The Lion King bring Disney workshops to pupils in Leith and Muirhouse

Pupils at St Mary's, Leith, release their inner Lion KingPupils at St Mary's, Leith, release their inner Lion King
Pupils at St Mary's, Leith, release their inner Lion King | jpimedia
THE colours and energy of The Lion King left the stage of the Playhouse this week to bring the Disney 'magic' of the smash-hit show to local pupils in schools in Leith and Muirhouse.

As part of Disney’s The Lion King Education Programme, practitioners visited St Mary’s Primary School in Leith and Oaklands Special School in Muirhouse with Lion King inspired workshop sessions tailored to create a long-lasting legacy for Edinburgh once the musical leaves the Capital.

Nancy Shakerley, the Education and Outreach Manager with Disney Theatrical Group, explains, "We know that teachers value the broad learning opportunities that our productions, particularly The Lion King, can deliver for their pupils both when learning about theatre and also learning through theatre. The Lion King education programme consists of classroom resources, behind the scene videos, musical theatre workshops, a social action award project as well as post show Q&As and careers insight days."

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Based on the award-winning Broadway musical telling the story of the lion cub Simba, who is forced to leave the Pride Lands after his father Mufasa is murdered by his wicked uncle, Scar, only to return years later as a young lion to reclaim his throne, the programme was created by Disney after repeatedly hearing teachers say that access to arts and cultural experiences for some pupils across the UK is problematic.

They attributed this to the decreasing number of excursions as well as priority being given to core subjects. In many cases, the arts and all the learning opportunities that they bring are being challenged.

Genevieve Robinson and Jennifer Tyler, who took the sessions to the schools explain, "The workshops gives students the freedom to express themselves in fun and exciting ways through a musical story that's so well loved. With the opportunity to experience what it's like to work as a musical theatre ensemble, they discover their own skills and strengths, and often a new found confidence. Students leave excited and exhilarated having immersed themselves in the world of the arts, keen to discover more."

Pupils at St Mary's were first to experience the workshops. Principal teacher Fiona Mcdonnell says, "We are very lucky to be able to host The Lion King teaching artists for some drama workshops for our Primary 5 children. These workshops will complement our visit to the show at the Playhouse, which was a fantastic opportunity for pupils and staff. The Lion King workshops are an exciting arts opportunity for our pupils to develop their knowledge, understanding and skills in drama in an innovative and engaging way."

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The workshops also took place at Oaklands, which supports children and young people from 3-18 with profound and multiple learning disabilities and often, life limiting healthcare needs.

Music and the expressive arts are at the heart of the curriculum as they provide our pupils with the opportunity to experience feelings of freedom, excitement and self-determination that we may take for granted but that are often missing in their everyday lives.

The story of The Lion King shares many parallels with the lives of their pupils; a desire for independence and status; being respected by others and embracing all individuals as worthy and able to contribute. A spokesperson for the school comments, "We were so excited to hear that the Lion King production is coming to the Playhouse and felt that this would be a wonderful, memorable experience for our children and young people to have.

"Due to the nature of our children and young people’s needs, the combination of bold colourful costumes, engaging familiar songs, rhythm and movement and powerful characters makes for a very special, engaging and motivating experience for all involved. Providing the opportunity for them to experience an interactive workshop would allow them the chance to explore the aspects of the show at a sensory and tactile level."

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Theatre Director Colin Marr of the Playhouse adds, "We are excited to partner with Disney to deliver Lion King education workshops right in the heart of our local community in Leith.

"Together we hope to engage and empower the next generation. Creative learning and community partnerships are a key focus the Playhouse in 2020."

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