Great Expo-ctations 21 May 2018

Expo | Manchester has outgrown its first home in only its second year, with a 50% increase in drama sessions planned for this October. Sarah Lambie unpicks the drama programme through the eyes of a new attendee.

The first Music & Drama Education Expo | Manchester in 2017 was so well-attended that we’ve up-scaled in only our second year, so on 11 October 2018 you can join more than 750 music and drama teachers for our one-day CPD event at an exciting new venue – Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United.

I’m particularly pleased to have been able to expand the drama offering for the show this year, with our own drama specific warm-up session, and five further drama sessions taking place in our dedicated workshop area, The Space. That’s a 50% increase in drama sessions for our second year.

Serialising my drama walk-through, which first appeared for London 2018 under the title ‘Lucille Goes to Expo’, here’s a fly-on-the-wall exploration of Expo | Manchester 2018 …

Craig Goes to Expo

Back in March, Lucille rang her friend Craig from her PGCE training days, and told him all about her two days at Expo | London. Encouraged to check it out for himself, Craig (28, secondary drama teacher) signed up for free as soon as registration opened in April, and now 11 October has come around. He’s booked the day off from the academy he teaches at in Liverpool and nipped over to Manchester to bene_ t from first-class free CPD.

Craig arrives in time for the Head of Content’s welcome speech, which is taking place separately for music and drama to allow delegates to segue straight into their subject-specific warmup session. Sarah Lambie introduces the drama programme in The Space and then welcomes Helen Battelley to take the stand and lead drama delegates in a warm-up, ‘Instant impacting movement ideas’. Helen is an internationally renowned consultant, trainer and speaker in physical development and movement in early education. In her warm-up session she puts forward ideas which have been proven to boost engagement, attainment and concentration levels, so alongside being warmed up for his day at Expo, Craig is able to bank some techniques to take back to his classroom for developing a movement-based methodology.

The next session in The Space is an Early Years Music forum, so Craig heads out from his warm-up to explore the exhibition space (visiting the LAMDA stand, since his academy offers LAMDA exams as an extra-curricular lunchtime session) and to grab a cup of tea before his next session.

Outside the workshops, there are many stalls to browse – Image credit: Alex De Palma

At 11:15, Craig is back in The Space, where Peter Kennedy and Sue Harding, creative associates of North West Drama, are running ‘To Be: Shakespeare and Me’. Focusing on The Tempest, they explore the story, characters and language through classroom drama techniques that are accessible and easily transferable to other curriculum areas. Aimed at teachers of KS1 and KS2, the session offers compelling and imaginative ways to introduce young people to Shakespeare so that it ignites their curiosity, extending and building on their innate ability and inclination to explore the world through play, and asks them to consider what it means, for them, to be human. Of course, Craig is a secondary drama teacher but he has set his KS3 groups the challenge of putting together a Shakespeare piece to appeal to younger students, so this session gives him lots of ideas to share with them back at school.

As the afternoon begins, the early years and primary sessions for drama have passed and Craig is treated to a whole series of workshops for KS3, 4 and 5. The first is from Jill Lloyd-Jones, a hugely popular speaker from Expo | London 2017. Jill’s session is called ‘Music & Movement: Secrets to understanding character and text’, and she explores what can be done for students who learn differently – through physical movement for example, or who find their inspiration through music, or for students who do not have English as their first language. Immediately this appeals to Craig, whose school includes a large number of ESL students. Reading through texts will provide these students with one type of learning, but Jill explains that if teachers can access students’ emotional intelligence by layering textual understanding with music and movement, they are provided with alternate ways to show what they know and can do; and a rich palette of strategies to enrich their understanding of texts and/or characters.

Next up, Mark Ruddick from Squire Stage Combat makes a return visit to Expo | Manchester. Last year his session was so popular that some drama delegates sadly had to be turned away – frustrating but for the best, since while an overcrowded room is already a health and safety hazard, the problem is significantly exacerbated when everyone in that room is throwing punches, slaps and kicks at each other! The oversubscription of Mark’s session is one of the chief reasons that Expo has moved up to Old Trafford this year, so it seemed only right to bring him back for more, and there’s plenty of space for Craig and all his fellow drama delegates to attack each other (safely) to their hearts’ content!

After that, Craig’s quietly relieved to be able to sit down for 45 minutes, while Ali Warren and Catherine Nash offer their wisdom in a seminar on KS3 Drama assessment. ‘“What’s my mark, miss?” Approaches to assessing in KS3 Drama’ uses a single devising lesson structure to show the different methods of assessment available to the KS3 Drama teacher, by looking at the three areas of drama work – creation, performance and evaluation. It’s an important curriculum topic, and one which Craig’s Head of Department is pleased that he’s getting some CPD on: so he takes plenty of notes to return with to school.

The final session of the day offers drama teachers a choice between two star turns: and it’s a tough one. While Disney Teaching Artists run a session in the Workshop Theatre called ‘Disney’s Aladdin | Spotlight on singing’ for teachers of KS3, 4 and 5 Music and Drama, Frantic Assembly are in The Space, bringing teachers insight into the theatre company’s methods and practice for a specially extended 1.5-hour session to round off the Expo with a real treat. Though he loves Disney, and directs the school musical every year, this choice is a no-brainer for Craig, because he has decided to take a break from teaching Brecht, and has chosen Frantic Assembly as the set-practitioner for his A Level Drama & Theatre students. Teacher delegates in the room teach GCSE and A Level for Edexcel, OCR, AQA, WJEC and IB – and for all of them, Frantic Assembly is a recommended practitioner for study, so this opportunity to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth is invaluable. Craig is excited to be able to have a go, for free, at techniques which would usually cost his department budget £250 + VAT and travel/ accommodation for a Frantic Assembly workshop-leader.

By 16:45, Craig’s pretty tired – he’s been on his feet nearly all day and his brain has been processing a huge amount of practical information, plus he’s buzzing because he’s made a load of new friends in the drama teaching community of the North West. But he has a little snooze on the train back to Liverpool, and he’s really glad he came.

Music & Drama Education Expo | Manchester takes place on 11 October 2018. Book your free tickets.

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