Fly High Stories: intergenerational creativity at home

Girl paints on large sheet of paper while sitting on grass

Fly High Stories’ short scripts are allowing families to actively participate in the arts by making their own theatre, in their own homes and across the generational divide.

Here, Rachel Barnett-Jones, co-artistic director of the company alongside Jemma Gross, tells us how they went about developing this new resource.


What is Fly High Stories at Home?

Our original short scripts are written by contemporary playwrights for children and grown-ups to act out together at home during the lockdown.

We started from a place of wanting to create something fun and joyful for children and parents to engage in together. We are a parent-led company and know all too well those moments where your brain just runs out of ideas for what to do next to keep your children entertained.

This project was initially conceived as a minimal-stress resource for parents to provide drama (and literacy) at home. We believe that including drama activities as an integral part of a homeschool curriculum is hugely beneficial to children’s creativity, imagination, and leads to benefits in other academic subjects and so wanted to provide an easy way of facilitating that at home.

We asked some of our favourite writers (both with experience of writing for young audiences and some for whom it was a new experience) to create original short scripts for flexibly sized casts of all ages, which could be acted out with props and costumes easily found or made in the home.

As a relatively new company we did not have an archive of existing scripts or resources to draw from and we also realised that these unprecedented times required original scripts, written specifically for the unusual brief.

We also asked each writer to think of a follow-on activity which could be done after the play had been acted out, for example in Hannah Kahlil’s script, ‘Not the Gingerbread Man’ there is an easy to follow recipe for Rocky Road and Rachel Harper’s script, ‘Wendy the Pirate Queen’ ends with a Pirate Tea Time!

We also asked writers to record themselves introducing their plays as a personal ‘invitation to participate’. The only requirement of the commission was to make the work joyous and every script is exactly that. Some writers have referenced the lockdown in their stories, Helen Eastman’s poetic version of the Icarus myth deals with a parent and child who definitely want to get out, and Andrew Barnett Jones’ hilarious take on the three little pigs features Zoom calls with a variety of equally isolated Pig relatives.


Boy is dressed in pirate costume


Playing together, even when we are apart

The artists we work with were given the opportunity to create something new, meaningful and relevant to the families we were reaching:

“The opportunity to write a tiny play for Fly High Stories came at a key lockdown moment for me. Having had two London runs of my plays cancelled I was feeling very despondent and the call to do this project diverted and inspired me. I have never written for this age group and it is something I have long wanted to do. The glow this project casts will be far and wide – not just for us artists involved but also families who have used the plays as a way to transport themselves and their children out of this strange situation for a short while.” Hannah Khalil, Writer

“At a time when all freelance work was being cancelled, or postponed, it was such a joy to be asked to write something new for Fly High Stories. The task of writing something which can be performed by a family at home was really interesting – making it challenging while accessible, and creative but deliverable. I was also mindful of all the questions about the world that are going around children’s heads right now, and trying to make the play respond positively. With all theatres closed for the foreseeable future, Fly High Stories are right to be encouraging us all to rethink how theatre can be part of our lives – this is a great way!” Helen Eastman, Writer


Responses and results

We have been amazed by the response so far – as a tiny, unfunded, and relatively new company to have so far seen over 500 downloads of the resource, in 10 countries across the globe.

Some families took their family theatre to the next level, creating sets using the design template from our Associate Designer, Sam Wilde. Some curated accompanying soundtracks from music provided by our Composer in Residence, Arran Glass. Every family can approach these plays in their own way and create something unique to them.

“My daughters, who are aged eight and five, have been rehearsing Sleeping Beauty. For most of the time, this is a child-led and child-organised activity. They both enjoyed watching the film about how the script was written and thought about plays they might write and how stories are told. Selecting this play and rehearsing it has given the girls an opportunity to develop many skills. They had to cooperate and make democratic decisions about the allocation of parts, select music and spend time thoughtfully organising costumes from what we already have at home.

My children involved me when they needed additional help. The script challenged their reading skills and so we did the first few reads together. The girls had conversations with me about how different characters might feel and behave. They wanted to measure different parts of the house and garden to help in their decision making about where to stage their performance. This led to learning about measuring area and to conversations about lighting.

What is so lovely is that every family can approach these plays in their own way and make them their own. These creative freedoms are wonderfully liberating during lockdown, when children are constrained and have lost so many daily choices. I’m sure that in the years to come, my daughters will remember the joy and creativity of staging a production at home during the coronavirus pandemic.” Sabina Dosani, Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and Parent.


Next steps for Fly High Stories

As well as hoping to reach out to many more families with this resource we are starting to consider how to make it easier to start a conversation with those families – getting their feedback and making sure whatever we do next answers a genuine need.

We are discovering new ways of working remotely and creatively, bringing people together, finding opportunities for people to create, and make work which is both joyous and useful.

As a company, we are committed to providing new resources linking growth mindset and creativity to help parents navigate these difficult times.


Fly High Stories was founded by old friends, director Jemma Gross and writer Rachel Barnett-Jones, to create work for family audiences with an emphasis on growth mindset, confidence building and joy. They are committed to making work and resources which can be enjoyed and understood by everyone, everywhere.

Fly High Stories at Home is free to all (although there is a ‘Donate’ button on the website in case anyone is feeling generous). Find out more and to try the scripts out for yourself!

17 May 2020