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Creative arts vital for a child's sense of inclusion

Sir Lenny George Henry, CBE, is a British stand-up comedian, actor, singer, writer, and TV presenter.
For National Inclusion Week, which runs from 24-28 September, Sir Lenny writes about the importance of the creative arts to a child's upbringing and sense of inclusion, fondly remembering his first childhood trip to the theatre.
I go to the theatre a lot now. I even get asked to support things like Children in the Arts, which is an initiative headed up by Prince Charles.I went the other day and it was a big media morning of talented individuals including Benedict Cumberbatch, Meera Syal, Myleene Klass and her kids, Lord Lloyd Webber, and the director general of the BBC - all talking about how important drama studies are in the school curriculum, while the government is doing its damnedest to cut the majority of funding and making school arts activity a self-selecting/self-paying extra curricular set of activities. It is to weep.And good people are saying good and sensible things about children and the arts - it just feels like no one really cares. And the problem is that the creative arts are a huge boost to the GDP of Great Britain.In January, the Guardian said the creative industries were "worth €92bn to the UK economy"."The sector returns more golden eggs to the Treasury than the automotive, oil, gas, aerospace and life science industries combined, and for every €1 invested in subsidy the government gets €5 returned in taxes."So why is the government cutting back on the creative arts in schools? Why this insistence on STEM (sciences, technology, engineering and maths), this rejection of the arts?
Creative arts vital for a child's sense of inclusion

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Sir Lenny Henry has been a prominent advocate for the arts in schools
The truth is, this was always going to happen. When I was at Blue Coat secondary modern there was little or no attempt to cultivate dramatic aspirations during the school day.Sure, we were tasked with reading aloud or taking part in an assembly; we even did a school concert the year I had successfully auditioned for New Faces. But the only drama I remember taking part in was when Mr Kipper (the English teacher) would have us in the hall for a double period and make us run around pretending to be characters we had seen on television or at the pictures.When we were kids, there were not many chances to pop into a performance of Hedda Gabler or the Doll's House. The fact is, theatre didn't play a massive part in my parents' lives. They spent every hour God gave putting food on the table and clothes on our backs. They were not also going to pop us in for a matinee of She Stoops To Conquer at the Wolverhampton Civic. They weren't made of money. So, no theatre.But one year, mum's factory subsidised a massive trip to the Birmingham Alexandra Theatre - suddenly, a whole bunch of kids and a parent and some teachers would be allowed to watch a pantomime.In our case it was Charlie Drake starring in Robinson Crusoe. It sounds odd now but this act of inclusion was powerful. Drake was one of the biggest stars on television at the time.
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