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Young actor's drama classes helping children face their fears

Daisy Jones, founder of Mini Moon's Theatre Company, which runs wellbeing-focused drama workshops for children. With her pupils (from left) Coco, seven, Evie, eight, and Kayah, 10. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Daisy Jones, founder of Mini Moon's Theatre Company, which runs wellbeing-focused drama workshops for children. With her pupils (from left) Coco, seven, Evie, eight, and Kayah, 10. Picture: Bethany Whymark

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A young actor who struggled with anxiety in school hopes her new drama classes will prevent more children falling victim to mental ill health.

Children taking part in Mini Moon's Theatre Company sessions. Picture: Daisy JonesChildren taking part in Mini Moon's Theatre Company sessions. Picture: Daisy Jones

Daisy Jones started up Mini Moon's Theatre Company 18 months ago, running after-school clubs in Norwich for four to 11-year-olds to boost their confidence and get their creative juices flowing.

Miss Jones, 20, developed anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in school but found studying drama at City College Norwich alleviated her problems.

After stints working at her mother's events management company and at a small acting studio which didn't match her ideal of wellbeing-focused drama, she decided to set out on her own.

Miss Jones, from Thorpe St Andrew, said she had struggled in school to live up to teachers' academic expectations which fuelled her anxiety.

Children taking part in Mini Moon's Theatre Company sessions. Picture: Daisy JonesChildren taking part in Mini Moon's Theatre Company sessions. Picture: Daisy Jones

Her experiences have informed her philosophy for Mini Moon's, which she wants to be "about prevention rather than cure".

And her young charges like the approach, saying the clubs help them to feel more confident and creative.

Miss Jones said: "One in 10 primary school children show a sign of a mental health disorder which to me is absolutely nuts.

"I worked with a small studio and had a speciality in confidence building because I wanted to make sure the children felt safe and confident to the space, rather than dreading having to come there. Especially out of school, children need to have fun and express themselves.

Children taking part in Mini Moon's Theatre Company sessions. Picture: Daisy JonesChildren taking part in Mini Moon's Theatre Company sessions. Picture: Daisy Jones

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"We take them through how to deal with peer pressure, social media, exam stress, these things that are not taught."

The sessions have another goal - to counteract the drop in creative arts teaching in schools.

"Anything creative is not thought of as serious enough, but creative arts are fundamental to children expressing themselves. The creative arts should not just be a treat," Miss Jones said.

"I always wanted to do drama but at school they would ask what I was going to do for my 'real career'. My college tutor Leanne [Fribb, co-owner of Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich, where Mini Moons holiday classes are held] was the first person who made me think I could do arts as a career.

"When I went to college my anxiety went down. I felt no pressure to perform and felt it was OK to be different."

What do the children think?

Kayah, 10, a pupil at Queens Hill Primary School in Norwich, said: "Before I started the club I was really shy, but it has helped me to build up my confidence. At the beginning [of the club] I am really nervous but by the end I am happy I have done it, I am confident and I am loud."

She added that Mini Moon's had also helped her in school. "I have a really big imagination. I like writing and drawing and it helps me to build it up."

Coco, seven, also a pupil at Queens Hill, said being able to sing and dace with the group had made her less shy. She has also discovered a talent for directing and leadership. "I direct groups but I do it nicely and make sure I don't boss people around," she said.

Evie, eight, has been attending Mini Moon's classes since they began. While her school, Drayton Junior, doesn't host any after-school clubs Evie goes to whatever other sessions she can.

"It makes me feel excited. I feel less shy when I am acting," she said.

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