King’s College School, Wimbledon (KCS): Partnership Production
The heart-warming cross-sector drama production performed annually at King’s College School brings its pupils together with students from local secondary, primary and special needs schools. This spectacular show is held each year at the end of the Spring Term, this year’s production inspired by Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra involving over 150 pupils from Ricards Lodge High School, Coombe Boys’ and Girls’ Schools, St. Mark’s Academy, Perseid and Cricket Green special schools, Bond Primary School and King’s.
OPEN DOORS EVENING 2011-2014
King’s College School students in Years 10-13 were already mentoring younger pupils at many state-funded schools in the local area, and its Sixth Form works with Ricards Lodge and Coombe sixth forms to run an annual arts scheme for primary schools in the first week of the summer holidays. However, in 2010 it was decided by King’s Heads of Partnerships and Drama that a joint performance called the Open Doors Evening would enable King’s and its partner schools to collaborate on a more equal basis, uniting pupils of the same age who had already proved they could work together and bringing staff from different schools into contact, one student saying: “It’s really important bringing lots of schools together that might not have the opportunity to perform in front of so many different people and with so many different people”. 
Gradually growing in size from 2011 to 2014, the Open Doors Evening consisted of a series of short performances devised during weekly volunteering sessions in which older King’s College School students mentored younger pupils to create a section of the show or developed joint drama projects with pupils of the same age, the students working together for roughly 45 hours every year. The showcases included a play by Bond Primary School pupils and King’s students, joint performances by King’s and Ricards Lodge sixth formers and a Coombe-King’s choir, alongside a display of the art created at the two special needs schools, while the show’s receptions allowed head teachers, staff and parents to meet.
In 2014, after consultations with all the schools, it was decided that the Open Doors Evening would be replaced by a single partnership production directed by King’s College School's newly appointed director-in-residence, David Antrobus. Each episode is created through different projects supervised by a King’s teacher and his or her counterpart at one of the seven state-funded schools in the production and rehearsed every Friday afternoon. Elements include a partnership choir with Coombe Girls’ School and St. Mark’s Academy, art and physical theatre with Bond Primary School, and drama collaborations with the secondary and special schools. There are opportunities to organise costumes, props and technical support, allowing all involved to develop skills and discover new interests with new-found friends. The success of 2015’s The Merton Mysteries, based on the Medieval Mystery plays, encouraged a more ambitious production in 2016 which followed a single story inspired by Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees. Involving 98 partner school pupils and 56 King’s pupils, the gradual progression from primary to Sixth Form echoed the story’s theme of growth, creating a lively, diverse and sold-out production, Sarah Lambe in ‘Teaching Drama’ Magazine writing: “the commitment and fun are palpable, and it’s clear that over the weeks these students have become firm friends. There is no sense of separation across either school allegiance or age boundary.” This year’s production, based on Washington Irving’s haunting Tales of the Alhambra will be performed on 29th March 2017.
This ambitious project allows students from different backgrounds as well as teachers to share expertise, proving that “it is possible to do outstanding creative work across the sectors” (Harry Chapman, Director of Partnerships and Outreach), a pupil declaring: “I did it last year, I’m doing it this year, I’ll definitely do it next year.”