When you think about theatre awards, you think about the Oliviers, Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle – and, of course, Whatsonstage.com’s own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards – in praise of productions. But the Lyric Hammersmith has recently been singled out for a much worthier prize for its work offstage. The west London theatre has been awarded the Home Office's top Five Star rating and Beacon status for its pioneering Refugee Training Programme, Flight Paths, which enables exiled and refugee artists to overcome the multiple barriers they face in obtaining work in the UK by providing them with training to become arts-in-education practitioners. Flight Paths began in 2001 when Lyric Hammersmith and Greenwich and Lewisham's Young Peoples Theatre (GLYPT) met to address the lack of suitably qualified practitioners to reflect the ethnic diversity in classrooms. The Flight Paths programme includes a two-day training course and up to ten days work experience in schools and has been phenomenally successful working with 30 artists and reaching over 1,500 children. Since the start of the programme, 21 artists have found employment as professionals in schools or in educational projects with community groups. Lyric Hammersmith’s education manager, Eric Dupin, said: "The artists we've had on the training programme are very special. As a group, they're creative, inspiring people, who set a standard. Each in their own way has enriched the lives of children, their mentors and the companies with whom they've been in contact. We're proud of the programme's achievements to date and look forward to this new network of professionals making a real contribution in the future." The project has also been recognised as a model of good practice by Arts Council England.
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