Brentwood School joins forces with homeless charity

Students are helping the Chess Homeless charity's bid to engage the younger generation as they look to open doors for homeless people in Essex

Chess Homeless charity has received welcome help from Brentwood School students as their bid to engage the younger generation in their work.

The young drama students’ depictions of life on the streets have sparked an important partnership between the school and the Chelmsford-based charity, which will be used to encourage other youngsters to get involved.

The charity collaboration follows a School production entitled Change Please, an immersive performance which took the audience on an emotional promenade around the cold and dark campus, and laid bare the plight of homeless people.

Each scene had been researched by the students and included personal accounts from those who live on the streets, alongside the volunteers and agencies trying to effect change. So powerful were their portrayals that some audience members were reduced to tears.

A generous retiring collection, together with the profits from ticket sales, ensured £912 was raised for Chess Homeless. Audience and cast members also collected various items such as clothing, toiletries and food, which were donated to the charity.

Chess Homeless fundraiser, Miss Lindsay Hurrell, visited the School’s drama department to watch students perform, answer their questions about the charity and the issue of homelessness, and present a short film about one of their service users.

Homelessness can happen to anyone,” she said. “We need to start to engage with this generation and reach out to senior schools, colleges and universities, and these students can help us to achieve this.”

Drama teacher Mrs Lynsey Cleaves, who organised the link-up with Chess, said: “We will be helping to devise a pilot scheme, including promotional videos, outreach workshops and assemblies, for the Chess charity. We see this as the beginning of a hugely important partnership.”

Drama teacher, Miss Rachel Worth, who conceived the idea for the original production Change Please, said: “The students’ participation in this experience has truly allowed them to appreciate the impact that live theatre can have on members of society, to change the way people think.”

Although he had learnt a lot about the hardships facing homeless people, Fifth Year pupil Maximilien Tomlinson said it wasn’t until he started to perform that he could really appreciate their lives. “Since my character was a street performer, we performed outside for only one and a half hours in the cold and I could not feel my fingers. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to spend an entire day outside in the cold…”

Fellow Fifth Year student, Grace Cannell, said: “I have learnt that homelessness could happen to any of us by just having one bad day, or making one bad choice. I have compassion for people living on the street. They just need a chance of a new life which we can help them to find, if we give them the chance. We should not judge homeless people as we do not know the reasons why they are sleeping rough.”