Students set for the European stage in once in a lifetime chance

Tickets are now available to purchase for performances of Ocho in June and July.

Ocho will be performed at Archbishop Sentamu Academy from 27th to 30th June, at Kardomah94 in Hull city centre on July 4th , Howden Shire Hall on July 5th and East Riding Theatre in Beverley on July 6th and 7th, before performing in Barcelona on July 11th.

Tickets can be purchased from East Riding Theatre and Howden Shire Hall. For the performance at Archbishop Sentamu Academy, tickets can be purchase from the school.

A talented group of drama students at a Hull academy are being given a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform in a play which captures the city’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War.

Renowned playwright, director and actor Jane Thornton has scripted the play, Ocho – the Spanish word for eight – about the eight brave men from Hull who fought in the war. Only four returned.

Now, 18 drama students from Archbishop Sentamu Academy have been selected to perform the play at various venues across Hull and the East Riding before taking to the stage at the Institute of the Arts Barcelona, in Spain, this July.

Gary Hammond and Dave Rotheray from the Beautiful South are also writing music for the production free of charge, which will see the students work alongside the John Godber Company, which is sponsoring and supporting the project in partnership with Sewell Group.

Lucy Riley, Head of Drama at Archbishop Sentamu Academy, said: “We are so excited that our students have the opportunity to work on Ocho with the incredible Jane Thornton.

“When we set up our Spotlight Programme for our drama students in the Academy, we wanted to give our amazing students the chance to gain experience of the professional arts industry – and this project has far surpassed any expectations we had.

“This is largely down to the support of Jane Thornton and Gary Hammond, and the families of the eight men who have allowed us to tell their captivating and inspiring story.

“The students at Archbishop Sentamu are second to none and possess the most incredible talent and commitment. They have a thirst to prove themselves and a passion to achieve greatness.

“This project will allow their dreams to become more accessible to them and help them to see they can become a reality. To be able to take them to perform in Barcelona is something they will never ever forget. This project really could change lives.”

The students said they are grasping the opportunity with both hands and can’t wait to see where the journey takes them as they pursue their performance ambitions.

Year 12 Spotlight Performing Arts Scholar Beth Murrell, 16, said: “The chance Ocho is providing is something we never even dreamed of. We are getting to do what we love most on the biggest stage and, as aspiring actors, that’s all we have ever wanted.”

Fellow scholar Aleesha Neill, also 16, said: “Ocho will provide opportunities that many young people my age don’t receive. We are helping to bring back forgotten history while working with theatre professionals. It will be an amazing experience.”

Jane, who is married to playwright John Godber, said she has been overwhelmed by the support received for Ocho, with sponsorship from the Sewell Group, as well as other businesses and individuals such as Lord John Prescott and Unite the Union, who have recognised the potential.

She said: “Gary Hammond approached us with the story and was trying to raise awareness so a permanent memorial to the men could be built in Hull. Archbishop Sentamu then came forward with their Spotlight Programme and it seemed right to join the two together in a play.

“At a time when the arts are being cut in schools, it’s heart-warming that a school is saying ‘this is what we are good at, we want to celebrate it and support our students’. This project will help prepare the students to go in to the real world of the arts as they will have worked with professionals at every level including theatre technicians, marketing people and a professional set designer.”

“From an aspirational perspective, it’s massive, and the fact that businesses and individuals can see that and want to support it is fantastic.

“It’s about starting something in Hull that’s just the beginning, which will change these students’ lives and help them on their way.”

Alongside sponsorship, six Sewell Group staff – Mel Hutchinson, Helen Lever, Carol Harris, Louise Alexander, Ellie Holder-Bolton and Lucas Meagor – have volunteered to work alongside Jane and the John Godber Company to develop the play while working with the students.

From helping to research family history and sourcing the set and costumes, to graphics, script writing and promoting, they will immerse themselves in the creation of the play.

The team have already met with the students and also two relatives of those who fought in the war, which began in 1936 and ended in 1939.

Mel Hutchinson, Document Controller at Sewell Group, volunteered after her daughter, Ffion, starred as an extra in the film Dad’s Army and they share an interest in theatre and drama.

She said: “I wanted to volunteer to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone, and I felt this was my once in a lifetime opportunity.

“This opportunity and the potential information I could learn will be passed onto my daughter, and hopefully leave her with a cultural legacy from Hull City of Culture 2017.

“When we met the students we’ll be working with, we got to know a little more about them, as well as finding out about those involved in the Spanish Civil War from their relatives. It was quite emotional.

“I also went to watch a recent Archbishop Sentamu Academy production with Ffion and I want to see how the students progress. They are really keen and eager.

“It will be interesting to see what influence Jane has on them how they are able flourish.”