Nurturing our leaders of the future and enabling young people to Speak Up

Above: Sweetness of a Sting by Chinonyerem Odimba performed by Haggerston School as part of Connections festival 2018

The National Theatre and the Mohn Westlake Foundation share a belief that arts and creativity are vital to young people's well-being, self-expression, career aspirations and ultimately, their contribution to society.

At a glance…

  • In three years, Speak Up will reach 139,925 young people and 628 teachers across 55 schools. 
  • At the heart of Speak Up lies an unwavering belief in the important role that the Arts and creativity play in young people's well-being, self-expression, career aspirations and ultimate contribution to society. 
  • Last year, the NT's nationwide Learning programmes - Connections, New Views, Let's Play and Schools Touring - reached 91,676 young people and worked with 773 schools and 94 partner youth theatres across the UK.

With that in mind, a new three-year, free-to-access nationwide programme called Speak Up will work with young people in some of the most deprived areas of the country to enable positive change in their lives, schools and local communities. 

Speak Up is a new project which will build on established relationships with theatre venues around the country to work with young people who have been most affected by the pandemic.

 Above: Secondary school pupils taking part in Creative Choices at the NT © Emma Hare

“In my opinion there has never been a more important time for young people to be able to express themselves creatively. The support we have received from the National Theatre in terms of resources and opportunities to participate has made a huge difference to learning and wellbeing.” Layla Taylor, Head of Drama, St Ambrose College, Altrincham, Greater Manchester

The risk of a generation becoming increasingly disenfranchised from the pandemic, Brexit, austerity and economic recession, is real. Instead, the National Theatre want to empower young people to tell their stories and nurture them into our leaders of the future.  

Groups of young people from each participating school will be free to choose how they respond to the provocation. This project is unique in deliberately having open artistic outcomes and we expect to see a broad spectrum of creative responses. Participants will work with local artists, venues, teachers and the NT, to co-create and shape the approach and content. The confidence, influencing and communication skills developed during the creative process, along with the networks built, will have a legacy in participants' professional and personal futures. 

“The last year has been really difficult for us as teenagers but coming back to school and having drama has been a release of energy and emotion. I believe working in this way would benefit all students across the country in terms of growing their belief in themselves and their own creativity.” Year 10 student, Washington, Tyne & Wear

Above: Rehearsals for Perspective by Mackenzie Wellfare, as part of New Views 2021 © Cameron Slater

For more information about this project please visit their website:

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