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If This Was A School, I’d Come To It

I think I started at Ark-T in 2021 and I've just been coming here constantly because I liked it, and I found it fun, and it was nice to make some new friends.  

   

When I first came, I went to Breakfast Club, and I was quite new and shy. I noticed all the Ark-T people were lovely, they were really kind. They could see I was nervous, so they were a bit slow with me and the kids were talking, and they included me, which was really nice. We all had lots of laughs and fun creating stuff. And then it was summer camps, and we went out on some lovely trips. I got along with everyone really well on the camps. People are less judgmental, they're less rude, they're more kind.   

  

In school, when I get picked to speak, my heart freezes, I go even quieter, and then the teacher sends me out the classroom. I've got to be comfortable to speak. I get more confident here because I have more choices, and the way people speak to me, if I'm not ready, they understand. When you first come here, people are gonna be a bit nervous to speak, then once you start speaking, you can never stop.   

  

What happens in theatre making is you make a play, basically. You make your own character, you decide the play, you name it, you set the scene. You're not recreating someone else's play; you're making your own. You make your own mind up, and then you give all the information to the Ark-T people, they'll take it in, and then they might edit it a bit. And then you might go through and edit some bits, or suggest can we do this with this? Or maybe swap some scenes around. And then they'll get some costumes out for you to try on, and you make your character. You could make anything, even half donkey half unicorn! I was a talking dog once!   

  

We even made one called The Abandoned Child. We all made it together, and usually most people don't want to have the leading role, it's usually me and one other person, so we shared it. I was half demon, half human. Like I grew up as a human, figured out I had powers, started using them and then realised my aunt was a demon. And at Flo Fest, I was Little Red Riding Hood. The audience loved it. And it was filmed by Ark-T. It was so much fun. We were all laughing. Everyone had a smile on their face.  

  

School's more challenging than here, you gotta be careful. Here is a lovely place to go. When you're speaking, they don't make you put your hand up, they ask you to wait patiently. They don't say you have to, they ask you, ‘Would you like to play games with us, and then do the work?’ They make it more entertaining. At Ark-T you can wear whatever clothes you want, whatever makes you feel comfortable. You're more free than in school.  

   

At school I've got to be careful, I've got to focus. I cannot say I’m too energetic, because I will get told off and shouted at, which is not a nice thing to feel. It makes you feel upset sometimes. You feel like some people don't understand you. They're like, ‘Oh well, you shouldn't be like that. You're in control of your own emotions.’ But sometimes you can't hold it in and that's what they don't understand.  

  

At Ark-T if you tell them you’re going to be a bit upset and angry because some kid has been trying to fight you, or your dog passed away, or something bad has happened, they'll be like ‘Okay, if you need a five minute break or something like that, come and tell us and we'll get you a space set up.’ You're not allowed to make fun of anyone here. You've got to be nice. They say, ‘Think about what you're saying, you could be hurting other people.’ Then we say sorry, and sometimes we just get the little sorry feeling. You feel a bit guilty.  

   

If you have a problem in school, you can always come and speak to Ark-T about it. Let's say someone kept trying to threaten you in school, but you found it hard to speak to a teacher because you didn't really trust them, you can come and tell Ark-T and they'll talk to you about it. They might say, ‘It's a serious safeguarding problem, I'm gonna have to call up your school and talk to them about it’ or give you advice like, ‘Go home and tell your parents’ and it's really comforting. Instead of just saying, ‘Oh well, you should have done this’ they're like, ‘Well you can do this, or we can help you by doing this.’ They give amazing advice.  

   

They don't put others before you. They don't compare you. They're more friendly and kind and not so strict. You can come in here and be a bit silly, have fun, but you can't be too dangerous. It's more of a comfort space, you're not pressured by teachers, you don't have people on your back every second like in school. It's more, ‘Be relaxed, have fun, do some drawing.’ It's more of a school, but a lot better.   

  

I've become so much more confident, speaking up for myself and speaking up to people being rude to me. I'm more understanding of teachers now. I go to teachers who understand me the most and I say, ‘I've learned what I've learned from Ark-T, and I know that you understand me more than most teachers, and you understand how I am, and how my emotions and my anxiety work.’  

  

Some people say, ‘It's for people who have problems or need special help.’ No, it's for anyone. You could be the meanest person in school, come here, and the next thing you know you could be nice. You can learn so much here, let's say if you're dealing with depression, they will help you out. It will turn you from being sad to being happy and joyful. You feel like you belong somewhere.  

  

I've learned that some people stay, some people leave, but you can't help that. I might not be able to come to this summer camp, but hopefully I am, if I'm not busy. I've learnt you always have someone to speak to here. It's like, ‘You can come here, speak to us, and we'll help you with a solution.’   

  

It's helped coming here. You have more options and I like it better here. If this was a school, I'd come to it. Ark-T’s amazing and I advise people to come here. 

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