How Loudmouth Has Changed in Thirty Years
Thirty ways that Loudmouth has changed in the last thirty years...and one way that it hasn't!
Feb 07, 2024
Happy 30th birthday to us.
Since we started in 1994, we have seen a lot of social and political change with 8 Prime Ministers and huge changes in technology and how we live our lives.
Loudmouth has changed a lot since we started too and so to celebrate our three decades of delivering theatre in education we have updated one of our most popular blogs on how things have changed for us (and the world) in the last 30 years. Oh, and one way that it hasn't!
1. The Loudmouth Logo
Our logo has changed but the basic idea has stayed more or less the same. One of our Directors, Chris designed our original logo. We wanted a name and a logo that was fun and gave the idea of giving young people a voice. Check out the original sketches and how the logo has changed over the years. Glad we didn’t go for the giant Mick Jagger mouth on legs!
2. Number of Programmes
In 1994 we wrote and developed 3 programmes. The following year we developed the first version of My Mate Fancies You which is still going strong. We have developed over 30 programmes since 1994 with versions of many of those still available. We focus on keeping our programmes updated and relevant. Scary to think that the children who first saw the original production of My Mate Fancies You in 1995 are in their forties now! There are considerably less Take That references in the current version, promise!
3. Number of Sessions
In our first year we delivered a grand total of 39 sessions. In the 2022/ 20223 academic year, we delivered over 1,000 sessions across the UK and Europe.
4. Number of Young People Reached
In 1994 we worked with around 2,000 children and young people. We now work with over 100,000 every year and over 30 years have delivered performances, workshops and training to well over a million children, young people, parents and professionals!
5. Number of Staff
For most of the first 4 years of Loudmouth it was mainly just our Directors Chris and Eleanor. We currently have 21 people working for the company.
Over the years though, a whopping 72 different people have worked for Loudmouth. Some of our managers have been with us for a large chunk of our 30 years. Caroline, our Partnerships and Tours Manager has been with us for 21 years, Matt our Actor / Facilitator Manager for 19 years, Louise, our Company Manager for 16 years and Jodi, our Assistant Actor / Facilitator Manager for 13 years!
6. Fashion / Haircuts
Talking of staff. Our longest serving Actor / Facilitator Matthew Farmer also has the record for the most haircuts from one member of staff. Check out these beauties! Matt is now our Actor / Facilitator Manager.
Back in 1994 we used to write the directions in the diary and carry it with us. That's an actual photo of our first diary on the left! Had to make sure we were definitely counting how many rail bridges we went over!
In 1994 we travelled to schools in Eleanor's trusty Camper Van 'Vernon Da Van'. We now have a fleet of 6 vans. Look how fancy our they look all lined up!
9. Mobile Phones
If we had to call a school on our way to a session we didn't have a mobile phone to use and so would have to find one of those lovely red boxes and make sure you had the right change!
Ah bless! Our first ever publicity leaflet (and some of our most recent). It took Chris nearly a summer to learn desk top publishing for this original leaflet. Computers were sooooo slow then.
11. Number of Tours
In our first year we did 1 mini tour of Buckinghamshire schools with the tour covering 5 performances and workshops. We have now run over 350 tours. 32 of those in 2023 alone with several including over 100 sessions per tour. If you are interested in booking a tour in your area then visit https://loudmouth.co.uk/programmes/commissioners
12. Compulsory RSHE
In September 2020 Relationships, Sexual Health and Health Education (RSHE / RHE in primaries) became compulsory for all schools. When we started no aspect of sex education was compulsory. In 2000 new guidance came out that meant schools had to deliver some of the science elements of sex education however this was only for state run schools. Change long overdue.
We started off working from the tiny front room of Chris' flat in Canterbury. We need a tiny bit more space these days! We spent 23 years at The Friends' Institute in Highgate before moving to our lovely new offices in the summer of 2018.
14. The Internet
I don't know if you have heard of this but it was a lot less of a thing in 1994. Very few people had an e mail and so our publicity would be hundreds of envelopes stuffed by hand and posted. Now a press of a button and we can reach several thousand contacts. Amazingly we purchased the domain name for www.loudmouth.co.uk back in 1995. Never thought that world wide web thing would catch on though!
15. Social Media
In the first 9 years of Loudmouth there was no such thing as social media! I know! MySpace (remember that?) arrived 2003, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter / (Now X) in 2006.
16. Law Around Children and CSE
What is perhaps the starkest change looking back is that when we first launched the original version of Working for Marcus our child exploitation programme in 1998, victims were still being prosecuted for ‘Child Prostitution’. Over time, the terminology changed to Child Sexual Exploitation, but it took until 2016 for the term ‘Child Prostitution’ to be removed from all legislation and official publications. The programme now covers many other aspects of Child Exploitation including criminal exploitation / County Lines.
17. Section 28
Section 28 of the local government act 1988 stated that a local authority "shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". This still stood in 1994 when we started, and stopped young people from getting accurate information or support. Yikes! Thankfully it was (eventually) repealed, first in Scotland in 2000 and then UK wide in 2003.
18. Primary School Work
When we started most of our work was in secondary schools. In fact, one of our main primary programmes, My Mate Fancies You on puberty, was originally developed for secondary schools. As time progressed we started to do more and more work in primary settings. There was a clear need for early intervention and prevention work and this led to the creation of one of our most successful programmes, Helping Hands. This sensitively and gently introduces topics around staying safe. You can find out more about this programme at https://loudmouth.co.uk/programmes/programme/helping-hands
Yep. We feel old. There were only 4 main UK channels (not even a Channel 5!) when we started. Made it much easier to keep track of what children and young people were watching and interested in. Imagine a world without Netflix...it's like a Black Mirror episode!
20. Attitudes Towards Sexual Harassment
When we started in the nineties, it was the era of ‘Lad’s mags’. Sexism in humour or attitudes was less challenged and certainly not something that we were asked to do work on. After the #Metoo movement and sites like Everyone’s Invited there has been a big shift. Our theatre in education programme ‘Calling It Out’ only launched in 2021 but last year we delivered 254 sessions and reached over 39,00 young people. You can find out more about Calling It Out at https://loudmouth.co.uk/programmes/programme/calling-it-out
When we first started we were using cassette tapes...lots of them all cued up to the right place…accidentally press rewind and you were stuffed and you needed to keep a pencil handy in case the tape unravelled! Even CDs were still a fairly new thing then. Now things have shrunk so much that we can fit all of the soundtracks we need in our pocket rather than carry boxes of tapes around. We sometimes even just stream it through the air!!!! Magic!
Videos have not just shrunk...they have disappeared! We had a short lived sideline creating videos of our programmes (big lessons learned on how quickly videos can date!). Those clunky tapes are long gone and now you can stream most things instantly. Bye bye VHS. What did we do with all that free shelf space?
Most of our design work is done on Photoshop these days however in the mid 90s the cost of printing photos or printing in colour was really expensive.....so Chris hand drew cartoons to illustrate our lesson plans and publicity. We found a sketch pad of some our original drawings! For those who know our My Mate Fancies You look for a key moment for Claire from the play!
24. Scaling Back on Props / A Noticeable Absence of Giant Monsters!
Our first few programmes used a lot of props and costume changes...who can forget the paper mache Rudolph head with a Persil ball as a nose? Our largest prop was the giant Litter Monster puppet / costume that our Director Eleanor built..and then had to work out how to get it out of her bedroom and into the van. Our props and sets are a bit more minimal and practical these days! Loved that Litter Monster though.
25. Attitudes to Mental Health / Wellbeing
This is an area that we have always included in our work but didn’t feel that there was an appetite from schools for a programme. Over the last few years there has been a huge increase in the work schools are doing around positive mental wellbeing. Loudmouth staff are now Mental Health First Aid trained and last year we launched our first mental wellbeing programme Talking Heads. You can find out more about this https://loudmouth.co.uk/programmes/programme/mental-health
26. Attitudes to Domestic Abuse / Violence
A lot of our work is now around safeguarding including domestic abuse however a lot has changed with the laws relating to this since 1994. Domestic violence in the United Kingdom is a criminal offence and applied to anyone over the age of 16. This wasn't the case though until 2013 until then it was only for over 18s. It wasn’t until Loudmouth was 10 years old that The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act came into law which deemed common assault as an arrestable offence. The practical effect of this change was that the police could arrest a suspect at the scene without a warrant, rather than leave the suspected abuser with his or her alleged victim. Plus the focus was on the physical aspects and it wasn’t until 2015 that controlling behaviour / coercive control became an offence. Our programme, Safe and Sound looks at coercive control in relationships. You can find out more about the programme at https://loudmouth.co.uk/programmes/programme/safe-and-sound
We’ve only had the 1 global pandemic since we started. It was a difficult time for a theatre in education during COVID when there was no live performing allowed and the schools all shut. We are very proud of how we adapted and changed our provision during that time (more on that below). Not in any rush to repeat it though, thanks!
28. Virtual Sessions
During lockdown we had to figure out how we could deliver our work remotely. We eventually found ways to make videos (even in the strictest lockdown conditions) that we could send to schools. We sent equipment to people’s houses for them to clean and use to film monologues, we tried green screens to film people separately and bring them together in the edit and even learned and created animated versions of some of our programmes. We also developed ways to make use of Teams and Zoom to run virtual workshops. We still offer and run these occasionally when we can’t physically get into schools.
29. Safeguarding Procedures
When we started there was very little around in terms of safeguarding training. This quickly became something that we focussed on with robust policies and procedures and now all of our Actor / Facilitators are Level 3 Safeguarding trained. Last year our Actor / Facilitators sensitively handled 109 disclosures.
30. Number of Teams
In 1994, we just had the one team, we now have 6 teams of trained staff that are delivering sessions throughout the year. This allows us to deliver on tours and increase availability. We are pretty busy for 23/24 but taking bookings for tours and sessions in 24/25 too. Contact us on 0121 446 4880 to discuss your needs.
And one thing that hasn't changed...
Chris Cowan and Eleanor Vale have been the Company Directors from the very start. The acting shoes may have been hung up a few years ago but the hunger and passion for supporting young people remains.