Bounce was founded in 2006 around a kitchen table. We were a company of three women who wanted to make work with children and young people. In our early years, we put on The Tempest for local schools, ran workshops and found our feet a little. We took a group of young people to work with a youth theatre in Sweden, followed by small scale productions of existing scripts in college theatres.
We emerged during a time when investment was high in the Extended Schools agenda & external provision in schools. In 2007, a chance encounter with the Extended Schools Coordinator in Central Hounslow was our awakening as a company. Both ambitious and passionate about the arts, we partnered to turn our after school clubs across Central Hounslow into a Community Youth Theatre. In two years over 150 children and young people took part in workshops and productions ranging from Alice in Wonderland to The Wizard of Oz.
As Extended Schools was removed under the coalition government, we were fortunate to receive a commission from the Arts Council to keep working in Hounslow. We ran Arts projects for Everyone across the Beavers Estate on Thursdays. A combined arts programme for children, young people, families and the community created over 500 hundred opportunities for participation.
We formed our second youth theatre in the estate community room, StreetCombo – who fused an interest in theatre with dance. The young people were instrumental in the direction of their group. They regularly gave presentations about the group to suppliers of the estate to raise money. They found ways to fundraise for their own hoodies. Their early beginnings included making classic tales such as Beauty and the Beast before they went on to perform twice at the National Theatre Connections Festival. They owned the stage at the Rose Theatre + later Soho Theatre.
Around this time, we received one of our first grants from the National Heritage Fund. Poppy Stories was an intergenerational project in Kingston capturing war memories from older residents. A group of young people created small-scale performances across the borough, which included spending 24 hours in Kingston Museum devising all sorts of wild, bleary eyed work. We made a small scale touring piece of work – The Finest Hour. Created completely out of transcripts and research, the story of a girl growing up with her mother during the war played out with a pop up Anderson shelter across schools.
In 2012, we undertook a commission to deliver an intergenerational project in Hounslow to mark the Olympics. 100 Hounslow residents contributed tiny tales of friendship that were weaved into an original story about a boy travelling the world to find his nan. Our lovely cast ranged from 8-80 in age. The production was a catalyst to bring all groups together as one. We ran four classes and bought 80 children and young people together in four hours to the then disused Paul Robeson Theatre every week. The groups produced countless projects. We even made the impossible possible and Peter Pan did fly!
In the same year, we were fortunate to be commissioned by Campaign! to celebrate the ParaOlympics. We were thrilled to collaborate with children at the Shooting Star Hospice to make Inside my Imagination. The performance bought together original stories made with a child at the hospice. Each acknowledged and celebrated the depths and multiple layers of communication existing within the building. Professionally performed at Hampton Hill Playhouse for the pure joy of the children and their families.
In 2013, the young people in Hounslow asked to produce their own festival. Handmade in Hounslow was a week of performances and meet ups for young people. DNA was a headline performance. Along with a new version of Inside my Imagination made with local children and the Shooting Star. The intention being that the methods learnt at the hospice would inform everyone’s theatre making.
Shortly after we ran our first project with Anstee Bridge, an alternative education programme for young people with emotional and social needs. Trench Stories was a reflection on how poetry and music helped soldiers cope during the Great War.
At the end of 2014, the young people in Hounslow made their final show at the Paul Robeson Theatre. The space was put under new management. We found ourselves a new home at Heatham House. The group undertook a year-long project into the heritage of urban art. Working across London to identify how street art form creates cultural and geographical identities, they put together a two-week interdisciplinary exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.
We had become resident at Anstee Bridge by the end of the project. We led on a number of heritage projects including 60 years of Fashion with the Museum of London and Our Health Your Hands with the National Archives. Anstee Bridge offered us a chance to return to our roots and make some new theatre. After Trench Stories, we refined our process and decided to not put the young people on stage. Theatre is a beautiful art form but you take it for what you see on the night. The young people at Anstee often do not like theatre or have never been to it. In one instance one said it was ‘moist’. Together we have redefined it as a process for them to talk and for us to listen. We then make new and original work and they see their ideas play out in action. 2015 saw Fried Chicken tackle gang culture and male identity. 2017 led to Emoji, tackling social media, bullying and female friendships. SCAR was made in 2019, a response to thinking about how we manage our physical and emotional health in intense circumstances.
All of this has taken place amid countless other workshops, projects and productions. We’ve worked with 1000s of young people for over a decade and creating hundred of thousands of opportunities for participants. Over time, our methods have been refined. Our style has matured in response to what we have learnt from our participants and about ourselves.
We remain a company led by women. We are still often working around kitchen tables, now as mothers. This allows us both the flexibility to work and to remain true to our initial vision. We make theatre outside of traditional spaces. Spaces where people can get to and are comfortable to be in. We always make the work with our participants. It is still a happy marriage of voices shaped by artistic structures that capture those thoughts. In doing so, we all find new ways to see the world and our potential within it.