News: West Side Story & leading youth conflict charity in partnership

Friday 30 August 2013 by Carmel Smith

'West Side Story' cast members in Leap Confronting Conflict workshop. Photo: Bettina Strenske

Leap Confronting Conflict is a London based organisation, which works with young people, aiming to prevent the escalation of everyday conflicts into destructive behaviour and violence. One of its flagship programmes, Quarrel Shop enables partipants to gain a greater awareness of themselves in conflict and trains them to become peer facilitators, so they can in turn deliver conflict resolution workshops to other young people.

In an inspired partnership, members of the cast of West Side Story (at Sadler’s Wells until 22 September), took part in a workshop with members of Leap’s Quarrel group this week. Gang warfare is at the heart of the acclaimed musical, based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and members of the cast’s rival gangs – the Jets and the Sharks – performed excerpts from the ‘Prologue’ and ‘Rumble’ scenes, before exploring the issues of gangs and conflict within the show and discussing parallels and differences within the young peoples own lives in London.

The 90-minute workshop took place on Thursday (29 August) at the Three Mills Studios in East London, and was led by West Side Story’s Director and Choreographer Joey McKneely, alongside two of Leap’s Young Trainers Kareem Maizi and Natasha Aldonza. Both Kareem and Natasha have progressed through Leap’s conflict resolution programmes to become paid freelance trainers delivering workshops to other young people and adults, using their own experiences of gang activity and racial conflict to support more young people to transform their lives.

The workshop was so successful that there are now plans to roll out further similar outreach workshops whilst the musical tours the UK during the coming year.

West Side Story is at Sadler’s Wells until 22 September and then embarks on a UK wide tour, running until June 2014.
Full schedule: westsidestorytheshow.co.uk

More on Leap Confronting Conflict

Photos: Bettina Strenske

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