John Lyon’s Charity first became involved with the Primary Shakespeare Company (PSC) in 2008 when a grant of £4,000 was awarded to Holy Trinity & St Silas Primary School to help extend its successful Shakespeare project to seven Camden primary schools. Its popularity amongst these new schools convinced the Charity that this way of working would be embraced elsewhere, so when Holy Trinity & St Silas requested further funding to repeat the initiative, the Charity suggested that they encourage schools from the neighbouring boroughs of Barnet, Brent and Westminster to sign up.
Fast forward nine years and PSC has become an independent registered charity that worked with 48 classes in 40 primary schools across eight London boroughs in 2017. Indeed, over the past three years, it has worked with 5,500 school children within the Charity’s Beneficial Area. Its steady growth and continued development is testament to the project’s relevance in today’s primary school curriculum. Whilst being heavily subsidised financially, the commitment required from participating schools is still significant in terms of money, time and effort. What PSC offers is high quality and value for money, helping schools meet specific outcomes for their pupils. The value of this is demonstrated in a 90% year-on-year retention rate amongst participating schools.
Harrow School has a long association with Shakespeare; Ronald Watkins, a drama teacher at Harrow during the 20th century, was passionate about the way Shakespeare’s plays should be performed and he transformed Harrow’s Speech Room into an approximation of the Elizabethan stage. When PSC were seeking to expand into a new borough in 2015, Harrow School enthusiastically embraced the initiative, embarking on fundraising events to support the local participating primary schools, supporting them in their performances and hosting the year-end Shakespeare Festival in the Ryan Theatre. This collaboration between state primary schools and Harrow School has been very positive and the School’s commitment to hosting the festival continues. The School is also developing new ways that Harrow boys can become more directly involved in the project.