This was the Blackie's second piece of model theatre on the education system - the first in 1970 was "Education for All".
Educational Darts was created at the invitation of the Liverpool EPA (Educational Priority Areas) project in conjunction with the Vauxhall Home Office Project and the WEA (Workers Educational Association).
Left image from publicity poster
It took place at Salisbury Centre, Salisbury Street, Liverpool 3 and was performed on two successive night the 17th & 18th of March 1971.
The aim of the show was to bring parents, teachers, school managers, and others interested in the problem of education together, using dramatic techniques to provoke discussion.
The Blackie was invited to create the show because of its previous experience in creating works on human rights (To Hell With Human Rights) and housing (Sanctuary) - as was said at the time
"We are experimenting in Social Theatre Events concerning social issues , one of the main aims being to promote increased awareness of social problems and to encourage discussions, often between professionals in the social service field and the people they are trying to help"
It took place at the Salisbury Centre (based in an EPA) so as to involve local parents and secondary school children who would not normally be involved either in further education courses or in theatrical activities of any kind. It was hoped that inviting people to a 'show' in their own locality would prove more successful than traditional ways of interesting people in education which had proved to be unsuccessful in the area. And so it proved.
When the audience arrived they were each given a set of tournament darts and a booklet to record their progress. They were then invited to throw a dart at a map of Liverpool. Depending on where the dart landed the audience members were divided into 4 leagues which reflected proportionally the class structure in the real world. The audience are of course not told this, as far as they are concerned they have just been put into leagues. .
Above the audience arriving and being signed in, the darts and booklets ready for collection, people throwing darts at the map and the map with darts in it.
Once divided into leagues each league played a number of dart games which represented the 'education system' - so there were different games for each league representing the differences in education in the real world. Equally the number of games in each league were different, so leagues A & B (representing the upper and middle classes) passed through games representing pre-school, infant school, secondary school, and higher education. Meanwhile leagues C and D (representing the working class and sub working class) played games representing infant primary and secondary schooling.
Above and left the leagues having the games and scoring system explained to them.
For each of the education games points were scored (the lower leagues also played non-scoring, practice or fun games while the upper and middle class leagues were going through the extra education stages). It was easier for players in the upper leagues to score points than those in the lower leagues , and the number of prizes per point were greater.
Prizes were in the form of pieces of dowelling of equal length, and the means of joining them together. Each league received a different fastening system so that structures built by the different leagues had the potential for different degrees of sophistication. The sub working class got lengths of string; the working class received joints which enabled them to build two dimensional structures and lengths of string; the middle classes were given string plus joints which enabled them to build three dimensional cubes or triangles and the upper class league received materials which enabled them to build complex structures and were also given help in doing this.
Above audience members building structures Below some of the ways of joining the dowelling together.
The difference in the joining mechanism were designed to relate to educational indices of social malaise such as school leaving age, relative sizes of vocabulary in different socio-economic groups, etc. So that the structures being built do not only relate to environment but also to language structure and to uses that the tools for life acquired while at school can be put to..
After the building process there was a break in which people got drinks appropriate to their station.
Above people being served drinks appropriate to their station in life and enjoying the break
After the break the leagues were invited to play the dart games again. There were minor changes - one extra game for the lower league to recognise the change in school leaving age - or raising the points available in all leagues. So this symbolised how for generation after generation minor changes were made - but how the basic structure remained in place.
There was some limited scope within the game to rise or fall socially through the education system, and also for the audience to apply through official channels to change the education system. However the officials who ran the event (that is the cast) only responded to such requests for change by discussing how they could change the dart games.
The success or otherwise of model theatre shows depends on setting up a benign but inflexible bureaucracy which will sympathise with the problems of the audience members but only offer minimum change within the context of the already set structure.
The show ended with a debate including cast and audience. cast members can be recognised by the armbands they are wearing..
Above after the show the audience and cast meeting to debate the issues it raised.
The cast was made up of social artists (from The Blackie) professional workers in the field of education and social services. students and secondary school children.
The show was created by Bill Harpe with assistance from Cliff Alger, Lin Baker, Dave Bassi, Martin Brems, Judy Brown, Tom Burke, Dave Calder, Doreen Chappell, Barry Collins, Bob Doyle, Dave Drennan, Peter Eyo, John Foy, Richard Frankland, Ann Frood, Roger Frood, Edwin George, Paul Greenwood, Wendy Harpe, Liz Hatden, Anthea Hinds, Viv Layzell, Jim MacRitchie, Sally Morris, Barbara Putt, Radio Doom (Jeff Hartley & David Kay), Dave Rickus, Denis Rietdyck, Lyn Roberts, Trilby Shaw, Tony Smith, John Steedman, Howard Steele, Helen Visser, Lyn Wilson and Paul Woodward.
Thanks to the following who made the show possible;-
Dave Allen & Co ; Eddie Barker ; Jim Booth ; Peter Burke ; Tony Charlton ; Mrs English ; Jill Etherington ; Danny Evans ; Kevin Fearns ; Guild of Undergraduates Technical Committee ; Tony Hall ; Paul & Margaret Lecky ; Liverpool City Planning Office ; Liverpool Polytechnic Guild of Students ; Don McKie ; James McHon ; David Mason ; Paul Mogan ; Notre Dame College of Further Education ; Open Projects ; John & Margaret Owen ; Olwyn Pritchard ; Alan Ralph ; Students from Paddington Comprehensive ; Mark Stocken ; Dave Stringer ; Joan Watkins ; and Father Woodhall.