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Many theatres have been using the last year to reflect and shift the way they produce work. Here, staff at the Royal Court and four writers aged between 14 and 20, talk about their experiences working on the final edition of Living Newspaper.

The Living Newspaper project was always about two things: paying as many artists as possible and offering a counter-narrative to the news cycle. This is no different for Edition 7: The Last Word, the final edition of the Living Newspaper authored entirely by writers aged 14-20.

The group, who have been working together online since June 2020 and hadn’t met in person until last week, had all previously taken part in different Participation projects with the Royal Court through their school or community group.

Sam Pickering, 16, says: “I was lucky enough to be picked for this writers’ group and after about seven or eight months we were told we’d be working on Edition 7. It means a lot to be able to have my voice heard in a space where young people are so often used as the characters and never the writers behind them.”

For Philip Morris, Trainee Director at the Royal Court and co-facilitator of this group and their Edition, “working with these young writers has been an incredible experience. They have so much to say about the world – especially in a time where the Earth has sort of stood still, and we’ve been waiting patiently for it to open up again, they have displayed such an amazing sense of growth within themselves and as artists”.

The group has been meeting every week online, with sessions led by the Royal Court’s Literary and Participation teams as well as visiting freelance directors, designers and writers. Looking back over these last 10 months, Naomi Lundie-Smith, aged 16 reflects, “I’ve been part of this writers’ group for almost a year now and the best way I can sum up my experience in it is that those Wednesday evening Zoom calls never failed to make me laugh.” Part of the ethos was that there were no wrong answers and everything and anything the group had to say was worth saying. Fatima Kazmi, aged 14, sums it up: “The reason I like to write is to give people an insight on what is going on in my brain. I want them to read my work and ask, ‘Is she okay?!’ I love that. The first thing I ever wrote for anyone was about man-eating pigeons.” It’s the group’s brilliant imaginations, burning questions and commitment to each other as a group that made it a no-brainer for the Royal Court that they would create an Edition together in the same way as the previous writers.

Like any previous Editions, the range of topics in Edition 7: The Last Word is far-ranging. From the fear and anticipation of 21 June to a world where the stars talk in Morse code, the difference between people online and IRL and the effects of class on love, to what it means to say goodbye to those friends you only have for the summer.

When asked about what it meant to be writing this Edition, Kazmi explains “I want people to adopt the minds of my characters, I want them to question every little thing I write. I want them to be on the edge of their seats throughout the entire thing, which is why I want to write really complicated and confusing pieces. I don’t want the reader/audience to ever drop their guard. They should think about it 10x more than I did when writing it – they might surprise themselves and may even be inspired.”

For Tyreke Leslie, aged 20, being a part of the group and this edition has allowed for a space for self-reflection: “First and foremost, I consider myself an artist and a thinker, and so my writing journey began with lines of thoughts and feelings. I used these as tools to either celebrate or escape myself. I discovered that these strings of words are poetry and this newfound love is what helped me to get onto this writers’ group. Working with the Royal Court, and on Edition 7 in particular, has been really inspiring in helping me to question, challenge and provoke myself and my responses to things. This experience and opportunity have also taught me what true artistry can be, and for that reason, I have loved this project!”

Morris’s enthusiasm and excitement for the project is clear: “[these writers] are able to tell stories we can relate to across all ages and focus on young people’s experiences. The stories range from falling in love to the complexity of being a young writer in a prestigious theatre like the Royal Court, meeting new people and dating, and all the kinds of things that are associated with where their life is at the moment. It’s been amazing to facilitate those conversations and ignite our young people at the Court. They all have such important voices and unique ways of expressing whatever it is they want to say. I can’t wait to share that with the world.”

Living Newspaper Edition 7: The Last Word launches on Monday 26 April 2021, with The Front Page streamed live from the Royal Court Theatre at 5.30pm. It will then be available to watch on catch up until Sunday 9 May 2021. Tickets are free for under 26s through the Royal Court’s Young Court Friends scheme