Darcey Bussell and fellow-stars help KEHS launch online UK-wide arts network

Darcey Bussell and fellow-stars help KEHS launch online UK-wide arts network

10 December 2020

King Edward VI High School for Girls, Birmingham is launching a nationwide arts network after the success of its star-studded, online gathering, Tuneup Tuesday. This free one-day event was designed to celebrate the arts and their impact on young people’s mental health and well-being and proved such a hit that the school is now creating TuneUp Arts, giving schools across Britain a virtual platform to boost creativity in the next generation. Celebrated arts figures including the photographer Rankin and Irish dance star Louise Lenihan are now adding special Christmas and New Year video content of further virtual lessons and activities.

Tuneup Tuesday brought together over 110,000 young people from all over the UK, featuring scores of streamable performances from top companies including Shakespeare’s Globe and the RSC. Leading industry professionals offered careers advice and led arts activities, among them prima ballerina Dame Darcey Bussell, multi-award winning musical director of Hamilton and The Greatest Showman Alex Lacamoire, playwright and screenwriter James Graham, the world’s top solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, comedian Greg Davies and rising musical theatre star Georgina Castle.

“TuneUp Arts is a nationwide campaign to encourage and inspire young people of school age to consider and believe in a career in the arts and theatre,” explained the initiative’s Patron James Graham. “Our particular landscape can feel precarious, but that won’t always be the case. When we open up, we’ll need lots of brilliant, inspiring young people to come and forge careers and take jobs in our really exciting sector”.

The event is the brainchild of KEHS’s new principal, violinist Kirsty von Malaisé and the school’s Director of Drama, Hannah Proops, a theatre director and former professional puppeteer

“Children have been through so much and the arts industry has suffered considerably during the pandemic,” explained Mrs von Malaisé, a former prizewinner in the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year. “With many extra-curricular activities severely restricted in this second lockdown, we wanted to give schools and young people an easy, safe way to do something vital together. We decided to launch TuneUp to affirm the power of the arts, particularly at this time, and to uplift us all by bringing us together in this celebration.”

TuneUp Tuesday began with an online assembly featuring musician and mental health advocate Yshani Perinpanayagam. “During these turbulent times, it’s so important that everyone can access music and its ability to help us express what we may have thought was inexpressible,” she said.

Scores of participating schools took to social media to share their experience of the day, posting photos and videos of their pupils taking part. From reception class dance routines to lighting design workshops for secondary school physicists, there was something to inspire all ages and disciplines.

“We were bowled over by the enthusiastic uptake and the volume of posts on our social media,” said former Disney puppeteer Hannah Proops. “Our industry might be suffering now but, arts are still the shining light that’s keeping us all going and making us feel connected. This feels like the start of something really exciting – and we’re building on this momentum by launching TuneUp as a national arts outreach network. We aim to provide a virtual platform for all schools across the UK to deliver arts curricula and activities, offering resources to foster creativity in the next generation.”

Registered schools can still access the library of careers videos and arts activities while KEHS develops the next phase. Schools and artists can find out more at www.tuneup.life or via Twitte@TuneUpArts.

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