West Side Story partners youth charity Leap - Confronting Conflict

The producers of WEST SIDE STORY have partnered with the youth charity Leap Confronting Conflict, to run a workshop together for young Londoners exploring the musical’s gang and race related conflict issues. 

The 90-minute workshop at the Three Mills Studios in East London where the UK cast are currently rehearsing took place yesterday on the 29th August, and was led by WEST SIDE STORY’s Director and Choreographer Joey McKneely and UK Tour cast members including the Jet boys and the Shark boys. They worked 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.  

A group of young people from Leap’s flagship Quarrel Shop programme formed the audience. This programme enables them to gain greater awareness of themselves in conflict and trains them to become peer facilitators so they can deliver conflict resolution workshops to other young people.

The participants watched the WEST SIDE STORY cast perform excerpts from the “Prologue” and “Rumble” scenes, before exploring the issues of gangs and conflict within the show and discussing parallels and differences within their own lives in London. The young people involved asked some searching questions of the young cast too, adding to their rehearsal process!

Following the success of the workshop, there are now plans to roll out further similar outreach workshops whilst the musical tours the country during the coming year.