As we move into our new normal, we are launching a new programme of work around the concept of Care.
CARE is a reflection on our company and the things we value as we move into our 14th year. CARE is a call for compassion, action, resilience, and empathy. All necessary qualities for us individually and collectively as we move into our new normal. CARE is a hybrid programme of in-person, paper, and online work. Highlights include:
Since lockdown, we have created over 25,000 opportunities for children and young people to create.
In extraordinary and difficult circumstances, we have been grateful for the opportunity to work throughout lockdown. We’ve found our ‘new normal’ and adopted a hybrid model of work. This has included:
Lockdown saw the birth of StoryClub & Imagine… with the Grace Dear Trust. These magazines have been sent to collaborators who together will enable over 25,000 digital downloads of ideas for children and young people create at home. Alongside this, we have printed and distributed over 10,000 copies in paper form to groups and charities supporting families with limited digital access during lockdown.
We were delighted to run workshops in person over summer in Tooting. 12 young people formed a bubble with artists to make work about home.
Throughout lockdown, we have delivered Zoom workshops to children and young people. Together we made stories to make us laugh and developed short films and about the future we want to imagine. We also produced two podcast series about mental health and gender equality.
Our lockdown project Story Club reached a new milestone this week. We’ve distributed 10,000 copies of our mini magazine for children! Fittingly, we have marked it with a celebration issue. Children are invited to think about the positive things they’ll take from lockdown, write praise poetry and throw an awards ceremony in their living room.
Story Club was formed in the absence of being able to run our projects in person. We started at the beginning of lockdown with an intention to provide a platform for children to do the things they do in our clubs & projects, from home, without having to be online. They could play and make stories, which could be sent to us for an online story time.
At the same time, we reached out to food banks and charities to see if we could support their work. Within a couple of weeks Story Club was supplied to Reach Academy, Learn English at Home, Hounslow Foodbox, Salvation Army Feltham, Homestart, Kingston Foodbank, Refugee Action, Learn to Love to Read, Dons Local Action group, St Georges Hospital, SmallWood Primary School, and Roehampton Community Foodbox.
“Story Club is so thoughtfully curated. StoryClub booklets are distributed with food parcels for families with young children.We have quite a large number of repeat referrals so it’s great to have new editions to add.” Hounslow Community Foodbox.
As we mark our 10,000th printed issue, StoryClub recipients are invited to join our Big Holiday Project. A blend of digital workshops and interactions will sit alongside our non digital offer. It is free to participate in. Please email email@example.com for details
Everyone connected with Bounce was shocked and saddened by the killing of George Floyd by the American Police.
The global protests and attention given to Black Lives Matters is a stark reminder to do better. As a company, we have just entered into the process of writing a new business plan, refocusing our goals in light of Covid-19. This has involved using theory of change models and asked us to ask questions about what we can do better. Equitable access has always been at the heart of our business. However, we cannot ignore the structure of the systems we operate in. As we continue to write our plans for the future, we will be spending time ensuring all children and young people of all backgrounds see a future for themselves in the arts. We will be spending time ensuring our work gives all children and young people the tools to tell their stories and make the change they want to see in the world.
Our commitment to this is ongoing, we continue to learn, ask ourselves what we can do better. Our commitment to this is permanent.
Bounce is grateful to have received emergency support from Arts Council England. ThankstoNationalLotteryplayers, we are able to continue Story Club. Born in lockdown, Story Club is a weekly magazine blending creative writing, drama, play and visual art activities together. Each week is themed to inspire children to find new ways to play and make.
Arts Council Funding will allow us to continue to produce the project until the Autumn.
We will keep seven people in work whilst also investigating ways to engage digitally and in person. Story Club is also distributed in paper form to food banks, charities and schools supporting families without digital access.
Louise Pendry, director of Bounce Theatre said, “We feel so fortunate to have received this funding. It will ensure we have time to realign our plans in light of Covid-19. We are also able to extend our freelancers contracts whilst also developing a project we are all so proud of.”
A new digital art with The National Archives and Imperial War Museum
Bounce was delighted to receive support from the Heritage Fund for Things to do in a Blackout. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project aimed to explore the rise in crime during WW2 & the contemporary parallels. 100 young people were due to take over The National Archives in May 2020. Their work would have been translated into a professional touring production, reaching audiences who would not traditionally engage with heritage.
In light of Covid-19 both events have been cancelled. However, the company is delighted to have been given the opportunity to rework it. We are embarking on our first digital art project. An online resource will depict a fictional street during the blitz. When you click on a house, it will open up into a characters room. A family portrait will link to a radio drama. When you listen to the radio dramas in sequence you will get a narrative of the rise in crime.
The web resource will contain creative responses from young people and older people, the later engaged during lockdown. It will also blend our research with links to resources from The National Archives and Imperial War Museum.
Louise Pendry, director of Bounce Theatre said “We were delighted to receive the support thanks to National Lottery players. The project has taken on new significance due to recent events. Whilst we are sad to have lost the opportunity to see the work at the National Archives, it’s exciting to embark on our first digital art project. It will be a unique and significant legacy for schools and groups to use in the years ahead.”
March has been a month of big, dramatic, unexpected changes for this project.
The early part of the month involved collating and organising the research gathered over the previous months, and for my own part, a single workshop at Coombe Boys school. This group was the first I’d been involved in at the end of the school day. With early drafts of parts of the script for the performance now written, the students were divided into two groups – one dramatising the script’s adaptation of Wally Thompson and his gang’s escape, and the other, with me, exploring the character of Winston Churchill.
The script contained an extract from the speech that Churchill made upon becoming Prime Minister, and the aim of this exercise was to explore how Churchill could be portrayed in the play, and perhaps find a boy capable of embodying Churchill and performing this speech. Having been researching Churchill as part of getting further context for the project, I was ideally placed to do this.
One of the things I particularly noticed about Churchill, however, particularly when listening to recordings of his speeches, and watching the even rarer video recording, was something I’d forgotten about from my days studying him at school – that as a speaker, he was not in fact particularly charismatic and compelling. Although he was capable of particularly rousing and soaring rhetoric, if you listen to any speech of his, the delivery seems mismatched. Churchill’s intonation is sometimes counterintuitive – in terms of pitch, he often goes down rather than up at the end of a sentence, giving the impression of boredom or deflation. This seems quite at odds with the portrayal of him many of us are used to in television and film – no doubt because from a dramatic point of view, if the narrative at all refers around Churchill or those adjacent to him, having an actor do an entirely true-to-life impersonation would highlight this dissonance. Instead, I suspect, most actors probably do some study of Churchill’s voice, his mannerisms, his body language and history, and then deliver an approximation, with them adding a degree of flavour to the delivery of the already fiery rhetoric.
To do this, I initially tried to play them the section of the speech quoted in the script, and then experimented with telling each of the four students to just perform it with the same energy, and then with progressively more energy. However, it still felt as if even the performance intended to be the more inspiring rallying cry lacked the energy needed. I then asked them to experiment with performing the speech as if drunk, with some as only slightly inebriated, and others barely able to stand. This was based on my existing knowledge as Churchill as someone who liked a drink – and it occurred to me that his tone of voice could subtly reflect this.
Next, I asked the students to imagine delivering the speech not as Churchill himself – a figure of less interest and an uneasy point of reference, but for political figures they could more easily draw upon – I asked one to deliver the speech doing an impression of Boris Johnson, one of Donald Trump, and one as Martin Luther King – the last one in particular as King had come up in conversation with them as an inspiring speaker. This greatly improved their performances – particularly for the boy performing the speech as Johnson. In attempting to capture a little of the essence of Johnson, the student performed with more bombast and energy, yet still was sufficiently restrained to convey a degree of statesmanship that one might associate with Churchill. The student leaned over a chair to use as a mock lectern, and at the end of the session, along with the other students, delivered his interpretation of the speech. The Johnson version seemed to capture the energy needed, and whilst another boy was a very effective mimic of Donald Trump, and it was interesting and amusing to watch as an exercise, it became clear that our ideal young person to perform as Churchill in the final production was the boy using Boris Johnson as a point of reference.
However, events in the month later took over. The aforementioned workshop took place against a backdrop of growing fears about the outbreak of the Coronavirus. In the days leading up to it, we had all already seen the news and social media reports of people stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitiser, in anticipation of the virus and potential prolonged isolation. Whispers of potential school closures and mass gatherings had already begun, with the virus spreading across Europe, and the beginnings of contingency plans for Things To Do In A Blackout were being drawn up – understandably, potential school closures would impact any project that involve school students, as would any bans or official advice against mass gatherings.
In the days after the session, following government advice and information about the virus’s spread, Bounce Theatre took the executive decision to postpone the initially planned performance for May 2020 until the autumn. Workshops with young people will still be carrying on in some form, and practitioners are visually recording as much to do with the project as possible, so that whether or not they are in the final production, young people involved up to now will still have played a decisive role in devising Things To Do In A Blackout for later in the year.
When I started researching for this project, I highlighted some of the potential comparisons between the Second World War and the modern day, particularly when it came to the rise in crime. I talked about similar circumstances in falling numbers of police and resources, and how that may have had a particular effect on crime. I spoke of some who will have committed crime because of the visible opportunity, such as gangsters like Billy Hill, and how some did so because of desperation, trying to feed and provide for their family.
What I doubt anyone could have predicted at that time was that the coronavirus pandemic would create the need for rationing of goods. In the expectation of forced self-isolation, then as aforementioned, people began stockpiling loo roll, and due to fears about the virus, people panic-bought hand sanitiser. This made headline news, so much so that it even became a part of the session in the workshop we described – at one point we asked the students to improvise a scene in a supermarket of people vlogging and panic-buying.
One might question what this has to do with the rise in crime in WWII or the modern day – my workshop on Churchill was all about lending historical context to the rest of the piece, while the other half of the workshop was devising a scene featuring Wally Thompson and his gang. The stockpiling and panic-buying that has taken place so far is clearly not a crime. But the images I am sure we’ve all seen posted on social media of the consequences – of elderly people finding empty shelves when they get to do their own shopping – are nothing short of criminal. Indeed, many supermarkets have introduced independent rationing of goods, albeit nothing as extreme as the war, to try to prevent this.
One of the things that became particularly prevalent with actual crime in the Second World War was new legislation making criminals of ordinary folk, who were ignorant of the new legislation, or charged for reasons that in normal times may seem excessive. Whilst panic-buying has yet to be criminalised and rationing yet to be nationally imposed, perhaps what problems that have emerged since the outbreak of the crisis could be due to public ignorance, about the virus, about social isolation or similar. In times of crisis it is more important than ever that the government clearly communicates what it wants citizens to do.
But just as much, it’s important we as communities pull together, just as many did in the Second World War and thereafter. The quarantine and social distancing of many people has clear similarities with the Blackout in WWII, and further comparisons will no doubt crop up in the coming weeks and months, especially as potential restrictions on our movement become more stringent. But while this project won’t shy away from highlighting the multi-faceted story of crime in WWII, and will continue to shine a light on this often neglected side of the war, we hope that, when further comparisons between the war and today are made, that their are similar stories of community spirit, friendship, and solidarity.
That is the story we hope will be told, of the Things We Did – In A (Social) ‘Blackout’…
For nearly 14 years, Bounce has made theatrical content with children, young people, and families.
People have always been at the heart of what we do.
We’ve cherished the things that happen because of engagement in the arts, as much as the art itself. Children and young people have formed lasting friendships, developed confidence, come to terms with disabilities, faced down bullies, acknowledged mental health needs and so much more in a creative space.
The impact of Covid-19 has rippled through our small company. Clubs, workshops, projects, and productions have been cancelled. We have reworked them and reshaped them, with the support of our funders, to keep all of our freelancers in work. We are finding new ways to make our work. At the heart of it we are blending the spirit of play with the opportunities of technology.
Whether Bounce comes out the other side of Covid-19 is, for now and to some extent, in the hands of fate. In these unknown times, we have used the funding we had to make projects that allow the widest range of people, from isolated pregnant women through to people in their 80s, to engage creatively and connect with others. By doing this, we hope people will feel a tiny ripple of those small connections that grow in a creative space.
On first glance, one might think there isn’t much of a comparison between a rise in crime during wartime, often under the cover of night, during a period of 6 years, and any rise in crime during the modern day – specifically the last decade. Although the story of the spike in crime is less often told, coming, as it does, into contradiction with the powerful images WWII evokes of pulling together, wartime spirit and unity against a common enemy, it is not hard to imagine how, under the cover of the Blackout and Blitz, criminals may spot an opportunity.
This window of opportunity was exploited by one Billy Hill, “the dapper gangster from Seven Dials central London”, who predicted, correctly, that with the outbreak of war, young men, including police officers, would be off in their droves to join up, and this would lead to a weakened police force. The war required reservists – men who had recently been soldiers – to return to the army or navy, so that the *much reduced* British army could benefit from trained soldiers. Many police officers were reservists, and many more were young enough to serve in the armed forces, and so volunteered. Although the government sought to limit the inevitable reduction in police numbers that would result from this, by restricting numbers of who might volunteer, and older officers delaying their retirement or enlisting as special or reserve constables, this didn’t prevent the initial shortage – 3,000 reservists left the police force to serve their former military units towards the end of 1939, and another 16,500 would volunteer over the course of the war. Despite making up the numbers with reservists, older officers delaying retirement and more women police officers than ever before, there was, nonetheless, an initial fall in police numbers as a result, and even when the numbers had been made up, a police force that was in some parts older and in other parts less experienced will no doubt have weakened their effectiveness. This allowed criminals like Billy Hill to flourish through jewellery theft, and sales on the black market of whisky and sausage skins, due to rationing limiting the availability of such items.
There is an interesting comparison to be made here with the fall in police numbers in our country today. Since 2010, the Conservative government has cut 21,000 police officers, as part of its austerity programme. As Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Ed Balls, argued in 2010, when the initially planned cut of 20,000 police officers was first announced, this “is the biggest cut to our police for a century, outside of wartime.” That Balls made the distinction between peace and war time for police cuts is obviously important; it is understandable that police numbers will likely fall when sending people off to fight a war, especially if, as was the case in WWII, many police officers are ex-military.
What is remarkable about comparing the Second World War fall in police numbers with the fall in the modern day is that the latter was not to serve a greater aim of defence of the realm, but part of a more general policy of reduction in public spending. This proved controversial in many quarters – indeed, in the 2017 general election, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, specifically argued in the wake of two terrorist attacks that police cuts were in part to blame, and that ‘you can’t protect the public on the cheap’ – a particularly damaging attack on the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, who had been Home Secretary at the time of the coalition government that announced these cuts. May had also faced fierce criticism during the course of the campaign about police cuts – the Police Federation had warned her as Home Secretary on numerous occasions about the dangers of cutting police officers to the public’s safety, and she had responded by accusing the Police Federation of ‘crying wolf’.
Whatever the reason for police cuts, there is nonetheless a clear pattern in similar criminal activity between the Second World War and the last decade. Theft, or ‘looting’ and violence are problems that have never gone away, as are fraud (particularly aided in the modern day by the internet), murder, sexual assualt (which has taken on a much greater significance in today’s media in the wake of the #MeToo movement), and juveniledelinquency. All of these may have taken different forms in the Second World War than in the period from 2010 to the present day, but they all will have happened for similar reasons.
For some, the increase in these crimes will have been a case of opportunity, as with Billy Hill; although there was a few years’ delay between police cuts in the modern day and the subsequent overall rise in crime, unlike in the Second World War, then as former Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Kirkham argued in early 2018, the likely reason that fatal stabbings took place on New Year’s Eve 2017 in the suburbs was due to existing officers being diverted to the celebrations in inner London, because of the overall lack of officers. It could be argued that the lack of police officers in the suburbs, therefore, created the opportunity, whether or not the perpetrators knew of the shortage, for them to get away with such crimes. Kirkham has on more than one occasion placed the blame for rises in knife crime and other criminal activity at the doors of Theresa May’s government cuts to policing, and there is a notable comparison between the officers in the Second World War who delayed their retirement and the officers in the modern day who Kirkham argues have had ‘rare leave days’ cancelled and 12 hour shifts extended to 16 hours. For others, for example in the case of shoplifting, it could be out of desperation by people to feed their families. As with the Second World War and the rise in the black market, many offenders in this instance have had no prior criminal convictions, but changes in the law or material circumstance caused them to fall foul of it.
This analysis barely scratches the surface of potential comparisons between the rise in crime, and in specific types of criminality during WWII, and the rise in overall crime and specific types of crime since 2010. Naturally, the differing time, contexts, and the ways in which such crimes are committed and recorded will have a significant impact on these stories and statistics. But it raises important questions about criminality in general, and what lessons we can take from spikes in crime in the past to dealing with rises and spikes in crime today. To understand and tackle the proliferation of crime requires an understanding of its root causes – what leads people to commit crime? Is it ignorance of new legislation? Is it a greater degree of opportunity, often through an understaffed or overworked police force? A desperate attempt to feed one’s self and one’s family out of desperation, particularly when times are tough?
Through Things to Do In A Blackout, we hope to explore this further, and to examine how, to borrow a phrase, we can be both ‘tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime’.