Alcohol Interactive gets down to serious business in East Lothian schools
As part of their final year Community Theatre project, two drama students developed an interactive project in a bid to raise awareness of alcohol issues amongst East Lothian primary school children.
The genesis of the project grew out of QMU's Alcohol Research Group - an interdisciplinary group made up of academics from a variety of subject specialisms. Academics from both health and drama came up with the idea of a student project and in response, students Kimberly Bale and Kirsty Hunt set up a theatre company called ‘Alcohol Interactive’. The aim of the alcohol awareness drama project was to provide children with a real life type experience of witnessing the social effects of alcohol and dealing with peer pressure. The students developed the interactive drama programme and delivered the project to seven East Lothian primary schools over a 10-week period, reaching in excess of 300 school children.
The students used games, role play and interactive questions, answers and discussion sessions to help children understand why people drink, as well as the negative impact that drinking to excess can have on individuals and others around them.
Kimberly and Kirsty encouraged the children to develop their own dramas to depict specific situations. With some of the sessions taking place in the assembly hall, children had the freedom of space to engage in fun, physical role play. The students used scenarios, such as adults drinking at a dinner party, a family enjoying alcohol at a wedding, teenagers getting drunk in the park, and drinking games getting out of hand at a night club, to depict socially acceptable drinking as well as the consequences of drinking too much.
Kimberly explained: “We used different methods to encourage children to feedback their understanding of alcohol while also helping them to learn about what is socially acceptable and what behaviours can lead to negative situations. The children were also able to explore techniques they could use when dealing with peer pressure.”
Kirsty said: “One of the most important messages we tried to get across is that when the children get older they can choose to drink or not to drink and they don’t have to go with the crowd. We encouraged them to be strong with their own choice, be honest about why they maybe didn’t want to drink, and if peer pressure became too much they could remove themselves from the situation or let a responsible person know that they were being pressurised.”
The project was assisted by Lesley Smith, Principal Arts Officer at the Brunton Theatre, East Lothian and assessed by Irvine Allan, Lecturer in Drama at QMU. Irvine said: “This is an excellent example of the social relevance of Queen Margaret University’s community drama work. The project was delivered in a simple but effective way. The students were very skilled at encouraging pupils to engage in the work and creating the opportunity for open discussion.”
He concluded: “The feedback from participating schools was excellent with teachers very clearly seeing the benefits of the project. I am extremely proud of what these two students have achieved and even since graduating they have continued to work with QMU’s Alcohol Research Group to identify how they can further develop this important project for the benefit of the local community and ultimately society as a whole.”
Since their graduation, Kimberly has been working at an after school club and Kirsty is involved with Perth’s Youth Theatre Director Scheme. The pair has also secured funding to repeat the Alcohol Interactive workshops in schools across East Lothian and hope to gain additional funding to roll the workshops out to 40 schools throughout Scotland.
Depute Provost Roger Knox, who chairs the Brunton Theatre Trust, commented: “This is yet another excellent example of the flourishing co-operation between the Theatre and the University. We are delighted to support the students and encourage them to develop the University's relationship with the local community. The success of their efforts in this particular topic is of immense benefit, not only to their own professional and academic work, but also to the health and well being of the pupil population. Thanks to initiatives like these, I have little doubt that the message about alcohol misuse is getting through to youngsters and we look forward to this type of activity growing and expanding to cover the whole county and beyond.”
For further information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org