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Monday, 23 July 2012 12:17

The Nature of the Arts in Human Development

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Two years ago, Calum, a 13 year old boy on the autistic spectrum would not have been walking along the River Ness making his way to the theatre to attend an animation class. He would not have had the confidence, the trust or the opportunity. The same could be said of Laura, a 21 year old student, who at age 9 lost her mother to cancer. The grief that followed led to destructive behaviour, a decrease in her self esteem and an eventual suspension from school. It was only when they took advantage of creative opportunities offered by their local theatre, Eden Court, that their confidence increased and their artistic passions were fuelled and developed.

ECFilming1Eden Court is the Theatre for the Highlands and Islands. We present a wide and varied programme of music, drama, dance, comedy, and film, and offer a diverse range of arts education opportunities. Our work is supported through revenue funding from Creative Scotland and the Highland Council.

Eden Court CREATIVE runs the Arts Education Department, the largest of any UK theatre. Calum and Laura attend some of the 60 classes which CREATIVE run each week in Inverness. Alongside this we have a team of 18 Drama, Dance, Digital Media and Additional Needs specialists who deliver workshops across the Highlands. Our team is unique in that they live within their communities and therefore create a special connection between the people and the work, ensuring that what is delivered is developed with the creative needs of the community in mind.

ECDance1aIn 2011 we saw over 100,000 attendances at our arts education events, across all ages and abilities. Eden Court CREATIVE’s work ranges from delivering drama sessions to support the Curriculum for Excellence in schools, to creating an all-singing, all-dancing site specific performance for an audience of thousands. Whatever the work requested of us, it is always unique, inventive and creative, serving to enthuse and offer opportunities for the people of the Highlands like Calum and Laura, to develop their artistic skills and to bring creativity into their lives.

For Calum, the film classes he has been attending for the last two years have served as an outlet for his huge creative talent. The support of Eden Court’s specialist tutors has allowed him to thrive, both artistically and personally. All our classes are designed to be accessible to all ages and abilities and we actively encourage participants with additional needs to attend mainstream classes. As facilitators we feel this creates a more positive learning environment and allows people like Calum to be treated in the same way as everybody else, therefore aiding his social development. Eden Court’s Digital Media classes were a great starting point for Calum as the class sizes are kept small, which is a less threatening environment for the pupil and also allows the tutor to dedicate more time to each participant. The tutors are also skilled at engaging participants at a level they feel comfortable with, encouraging and developing their individual talents, such as Calum’s passion for creating plasticine models and his intriguing ability to remember detail. The fact the tutors were aware of, but didn’t make a point of, Calum’s autism allowed him to be challenged in a good way. He has been able to use the sessions to work on his school targets of expressing himself with words and gesture and judging expression. He has made friends with his fellow participants, and is now able to make his own way to classes, something unimaginable two years ago.

ECDance2aWhen Laura’s teachers at school noticed the positive effect Laura’s engagement with dance was having on her, they encouraged her to work towards a formal qualification. Eden Court runs Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) courses in Higher Drama, Higher Dance and Intermediate 2 Drama, subjects not offered routinely in Highland schools. These courses attract students from across the Highlands, some of whom travel over 200 miles each week to attend on weekends and holidays. 100% pass rates and high grades are testaments to the commitment of our students, for whom the opportunity to study drama and dance at a professional working theatre far outweighs the efforts they have to go to: a previous participant told us, ‘Not only is it a good qualification, but the personal confidence and skills it provides are invaluable whether you continue acting or not. Giving up your free time makes it matter more’.

For Laura taking her Higher Dance qualification at Eden Court gave her a direction in life and led to her making the choice to study dance as a career. Her story is yet another example of the great effects the arts can offer to a person’s development. It is six years since she first attended one of our workshops and Laura is now at Edinburgh’s Telford College studying a Dance Artist Higher National Diploma (HND). She is also a member of the National Youth Dance Company (ProjectY Ensemble). Laura relates these achievements directly to the arts education experiences she received through Eden Court, ‘I was given the opportunity to focus on something I enjoyed and express myself in a healthy environment’. Our dance facilitators are trained professionals whose in-depth knowledge and high quality technique serves to inspire participants like Laura to push themselves to achieve more. The Higher Dance course requires a lot of commitment and the tutors are experienced at delivering that message, but also encouraging pupils and making them aware of the opportunities that are there for them if they work hard.

ECFilming2Eden Court also seeks to support interested pupils by offering them work experience and further education advice, building trusted connections between pupil and tutor. It was these opportunities, assisting classes and events that helped Laura develop self-belief and gave her the confidence to apply to college to study dance. Laura still works with us as a dance assistant in her spare time, and says ‘It’s the constant encouragement and creative opportunities offered to me by Eden Court that have given me the belief, motivation and inspiration to be something!  I now want to give other people the opportunities and support that Eden Court gave me’.

To get involved visit and for more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Katyana Kozikowska

Katyana Kozikowska is the Creative Manager for Eden Court Theatre, she is responsible for Eden Court's arts education programme in-house and across the Highland region. Katyana also develops and delivers Eden Court CREATIVE's events programme, and creative consultancy for the business sector.

She trained in TV, Film and Theatre studies at Artts International, York and previously worked as the Eden Court Theatre Arts Worker for Skye and Lochalsh for 8 years developing the theatre arts within the community.

Katyana also has a strong interest in film and was a writer/director on the Digicult short film scheme in 2009, which seeks emerging talent in Scotland. She has experience as an actress and events manager and has also directed many theatre shows for the Isle of Skye Youth Theatre and Eden Court's winter show for under 5's each year.


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