Blog: Imaginate Teachers' Club at STEP Festival

1 July 2024

Serena, Emily and Tanya in Gothenburg
Serena, Emily and Tanya in Gothenburg

In March 2024, as part of our Imaginate Teachers' Club, we took three teachers from Scotland to take part in Step International Dance Festival for Young Audiences in Gothenburg, Sweden.  This visit was part of an ongoing exchange with Step Festival who set up a teachers' club inspired by ours.  Step brought a group of 17 teachers and dance artists to the Children's Festival in May 2023 where they took part as delegates and met lots of our Teachers' Club members.

Three teachers were selected to take part in the exchange, Emily Bowerman (Tynecastle High School), Serena Jagpal (Pentland Primary School/Imaginate Board Member) and Tanya McLaughlin (Corstorphine Primary School/FST Producer Placement) who joined the Imaginate team from 6th-9th March 2024 to see performances, attend delegate events, meet up with teachers and get to know the Step team.  The Step programme, curated by a team of guest programmers including our Creative Development Director, Fiona Ferguson, included productions from Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and two productions from Scotland - Stuntman by SUPERFAN and Peekaboo Poncho by Alison Brown and Suzi Cunningham - so there were lots of interesting people to meet in Gothenburg.

Serena captured the trip in a short video, and Tanya and Emily share their experiences in a joint blog below.

Watch the video by Serena

Read the blog by Emily & Tanya

Download a PDF version of the blog

Day One

As we met in departures of Edinburgh Airport, we were fizzing with excitement and anticipation. As teachers it can be difficult to schedule toilet breaks during the school week, never mind attend an overseas festival to watch and discuss performances for young audiences. As part of Imaginate Teachers' Club, we had previously met some teachers from Sweden at the Edinburgh International Children's Festival the year before, so we were thrilled to be able to attend STEP International Dance Festival 2024.

After a short journey on Norwegian Airlines, we landed in Oslo. Everything was very organised, which for us was a complete joy!  When trips happen, we are usually the ones leading the way. Hopping onto a train to Gothenburg, we arrived in time for bed. We knew we would need to be well rested for a full day of shows and conversation.

Day Two

We were up and out early, to our first taste of sunny Gothenburg. The venue for most of that day’s shows and presentations was House of Possibilities on the outskirts of the city. Arriving at the venue by public bus, we were greeted warmly by the STEP festival team, led by festival director Dag. We enjoyed a performance of ‘Stor Prick, Liten Prick’ by Memory Wax, a piece of work for ages 3-6. This was a vibrant and fun performance, combining dance, music and art. As a teacher it is always interesting to see how children react to live performances in more informal settings. There was a small group of nursery aged children, who were all enthralled!

We spent the rest of the day meeting people from across Sweden’s arts and performance network, who were keen to share their ideas on creating work for young people. It was also interesting to hear from ASSISTEJ Sweden and their aims for promoting theatre and dance for schools. It seems that in Sweden just like in Scotland, more support for the Arts is always needed. We finished our time in that venue with one last performance called ‘Svansen’ by Danskompaniet Spinn. We were greeted at the door by a large fluffy pink tail, and all the children seemed to really enjoy the fun and playful nature of this show aimed at 3-5 year olds.

Our final show of the day took place at a central and vibrant venue, Folkteateren. Here we saw some familiar faces on stage, as this was a performance of ‘Stuntman’ by Scottish company SUPERFAN. This was a sold-out show aimed at ages 14+, so a huge shift from what we had watched earlier in the day. They received a standing ovation, and the performance created a lot of conversation around masculinity and sexuality.

We finished the day at dinner with some teachers and members of the STEP team. We had a lot of time to chat and we learned a lot about how schools provide such rich cultural experiences for their pupils through funding by the Swedish Arts Council.

Left image: Stuntman by SUPERFAN / Right image: the cast of Svansen by Danskompaniet Spinn

Day Three

We took the tram to our first stop of the day. Our venue that morning was pretty special. Sandarnas Vård och Omsorgsboende, a beautiful nursing home, situated on the top floor of a modern building, is filled with light. We saw the most beautiful dance performance in a room with a 360 degree view of the city. This was a show by Ilke Teerlinck/tout petit, called ‘Shall We Together’. The residents of the nursing home were joined by the nursery children from the building next door. The mix of generations was so lovely to see, and the show itself was gentle but powerful. This was a real highlight for all of us.

The rest of our day was spent at Folkteateren. We had the opportunity to hear from teachers who were part of Teacher’s Theatre Club in Sweden, which had been inspired by the group of the same name in Scotland. The original Teacher’s Theatre Club had been led by Imaginate and the Edinburgh Fringe Society in 2019, and we had been part of that initial group. It was great to hear the opinions and ideas the Swedish teachers had and how we all have similar hopes that the arts can continue to be a valued mechanism for embedding learning.

Top image: Fiona from Imaginate with Ilke Teerlinck and Gold Mayanga
Bottom image: Set of Shall We Together by Ilke Teerlinck/tout petit

Day Four

On our final day, we were able to see two more shows before leaving for the airport. In the morning, we travelled out of the city by bus to Mölnlycke Kulturhus. In this beautiful community hub, we stood in the library in anticipation for the next performance. ‘Peekaboo Poncho’ is an immersive performance for 0-5 year olds from Suzi Cunningham / Alison Brown / Scottish Theatre Producers. Full of colour, music and movement it was mesmerising.

The last show we saw was an exciting and different experience. Set in another wonderful cultural building, Texttilmusset, ‘Untz Baby Untz’ by MYKA was an interactive dance performance for 6 months to 5-year-olds, combining techno and bass with a kids party atmosphere. By the end of it, we were all up dancing! This was a great way to end our experience of STEP Festival.

We came away feeling inspired and invigorated, with some new teacher connections and some interesting ideas for how dance performances can be made more accessible to our young people. Big thanks to the Imaginate team, Fiona and Anna, for leading the way and facilitating such a wonderful and well organised trip.

Left image: UNTZ BABY UNTZ by MYKA / Centre image: Peekaboo Poncho by Scottish Theatre Producers / Right image: Dag from Step Festival and Fiona from Imaginate