The Batley & Spen Youth Theatre Company built on its successful first year by offering a series of taster workshops in over 12 schools in the Constituency, which brought a new generation of young people into the Company to complement students from its first year.

In Summer 2018, the Company gathered in Batley & Spen to create its third work, a brand new piece called Deeds Not Words.


2018 saw two important centenaries in the UK, the centenary of women first getting the vote in national elections, and the end of the First World War, and the beginning of the aftermath for communities which had to rebuild after a traumatic four years. Both themes linked closely to the life and passions of Jo Cox MP, in celebration of whom the Company was initially founded, and it was clear that the young women and men of 1918 had much in common with the Company Members a century later.

Over a two week creative period in central Batley in August 2018, the Batley & Spen Youth Theatre Company members, wrote, designed, devised, choreographed and staged a piece that responded to three questions that looked back a century, but also looked forward to the futures the Company members were thinking of.

The starting points were…

  • Who were the young people taking the fights for the vote, and for freedom, out of West Yorkshire and across Europe a century before, and what did they have in common with us?
  • What does equality really mean?
  • And what are the things that I would stand up for?
Photo: Will Alder


The final performances suggested just how creative and imaginative the 2018 Company were on the issue. An eclectic piece included songs about the young people leaving Yorkshire to fight on the Western Front, recreations of Suffragette campaigns, a piece about a boy leaving his beloved homing pigeon behind to go to war, a Hamilton-style rap musical theatre number about women’s rights, and a series of moving monologues written by Company members about the challenges they had faced and what were the values they would ‘fight’ for.

Props and costumes were made by the Company Production students, and as with previous projects all elements of running the show was done by the students themselves.

Photo: Will Alder

The piece finished with a moving staging of Jo Cox’s maiden speech to parliament.

“Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Photo: Will Alder