An acclaimed playwright has been working with Tottenham teenagers as part of a major festival’s involvement in our area.

Inua Ellam’s the Barber Shop Chronicles enjoyed two sell-out runs at the National Theatre before embarking on a world tour.

The playwright was approached by LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) to run a week-long workshop at the Bruce Grove Youth Centre and host a night for locals in which he would speak about his work and exchange ideas.

“LIFT did a call out for youngsters aged 16 to 25 and I’ve enjoyed working with them and seeing just how much respect they have for each other and how supportive they’ve been,” said Inua. “We’ve been having unfiltered conversations about everything from places they’ve travelled to and turning points in their lives to the meaning of their names. At the moment I’m just witnessing and listening and asking questions and we’ll see what falls out.”

The plan now is for Inua to head off with his head full of stories and ideas and, possibly, turn them into a play.

For the last few years LIFT has played an active role in our area – working closely with a group of youngsters on projects and commissioning some of the most exciting creatives in the country to launch shows in Tottenham.

The youngsters – called Tottenham Uplifters – are students from the Duke’s Aldridge Academy and The Vale School who, since 2014, have been working with leading practitioners hand-picked by LIFT to give them an introduction to the creative arts.

“We’ve been to different places and different theatres and met many different people,” said one of them, Reuben Johnson, from Duke’s Aldridge Academy. “It’s been great for my confidence.”

Some of the Uplifters were present at an evening event held over half-term at the Bruce Grove Youth Centre called Tottenham Artist Hangout. Anyone who wanted to could drop in for the event hosted by LIFT to talk to Inua about his writing and storytelling techniques.

“The Hangout is also an opportunity for Tottenham artists to get together and network,” said Carolyn Forsyth, LIFT’s senior producer. “It’s a regular thing we do and this is the first time it’s taken place in the Bruce Grove Youth Centre. Part of the reason LIFT has been so successful in Tottenham is that it’s not all about outcomes – it’s about making connections and seeing what happens.”

“We came here five years ago and the Tottenham experience since then has been incredible,” said Kris Nelson, LIFT’s artistic director. “With the local youngsters, artists and groups we’ve been able to realise some really exciting projects. I’m now involved in planning the 2020 festival which will feature a series of exciting Tottenham projects including work from the Uplifters.”

Keep in touch with what’s planned for Tottenham at: www.liftfestival.com (external link)