10 years of creativity: Brad’s highlights as Artistic Director

Brad McCormick sits with two actors Liam Scarth and Bridget Marumo standing either side. They are in front of primary school children sitting at desks.

This month, we’re marking a significant milestone as our artistic director, Brad, reaches his 10-year anniversary with the charity. From captivating theatre-based workshops in primary schools, delving into topics like the English Civil War and chemistry, to directing thought-provoking productions like ‘Woven Bones’ and ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’ for Cap-a-Pie, as well as Kitchen Zoo’s enthralling shows ‘The Three Bears’ and ‘Wolf’ at Northern Stage, Brad’s journey has been nothing short of inspiring.

To celebrate Brad’s 10-year anniversary, we’ve asked him to share 10 standout moments from the past decade. Join us as we take a trip down memory lane and uncover the stories behind the scenes, where creativity met passion and community engagement thrived.

  1. Performing Research was our flagship programme that encouraged researchers to think about using theatre as a way to engage the public and create impact. We engaged dozens of researchers over 4 years, many of whom we still work with today, and helped to establish us as a leader in creative industry and higher education partnerships.
  2. The Town Meeting was my first production with Cap-a-Pie. A fully immersive and interactive show about town planning, I played Benjamin Rennold, a planner brought into help a small town make a big decision. It was made in collaboration with an academic who was conducting research as the show was happening. Benjamin’s approach sparked intense debate and discussion among the participants, highlighting the complexities of town planning decisions. 
  3. For many years we worked with Barbara Priestman Academy, a secondary school in Sunderland for young people with Autism and access requirements for learning. In 2016, we produced a show What are they like? as part of the NT Connections programme and were selected to perform the show at the National Theatre. The young people were amazing, and it was a very special to be there.
  4. The Important Man is another show we’re really proud of. Made during the centenary of the First World War, it focused on the massive rise of fortune telling and spiritualism at that time. It was incredibly fun to create and perform and was our first time working with our now frequent collaborator, Scottish writer and director Laura Lindow.
  5. In so many ways the pandemic was an incredibly difficult time, but it did force us to change the way that we worked so we could still deliver projects to our participants. Remotely putting together an entire workshop series on the English Civil War including specially made films, audio clips and professionally designed slides and lesson plans was tricky, but we were incredibly proud of the result. Teachers delivered the workshops by themselves, to hundreds of Key Stage 2 students, and gave us great feedback on the quality of the resources, something we’ve tried to replicate in our work since then.
  6. Climate Change Catastrophe! was a show that we’d wanted to make for some time as everyone here at Cap-a-Pie is interested in environmental sustainability. This was also primarily made during the pandemic – originally conceived as a live theatre show, we filmed it instead and now have a lasting resource that was shown at COP26 in Glasgow and is still being used by us in the classroom. 
  7. The way we made Climate Change Catastrophewas by asking young people to help us devise and direct the show with professional actors and designers bringing those ideas to life. This way of working means the young people have agency and understand that they’re being listened to. Their imaginations also really bring the show to life. We’ve continued this way of working in our latest show (coming soon) The Vanishing Act and will probably keep doing this.
  8. Our work in schools has become the backbone of what we do. Having built up years of experience it means we’re working much more effectively than before, knowing how we can best get young people engaged in topics through drama, creativity and Philosophy 4 Children (an approach to teaching to help children learn by asking questions and exploring ideas). I still think about a workshop I did 10 years ago when I tried to get some Year 2 students to do a very complicated warm-up game – it very quickly fell flat and I’m now much more in tune with what different year groups can access.
  9. We really treasure the relationships we have with our local schools, some of which we’ve been working with for many years. They give us honest feedback about what we do, support our organisational development and champion our work to others. We wouldn’t be where we are now without them.
  10. As well as using theatre in what we do, philosophy is a big part of the work. It allows children to develop their speaking and listening skills, and we’re always delighted by their powers of reasoning. In a recent workshop which deals with our relationship to nature, there’s an exercise called ‘good farm/bad farm’ where students are shown possible farms (such as a T-Rex farm or a Magic Wand farm) and they have to say whether it would be ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In the first option, a cow farm, one student felt it would be a bad farm “because cows don’t listen”. It’s hard to argue with that.

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