February Half Term 2016 has been magic! Thanks to everyone who came to Seven Stories from Cornwall to Glasgow, Manchester to Belfast and everywhere in between. We celebrated our Illustrating Harry Potter exhibition and Jim Kay's stunning illustrations. We shared stories, made wands, welcomed the Northumbria Drama Students and were dazzled by all your fabulous costumes and wizarding knowledge.

We caught up with Helen - one of the Drama students from Northumbria University - to find out what she thought about being set a professional brief and creating drama for you guys, the wonderful Seven Stories performance-going public...

"In October 2015, I was given the brief by my university tutor to create a devised piece of theatre based in one of Diagon Alley’s many shops for Seven Stories’ Week of Wizarding Wonder during February 2016 Half Term. Since then, myself and the other second year Drama and Applied Theatre students at Northumbria University have been developing characters and situations for our pieces to present for children aged 2-12 and their families.

This process has been very exciting. I have really enjoyed seeing our ideas and characters come to life and exploring different ways to interact and perform for a young audience.

This is not my first time working alongside Seven Stories. Five years ago, I was also involved in the Daydreams and Diaries: The Story of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition by starring in the film “Picturing Hetty Feather”. Being part of this film was an amazing experience as I grew up reading lots of Jacqueline Wilson books, and she still remains one of my favourite authors to this day.  During this project I was given the opportunity to try out new experiences such as creative writing and acting for camera.

Here I am (front left next to Nick Sharratt) back in 2011 at the premier of Daydreams and Diaries: The Story of Jacqueline Wilson.

Being part of “Picturing Hetty Feather” involved exploring our favourite parts of the book, as well as creating our own foundling characters and writing about their experiences.  We also got to film the dreams of our characters and key features of Hetty Feather in many exciting locations such as Tynemouth beach and even Beamish museum, not to mention meeting Jacqueline herself as well as Nick Sharratt and having them both sign your copy of Hetty Feather. Watching the film back reminded me of how lucky I was to get the opportunity to work in a professional environment, so when I found out that I would get the opportunity to work with Seven Stories again during my degree, I was thrilled as I had such fun working on “Picturing Hetty Feather”. When I first visited Seven Stories for the project, I loved the atmosphere as it was friendly, welcoming and there is always something happening in the building.

Five years on, I'm back at Seven Stories once again devising theatre for the half term crowds.

Despite being very different experiences, both projects have been very enjoyable, especially as I grew up reading lots of Jacqueline Wilson and have always loved the Harry Potter series. They have helped me develop new skills such as creative writing, acting for camera and performing for specific audiences. This practical knowledge has continued to grow and be supported since I began studying at Northumbria University. I realise now how broad and varied the drama industry is and can see beyond the RSC and Hollywood.  When I took part in the Seven Stories' Hetty Feather project, I was purely interested in acting and being on stage or screen, whereas now, I am much more aware of the many opportunities in the performing arts world, and am interested in carrying out facilitation work as well as acting." ...and all the hard work in the planning stages paid off! The Northumbria Drama student's foray into Diagon Alley last week was fantastic. Here is Helen with the rest of the team bringing Seven Stories to life.