In 2013, The Walking Theatre Company (TWTC) created the first ever ‘Canadian Walking Youth Theatre‘, made up of a wonderfully talented group of pupils from Powerview School, Manitoba.
The Canadian Walking Youth Theatre is made up of a diverse group of pupils from Powerview School in Manitoba, descended from Canadian First Nations (Cree, Ojibwe, Métis), and French, Irish and Scottish settlers.
The Canadian Walking Youth Theatre was formed as a part of a professional youth team of performers, to give the pupils of Powerview School, experience within the creative sector, and with working in the arts with a professional Scottish theatre company.
TWTC has successfully developed a working model to engage younger aspiring performers with practical working theatre experiences in an apprenticeship format. Our aim to to create projects that engage youth teams, working in a professional environment with a view to developing their skills, and shaping their understanding of the creative and cultural sectors, as creative professionals. Our youth work to date has led to young professionals undertaking vocational training and working in a variety of roles throughout the creative and cultural industries.
When Powerview School teacher, Nancy Kovachik, visited Scotland in 2010, she thought she was only going to take part in a fiddle workshop, hosted by Mairi Campbell, on the beautiful Western Isle of Lismore, Argyll. Quite literally as she got off the boat, she was whisked along to join the audience in a Walking Theatre Company show. TWTC were working with the first ‘walking youth’ team, the Lismore Walking Youth Theatre, and doing what they do best – entertaining!
Nancy was “utterly swept away by the experience”, and immediately after the show, she grabbed TWTC’s Artistic Director, Sadie Dixon-Spain, and asked, “Can you bring this amazing thing to Canada?!”; and so, an unusual transatlantic adventure began…
Specifically for the project with the Powerview Pupils, TWTC’s Artistic Director and in-house playwright, Sadie Dixon-Spain, created “Selkirk’s New Nation” – a brand new, original work, exploring the lives of the displaced Highlanders who settled in Canada in the 1800s.
“Selkirk’s New Nation”
In 1811, an intrepid group of Highlanders struck out for the New World from the West Coast of Scotland, as part of Lord Selkirk’s vision to enable the displaced people of Scotland, and in the following years, wave after wave of Highlanders crossed the Atlantic. In the Red River territory, battling between the Hudson Bay people, the Nor-Westers and the Métis people, the Highlanders faced struggle, conflict, and a battle for identity.”
Our Canadian Adventure!
In May 2013, Sadie travelled to Manitoba along with fellow TWTC Artistic Director and Core Company Actor, Liam Calgie, to work with the pupils, rehearse and perform the play in the community of Pine Falls-Powerview, with plans for the students to return to Scotland later in the year. They formed the first Canadian Walking Youth Theatre, and performed ‘”Selkirk’s New Nation” four times during one very hectic and hugely fun weekend!
While “Selkirk’s New Nation” was written by TWTC’s very own Sadie Dixon-Spain, it was shaped by the Powerview School pupils’ own heritage and cultural references.
The play explores the impact of Lord Selkirk’s ‘Scots’ Settlers upon Canada, its First Nations and particularly the Métis, whose status has only recently been affirmed by the Canadian Government through its recognition of the 1870 land treaty. This timely intersection between current events and the story of how those events began, has occurred only through the chance encounter of Sadie and Nancy on the Isle of Lismore in 2010!
For hundreds of years, the Métis people, those with European and First Nation heritage, have been a ‘hidden people’ without land, or identity, lost like the generations of cleared Highlanders, however, like Selkirk’s people, they have found their own way’. 2013 has been an extraordinary year politically for this First Nation because the Canadian Government finally honoured the 1870 Land Treaty and given the Métis First Nation status.
Through the inspirational work of staff, pupils, and the community of Powerview, over $100,000 Canadian dollars was raised to enable to Youth Team to come to Scotland, and perform the play at The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, and on the Isle of Lismore in June 2013.
The Canadian Walking Youth Theatre were able to bring their story full circle through their performances in Scotland, along with actors from The Walking Theatre Company.