Schools can be a hotbed of such behaviour but Beckenham resident Faye Willingale is taking it upon herself to stop it before it starts.
She founded the Anti-Bullying Workshop which teaches primary school pupils to recognise bullies and challenge their actions.
“It’s really exciting because we have been running for three years, but this year schools seem to have seen that this is a good way to look at the problem,” said Faye.
“We go all over London and the UK. We are happy to travel if the need is there because it’s something I care about and can make a difference.”
Following on from Anti-Bullying Week, which ended on Friday, Faye, 36, is continuing to teach pupils aged between three and 11 to write scripts and perform plays.
She makes sure everyone who participates plays a key role in the workshops, ensuring even teachers have a part in the pupils’ productions.
Faye said: “We flip it around and let them get creative. It’s important that everyone has a role to play because it ensures everyone is included and everybody gets to experience the vulnerability.”
About 70 per cent of children nationally say they have been bullied, with 85 per cent witnessing bullies in action.
Faye says modern technology means cyber-bullying has become the most prevalent form.
“When children are given access to mobile phones and the Internet, they get more access to forms of bullying.
“Children under seven struggle to fully understand exactly what bullying is, but we work with kids up to 11 and by that time they’re aware and using things like Facebook.
“We try to keep them safe in cyberspace, and workshops geared specifically to that generate a lot of discussion.”
Keeping short attention spans occupied is a constant challenge for the workshop, and innovative methods such as rap sessions aim to lighten a heavy topic.
Communication can be a problem for victims of bullying and one of the workshop’s goals is to watch students build confidence through writing and performing.
Faye said: “Our singing coach recently made a rap for the schoolkids and they had a go at writing lyrics – it’s a way of making the situation fun.
“Some of the stuff they come out with can be surprising and really impressive, but most importantly it’s great to see them take the spotlight and be confident.”
Getting youngsters used to drama techniques and developing their acting skills is also a great introduction to the arts.
The workshop spawned from Faye’s theatre school, Spotlights, which she set up in 2006 to work with aspiring stage stars from areas such as West Wickham, Orpington and Beckenham.
A number of her students will be appearing at The Churchill Theatre this Christmas in Peter Pan, and Faye hopes her workshops can inspire more success stories.
She said: “Educating kids on bullying is our goal, but if they go on to act, sing or dance then that’s an added bonus.”