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Our first youth council on the Speak Up programme


An overhead shot of a group of school students sat on the floor, one of whom is writing on a piece of paper

Speak Up is the National Theatre’s secondary school programme that gives young people the opportunity to explore issues that matter to them. We have launched a national Speak Up Council to put young people at the heart of the decision making on the programme.


Young people from across 11 areas including Doncaster, Greater Manchester (Salford, Wigan and Rochdale), Leicester, North Devon, Outer East London and South Essex, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Wakefield and Wolverhampton applied to represent their area. After a shortlisting process, which included students who took part in the programme pilot in 2021, representatives were chosen from each area. Their job is to help the National Theatre and our partner venues make decisions about the programme to help us achieve our aims.

We held our first meeting co-chaired by the Director of Learning and National Partnerships, Alice King-Farlow, alongside a student from Doncaster, Chloe. Together they launched the first of three meetings taking place in 2023.

At the inaugural meeting on 23 May 2023, young people from across the country met the other student representatives for the first time. Each area brought a motion to propose to the whole Council, which also includes Artist Representative, Sheryl Jenkins – an animator from Sunderland, and Teacher Representative, Erin Braithwaite – Director of Performing Arts, Outwood Grange Academies, Wakefield, as well as staff from the partner venues and the National Theatre.

A group of school students sat on plastic blue chairs speaking to one another

I thought is was really good and I liked meeting all the people. I’m really looking forward to London because I haven’t really been before and meeting all the people in person!
 Izzy, Wigan Student Rep


I’d say it’s a very diverse community and it’s very accepting. It was a very fun place to be and very engaging and entertaining.
– Amelia, Rochdale Student Rep

As the teacher representative, it was a great opportunity to ‘meet’ all of the key partners within the project including staff from the National Theatre, regional theatres, student representatives and artists. It really gave a sense of the scale of the work that is happening nationally and it was exciting to hear about the different ways the arts are being used as a way to share ideas, experience, ambitions and feelings.

I was particularly inspired by hearing from the young people themselves and was so impressed by their passion for the project and their interest in co-creating with each other, as well as the other adults and students they were meeting for the first time. Their confidence and communication skills were impressive!
– Erin Braithwaite, Director of Performing Arts, Outwood Grange Academies Wakefield, Teacher Rep

As the programme develops, we are excited to hear the voices of young people from across the country. The decisions that the Council make will help to shape the future of Speak Up. In November we will be bringing the Speak Up Council to the National Theatre for an in-person meeting as well as a chance to see backstage, the Archive and see a show.

The Speak Up Council Student Representatives are:

  • Doncaster: Chloe (co-chair), Tiffany, Veronica
  • Greater Manchester: Alisa, Amelia, Isabelle
  • Outer East London and South Essex: Gladness, Pipeloluwa
  • Leicester: Isobel, Jaspreet
  • Sunderland: Lola, Oliver
  • Wakefield: Connie, John
  • Wolverhampton: Brooklyn, Aaravjiv

Representatives from North Devon and Stoke will be involved later in the programme.

A selection of motions that the Speak Up Council proposed in the inaugural meeting:

  • Annual regional meet up for all partner regions, teachers, artists and young people – plus a national meet up just for artists.
  • Restorative day planned by and for teachers including artist workshops, market stall sessions, sharing best practice and legacy discussions.
  • All Speak Up areas make a piece of art that is about difference and similarity, about how ‘we’re different and the same.’
  • All Speak Up partners and participants learn some BSL in order to communicate better with one another.

All photographs by Becca Hunt, Speak Up 2023. 

The words Speak Up in thick green font against a bright pink background