Bunking School to March Against War

Posted by in April's Magazine

Vikki Jones meets some kids who feel wearing badges is not enough

As I settled myself into a chair in the corner of the studio at Out Of The Blue, Ruth Hollyman, a small lady with a big voice managed to silence a room full of teenagers with one booming command.



“Right, guuuuyyyys!”

Impressive, I thought, and scribbled it down next to my large shorthand note which read Chaos.

“This is Vikki and she’s from a magazine called The Leither. She’s writing an article about us and I want her to say we are a highly focussed theatre group.”

Highly… focussed… theatre… group, I wrote, remaining highly focussed on my notebook as the crowd of teenage eyes came to rest upon me. But before I knew it they had launched themselves into what Ruth called a warm-up, although in truth it seemed like something more of a cool-down.

The highly focussed theatre group of which I write goes by the name of Strange Town, a youth theatre company for 8-25 year olds. Their aim is to encourage young people, whatever their background or previous theatrical experience, to recognise and develop their creativity and artistic abilities.

But we’re not talking gratuitous opportunities for parents to cheer on their offspring whose appearance as the backend of the pantomime horse guarantees a future of superstardom. Strange Town endeavours to create high quality, daring and entertaining work, much of which consists of brand new writing. In fact, I visited at the beginning of the rehearsals for a piece so hot of the press that it was still undergoing rewrites.

The play is by Duncan Kidd, a one time member of the acclaimed Lyceum Youth Theatre, who has also written two other productions for Strange Town. Wearing Badges Is Not Enough is not, as the title might suggest, a drama about politically active teen nudists, but takes it’s inspiration from the recent resurgence of the debate surrounding the war in Iraq. Kidd tells the story of a group of Scottish teenagers who felt so strongly about the invasion, that back in 2003, they bunked off school to march against it.

Red wine and fags

Now, back in 2003 I was in my final year at university. The lecture theatres were overrun with talk of protests and we discussed international politics over thinly rolled, chain-smoked, cigarettes and cheap red wine. Aside from lamenting my fading youth, as I watched the real-life youth of today chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your fucking war,” I wondered what parts of this story these performers would remember. I also secretly wondered whether the protesting, red wine and fags story I just mentioned might make them think I was really cool.

But Robbie Small (17), Jess Innes (16) and Grace Sutherland (17) weren’t really the types to be impressed by stained teeth and smelly breath. Having barely hit double figures in 2003, they were aware of the Iraq invasion, but have no firm memories of the public resistance it met. For them, the Iraq Inquiry is confusing. They have none of the need of my generation to find a way, however staged, of holding those we considered responsible to account.

But this hasn’t stopped them having a sympathy for the cause – all of them say they are anti-war and, had they been politically conscious enough to make the decision at the time, would have wanted to get involved in the protests.

“Did they not lie about stuff?” said Grace.

“Lots of stuff,” I said.

“That just makes me want to protest even more,” said Jess. “I just stand up for what I believe in.”

And so, I leave with renewed faith in the youth of today. Even more so because these are not just card-carrying, middle class, Guardian reading lefties. Strange Town rightly prides itself on involving young people from 17 out of 23 state and private schools across the city, and its work is not afraid to show it. Take the line from this production which compares the relationship between a girl from Mary Erskine’s and a boy from Firrhill with Lady Chatterley’s Lover – now that’s a play I’d like to see…

Upcoming events

Wearing Badges is Not Enough, by Duncan Kidd, will be performed as part of The Lyceum’s Connect Festival of Youth Theatre that runs from 9-11 June.

The show will also feature on the Saturday night at Promote YT’s National Festival of Youth Theatre Summer Gathering. The event runs from 1-4 July at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, Fife.

Strange Town runs weekly classes at Out Of The Blue on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They will also be running summer schools for 8-14 year olds in July.


One response to “Bunking School to March Against War”

  1. Asma says:

    That is the good decision of Bunking School to March Against War. As we know that War is not the solution of any problem. War is the name of destory of anyone. Dailouge is the solution of any problem and every country must have such person who have good command in dailouge. I think both countries have lake of such people and now they talking about War. Any way, I want coursework assignments and very disappoint to read the news of war. We always try to away from war as we can do and obviously have a right to defense as well.

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