Ibrahim’s Story

Student Ibrahim 16, Morpeth School, London explains how taking part in Shakespeare Schools Festival has empowered him to make positive life choices

“Earlier this year, I spoke at an event showcasing the work of Shakespeare Schools Foundation at Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster. I was asked to explain why I thought Shakespeare Schools Festival was important for young people. My over-riding question was this: ‘Why wouldn’t you give young people this opportunity?’

Before I performed Shakespeare, I wasn’t confident in myself. I would hide in my shell, pretending to be who I wasn’t. I tried to please other people by doing dumb things – I’d be the kid who ate an ant to try and impress everybody. I felt like I was drawn to negativity. At school, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. That led to hanging out with negative people outside of school as well. When people started getting into fights and ending up in hospital I thought, ‘That’s not nice. I don’t want to be a part of that’.

Shakespeare offered a way out. My first experience of performing Shakespeare was when I played the part of in Macbeth back in November 2016. Last year, I played Brutus in Julius Caesar. Performing Shakespeare is so much more meaningful than simply reading it out in class. I feel like I am inhabiting the character. All the time I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to speak these words in a way that shows my character’s emotions? How am I going to relate to the other characters on stage?’ 

Acting invites you to stand back and analyse your own emotions and responses. I feel like I have the confidence to do that now, rather than masking my insecurity. In order to play a role convincingly, you first have to understand yourself. 

One of the best things about putting on a Shakespeare play is working with other people. It’s a nice feeling creating something together, building a performance. A real bond develops between cast members. At our school, everyone is welcome to take part – the only criteria are a positive attitude and a willingness to invest. 

Drama presents unique opportunities to shine that other subjects don’t. For example, last year one of the members of the cast really struggled with behaviour. In the play, we found a way to channel all his boisterous energy. He played the part of Strato, Brutus’s servant. In the scene where Brutus dies, he screamed “No!” with such raw emotion it was incredible. It felt like he was in his element.

Some people say Shakespeare is challenging. I say, life in general is challenging. If you don’t give young people a challenge, how are they ever going to learn? Even if you find it difficult, even if you make a mistake, you’re always learning. All the big themes – death and love and conflict – are there. There’s no point hiding them from young people. We’re going to discover them anyway for ourselves, so you might as well give us the chance to think them through in a safe space. 

Taking part in Shakespeare has fuelled my creativity. In my spare time, I play guitar and write film scripts. Before, I used to think there was such a thing as ‘a creative person’ and I wasn’t one of them. Now, I have discovered that’s not the case. I’m much more ambitious. It’s got me to focus on what I want in life. I’ve decided I want to be a director – or else a drama teacher so I can give this amazing opportunity to other young people.”

Find out how Shakespeare Schools Festival is transforming more young lives at St Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Knowsley

96%
of teachers said that their students were resilient as a result of the Festival

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
95%
of teachers reported that their students were better able to empathise with each other

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
99%
of teachers said that their students increased in confidence

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
97%
of teachers agreed that their students were better at working together as a team

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
94%
of students are more likely to seek out new opportunities

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
More than
250,000
young people have taken part in the Festival

At our core is our Festival - the world’s largest youth drama festival.

About our impact

SSF is a cultural education charity that exists to instil curiosity and empathy, aspiration and self-esteem, literacy and teamwork - giving young people the confidence to see that all the world is their stage.

Learn more about us