'Hansel & Gretel, and Me' was a revolutionary creative project which allowed participants of all ages and backgrounds to shape Scottish Ballet's production of Hansel & Gretel.

When you journey into the forest with Hansel & Gretel you’ll encounter an array of enchanting characters and extraordinary sets, but what you won’t see is what went in to bringing each magical idea to the stage.

For his first full length ballet for the company, Artistic Director Christopher Hampson used stories and imaginings from people across the country to help shape the production through the ground-breaking education project, Hansel & Gretel, and Me.

The project launched at the end of 2012 with creative writing workshops in schools across Scotland, and a nationwide creative writing competition for both children and adults.

Harnessing creativity and inspiring passion for the arts is the main focus of Scottish Ballet’s Education team, and they travelled to a variety of communities, from inner cities and suburban areas to more remote parts of Scotland. Schools, national institutions and community organisations were all involved, encouraging participants to think about themes in the original story — from loss and fear, to betrayal and family relationships — discovering how these themes are relevant to their lives today.

Generously supported by The Monument Trust and with key partnerships with The National Library, National Galleries Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, author Louise Welsh and numerous local authorities and arts organisations, the Scottish Ballet team used dance, music, storytelling, bush crafts, creative writing, drama and visual art to engage with people and to allow them to express their own ideas.

“We have been absolutely delighted with the enthusiasm from schools and participants,” says Catherine Cassidy, Associate Director Education. “I don’t know of any other ballet company that has created a professional ballet in this way before. Participants are so excited to be able to contribute their ideas directly, through story writing and visual art and dance.”

The next stage in the year-long project saw Scottish Ballet partnering with Forestry Commission Scotland to hold week-long workshops in woodland areas across Scotland in the spring. Up to thirty participants in each location worked together using dance, visual art, bush crafts and music to look at themes and characters from the Hansel & Gretel story, bringing them together to create special performances in Dundee, Stirling, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and a dance film in Inverness.

As the year progressed, Christopher Hampson and production designer Gary Harris to pulled together emerging themes, ideas and artwork from the project to inform and inspire different aspects of the production.

‘“I simply can’t thank everyone who has been involved in this tremendous project enough; it has been truly inspiring. The creativity, talent and sheer passion of the people of Scotland has sparked my imagination immensely and has played a pivotal role in the creation of this story.”’

Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director

‘“The last 12 months working on Hansel & Gretel, and Me have been truly inspiring. There have been so many thrilling moments in every phase of the project and it has been fascinating to see all the participants’ ideas about the story come forth. From reading fantastical story competition entries, to watching snowy woodland performances , to seeing the young dancers create their own small piece of choreography, it has been a wonderful adventure through the woods to the final production.”’

Helen Coughtrie, Hansel & Gretel, and Me Project Manager

Children’s Writing Competition

Scottish Ballet and the National Library of Scotland launched a creative writing competition for children in primaries 3–7 throughout Scotland. Although the traditional fairytale of Hansel & Gretel was a starting point for the competition, children were encouraged to use their imagination to explore the details of the story in their own way. The National Library of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland worked closely with Christopher Hampson to judge the final entries.

  • Primary 3–5 winners: Luke Grieve, Salen Primary and Joy Drummond, Linlithgow Primary
  • Primary 6–7 winners: Lily Hargreaves, Salen Primary and Sinead Moran, Rockfield Primary
  • Art category of Creative Writing Competition, overall winner: Cassie Wilson, Linlithgow Primary

‘“The workshops helped me picture my story. It was great fun writing about and drawing the gingerbread house. I loved drawing pictures in the clouds because you got to draw whatever you wanted and you could let your imagination go wild! Can’t wait to see the ballet!”’

Winner of writing competition, Salen Primary School

‘“The workshops were brilliant fun and really stimulated the children’s creativity. Thank you!”’

Teacher, Salen Primary School

Adult’s Writing Competition

Scottish Ballet and the National Library of Scotland in partnership with The Scotsman composed a creative writing competition for aspiring writers throughout Scotland. Selected stories were used to inspire Christopher Hampson as he created Hansel & Gretel. The National Library of Scotland worked closely with Christopher Hampson, author Louise Welsh and literary editor of The Scotsman’s David Robinson to judge final entries. The competition was won by Caroline von Schmalensee with her story In Woodsmore Village.

Children’s Art Competition

Working with the National Galleries of Scotland, the Tesco Bank Art Competition for Schools 2013 allowed children from schools all across Scotland the opportunity to create, enjoy and experience the magic of visual art. Designs from the competition were used to inspire set designs. The National Galleries of Scotland received 5,836 submissions from pupils of their fantastically imaginative – and fantastically scary – creatures.

As well as selecting the 10 winners whose works were exhibited in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, we chose a further 14 whose ideas were inspiration for Hansel & Gretel. We would like to congratulate and thank them all:

Farikah Baksh, Hannah Bowden, Oscar Brennan, Joseph Cookson, Keiran Daly, Matthew Gault, Maxwell McKay, Masie Michaelson-Frieug, Andrew Mulraine, Ian Ross, Amber Wadee, Jake Williamson, Millicent Lee Wolfe.

Hansel & Gretel Rehearsals: The Journey To The Stage

The final phase of Hansel & Gretel, and Me allowed talented young dancers the chance to perform in the final production of Hansel & Gretel. Auditions were held in each across the UK, judged by Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and dancer Eve Mutso. Working with a team of Education Officers, Mutso and Hampson, these young dancers developed their dance technique and choreography skills and were given the opportunity to contribute their own choreographic ideas.

Then, In November 2013, the children began rehearsals for Hansel & Gretel. Christopher Hampson was there to teach them the choreography that they would then perform onstage alongside Scottish Ballet professional dancers.

Young dancers in the finalé of Hansel & Gretel

Hansel & Gretel, and Me was made possible with the support of The Monument Trust, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, the Barcapel Foundation, the Educational Institute of Scotland, The Verden Sykes Trust, the Astor of Hever Trust and The Merchants House of Glasgow.