START at the Lyric Hammersmith is a unique arts education programme working with west London’s most disadvantaged young people aged 16 to 21.

The Lyric Hammersmith is one of the UK’s leading producing theatres. They are committed to producing the highest quality contemporary theatre, alongside nurturing the creativity of young people.

All participants on START are NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training). The Lyric aims to engage with the most marginalised including those facing homelessness, living in care or supported accommodation, refugee status, gang involvement, drug abuse, learning difficulties, crime and mental health issues and many on START face these challenges.

By attending the programme they learn vital life skills such as time management, team work, respect for others and themselves. Through creating stories and performing young people are supported to rehearse alternative behaviours in a safe environment.

The programme lasts for 6 weeks, 3 times per year, involving approximately 10 young people each cohort. They each achieve a Bronze Arts Award qualification through the course, which for many is their first formal qualification.

Thanks to the generous support of Sir John Cass’s Foundation, the Lyric are able to continue the programme and engage with more disadvantaged young people.







“I used to walk past the Lyric and had no idea what went on inside. Now that I have done START, this feels like another home to me. I know I can come here and use my creativity and make positive things happen in my life through this building”

“Lots of my friends complain about having to do boring placements, but I’m like “Brah, I’m at the Lyric””

Quotes from Summer cohort participants.



The Lyric has just completed the Summer START cohort which saw 9 Young People complete the programme and achieve their qualification. Over 50% of the participants are living in supported accommodation. The group includes one seventeen-year-old who has recently arrived in the UK on his own as a refugee via Calais, severe mental health issues, addictions and learning difficulties.

The results are outstanding, and the programme improves the participants’ confidence, self-esteem and key skills such as communication and teamwork. The Lyric recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of START, and over the past decade has supported over 300 young people back into education or employment.

The group worked incredibly well together, and overcame many challenges and difficulties. Their final performance, which is part of the programme, was a beautifully crafted and powerful show about storytelling, where each participant had the opportunity to tell their own story in their own medium across theatre, dance and poetry, supported by an ensemble of their fellow participants.

“We recently celebrated 10 years of delivering our START programme and I was so proud and delighted to see all the young people who came back to tell us their successful stories. They are studying and have jobs but most of all they have a self belief and confidence that will enable them to discover their full potential. We see young people with such challenging and disadvantaged lives come through START but the Lyric is a special place that enables them to learn the most basic life skills, make new friends and importantly learn respect for others and themselves.” Quote from Nicholai La Barrie, Director of Young People at the Lyric Hammersmith.


“Over the course of START I feel I have grown in a number of ways. I have learned to work with new people, learned more skills to improve my acting and have built up good relationships with the group and my mentors”

“I learnt that I am strong and powerful”

Quotes from Summer cohort participants.


The Lyric will track the progress of all participants across the next 12 months, and will continue to support the young people over the next 6 months to continue to engage with programmes at the Lyric or to receive a further qualification, as well as linking them to employment or educational opportunities in next steps.

“I had the wonderful opportunity to witness the most recent sharing of the START cohort on 12 July 2017.
The sharing of ‘Let it Come. Let it Go’ was thought provoking, emotional and entertaining. The participants’ confidence shone through and the piece of theatre was most enjoyable. At the end of the showcase the participants’ expressed how the experience had boosted their confidence and helped them to interact with their peers. The change they felt during the six-week project was clearly visible and cemented by their comparison of the first day at START to the day of the showcase.” Nicole Hornby at Sir John Cass’s Foundation.







For more information about the Lyric Hammersmith and how you can support, please click on the following link:
Photography by Florence Akano