In the room where it happened…  

…experiencing the Hamilton Schools Performance in Manchester 

Stacey Arnold from the Policy, Research and Advocacy team at the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre joined a schools’ performance of Hamilton to experience, first-hand, what these performances do to engage schools and pupils alike… 

On Tuesday 6 February, the Cameron Mackintosh Foundation threw open the doors of Palace Theatre Manchester (an Ambassador Theatre Group venue) to nearly 1,400 school pupils from across Greater Manchester. The city is the first stop on Hamilton’s UK and Ireland tour, and there is no better place for it to begin – in a city region with a diverse population of over 2.8 million and where culture is at the heart of the city’s development.  

The Foundation subsidises the cost of its school performances – offering tickets at a heavily discounted price of £10 – and offers them to schools with higher than average numbers of pupils in receipt of pupil premium. The visit includes a free programme and a money-can’t-buy opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes in a post-show demonstration and Q&A. 

Shan Ako as Eliza Hamilton, Ava Brennan as Angelica Schuyler and Simbe Akande as Peggy Schuyler on stage for Hamilton
Hamilton, Palace Theatre Manchester, Photo by Danny Kaan

I joined the audience, keen to understand how a show of this calibre would be received by young people, many of whom are not frequent theatre attenders. Before the show I spoke to a pupil from Levenshulme who said that while her school does provide trips, she rarely visits the theatre. This, for me, summed up why affordability and accessibility are so important for schools. With limited time in the school timetable for visits, the ones they prioritise must be affordable to families, made as easy as possible for them to find and book, and appealing to pupils from both an educational and wellbeing perspective. It’s fantastic that our sector does so much to enable this.  

The pupils around me were rapt throughout the production. By the end of the show, that attention had transformed into something closer to awe. And given the supreme quality of the performances, it’s not hard to see why. 

A teacher from a school in Crumpsall told me that her pupils rarely get an opportunity to visit the theatre and see a show like Hamilton. She was passionate about the opportunity to bring them to the Palace Theatre, thanks to the affordability of the tickets. Needless to say, the pupils loved it. 

The icing on the cake was the opportunity to learn about the different backstage and front-of-house teams that make a show like Hamilton what it is. Interaction was positively encouraged, nay courted, as cast members demonstrated the effects that can be created through lighting and sound (to give just one example). There was even a ‘quick-change competition’ – unfortunately my half of the auditorium lost! By giving visibility to these ‘hidden’ roles, it is hoped pupils will think more about a possible future in the high-growth creative industries, a great way to develop talent pipelines.  

It was an absolute pleasure to be in the room where it happened, and a privilege to witness young people experiencing the power of theatre for the first time. 

This is why SOLT & UK Theatre have a campaign calling on Government to fund every child attending the theatre at least once before they leave school, because theatre is for every child. 

Use the hashtag #TheatreForEveryChild to engage in the conversation on social media and find out more at