ASPIRE performers tread the keyboards

Creating online learning opportunities is nothing new for schools across our Diocese, however, COVID-19 government-enforced restrictions are the impetus to explore an even greater range of ways to deliver education programs.

Each year, the Catholic Schools Office through ASPIRE provides an opportunity for students with a passion for the performing and creative arts to grow, perform and shine.

As part of ASPIRE, a cast and crew of more than 150 students from schools across the Diocese are carefully selected, and unite to create an original production, performed annually in front of thousands at consecutive shows staged at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle.

Newly introduced restrictions on group meetings and the strict enforcement of social distancing have made ASPIRE’s weekly rehearsals for the production, ordinarily held at St Pius X High School, Adamstown, impossible.

Not one to be easily deterred, ASPIRE’s artistic director Anna Kerrigan delivered a welcome message to the theatre-minded students, saying that while restrictions were in place rehearsals would be moved online.

“Moving rehearsals to an online forum provides students with an opportunity to still come together and share their passions while learning from each other in a contemporary setting,” Ms Kerrigan said. “It also allows for some normality in their routines during this time of general upheaval, and importantly, gives them hope.”

Patrick Howlett, who is in Year 10 at St Mary’s Catholic College, Gateshead, has been an ASPIRE cast member for the past three years. After logging in for the first online rehearsal, he said the experience was “very successful”.

“There weren’t too many drawbacks from rehearsing online,” Patrick said. “Of course, we missed the human contact, but we were still able to interact, which was great.

“Rehearsing over Zoom has meant that we can still catch up regularly and maintain a team mindset, which is the most rewarding thing about it. Saying that, I know students who ordinarily travel a few hours to attend rehearsals think the digital move has been particularly convenient.”

At the moment, the Catholic Schools Office is still proceeding with plans to stage this year’s ASPIRE production, The Pecking Order, at the Civic Theatre from 29 July. However, the Diocese will make a final decision closer to the date and in line with government recommendations.

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.