Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Supports The Customs House Youth Theatre

Published: 29th August 2019

Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Supports The Customs House Youth Theatre

In 2019 The Customs House Youth Theatre celebrated its 10th anniversary. You might have spotted the news story in The Shields Gazette. Over the past decade The Customs House have worked with hundreds of young people. Members have come from across the North East.

Some members were aspiring actors, who are now building impressive CVs, like Andrew Finnigan. Others young people went on to study the arts and humanities at university. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to build friendships and confidence.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation

2019 was an important year for the Youth Theatre’s development. We were able to try new and exciting things thanks to the generous support of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.  The Customs House Trust received a two-year grant from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.

“Music and the arts can empower and liberate, which is why it’s so important to encourage participation and nurture talent.  If you empower children and young people through the arts, the return on investment is huge.  I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the arts have been more important.  I really, passionately, believe that.” – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber Logo

Inspirational Youth Theatre

This grant helped support an inspirational development programme. In this update, we focus on one aspect of this work mentoring and professional development. Some of the grant money allowed us to deliver high-quality expert led training. This training developing our Junior and Senior Youth Theatre Directors and Assistant-Directors’ expertise.

Devising Movement

Theatre and participatory professionals took part in a masterclass on devising movement for theatre. The workshop was led by nationally and internationally respected choreographer Vivien Wood. Vivien spent talked to Junior Youth Theatre Director Jayden Blacklock about the course aims. Vivien drew on her extensive experience as a theatre maker, dancer and director. You can read more about Vivien’s dance carer here. She has worked with many ground-breaking international artists like Antonia Franceschi and Lloyd Newson.

Places were quickly snapped up quickly. We had emerging and established directors. Several actors attended including Jack Young, who alongside acting also stars in our own Dame Bella’s! Dancers took part exploring how they might used their dance knowledge collaboratively.

We are positive that in Youth Theatre’s new term we will the young players moving in increasingly challenging and innovative ways. Physical theatre is an area groups have always excelled at. This is thanks The Customs House Deputy Director Fiona Martin’s leadership.

Inclusivity and Excellence

Our Youth Theatre, like everything The Customs House does, is welcoming and inclusive. We believe in, “Arts and Entertainment for All”. We work with every young person supporting them to have the best experience possible. Another area we wanted to develop was our understanding of ADHD. How does ADHD impacts young peoples’ lives and behaviour? How can we adapt our practice making sure the everyone has the best creative experience?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Working with a young person with ADHD can be challenging. The training covered why a young person might find things harder to cope with, and strategies to tackle these challenges. These strategies embedded principles we already hold. Covering simple things like setting up a positive environment for rehearsals that isn’t over stimulating and building in breaks. Using checklists or creating visual stories sharing tasks to complete and our artistic goals.This was something we will use across our Learning and Participation activities. We were also reminded of the importance of establishing routines. Routines develop young people’s sense of belonging and enable everyone to concentrate on rehearsal and performance aims.

Building Self-Esteem

The social skills young people develop in youth theatre can have a really positive effect helping all young people learn how to behave. Drama helps them think about how other people feel in different situations. The training emphasised building self-esteem and encouraging positive self-reflection. .

Again, we engaged the wider participation community. We invited staff from South Tyneside Council’s  Learning and Participation team and Fostering Services to attned. We learned so much and deepened connections between participation professionals. If you want to know more about ADHD see The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service website ADDiSS

The Junior and Senior Youth Theatre Groups

So that rounds up our update. Have you enjoyed reading about how we’ve used the funding from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation? We haven’t talked about all the amazing the young people (aged 15 to 25) who have taken part drama workshops or our excitement to welcome new members joining in September.

Not to mention the fantastically well attended performance of ‘Bite Me’. A delicious sci-fi vampire mashup with plenty of 80s nostalgia by the talented Reece Connolly. Or ‘How to Explode’ by Alex Oates which interwove stories across time. Both pieces of new writing reflected our Youth Theatre members’ interests.

Furthermore, we haven’t spilled the beans about which inspiring practitioners will be visiting soon to share their expertise or new commissions by emerging playwrights for 2019/20. Make sure you stay tuned for the latest announcements by following #CustomsHouseLP on twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Join the Waiting List

For more information about joining our waiting lists for youth theatre, or information about current places available email

To find our more about the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation visit