The Leaveners is the Young Friends arts association of Britain Yearly Meeting. Its purpose is to encourage reflection and dialogue and inspire commitment to changing the world on issues like human rights, ecology, justice, peace, inequality, spirituality, etc. It works with people of all ages, both Quaker and non-Quaker. Based in Birmingham, it was founded in 1978.
Currently the Leaveners sponsor several projects. Quaker Youth Theatre holds week-long workshops, culminating in a performance. It has staged plays at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre and at Meetinghouses. Quaker Music Making offers concerts as well as singing workshops at Meetinghouses. Past performances have included The Gates of Greenham, Beyond the World and Embracing the Tiger and were staged at venues like the Royal Festival Hall and the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Words, Signs and Vibes puts on drama workshops for deaf, partly-hearing and hearing people. (In 2008 WS&V separated from the Leaveners and became an Independent Voluntary Organisation). The Poet’s Corner presents workshops for aspiring poets and publishes Poetry for Change. The Doing the Right Thing Project holds drama and debate workshops on conscientious objection. It also produced the “Quakers in World War One” exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Gallery, based on the stories of Quaker conscientious objectors. The Refugee Project curates a poetry archive of female refugee poets from around the world as well as the textile prints they have created. In the past other Leavener projects have also featured dance, painting and stop motion animation.
The Leaveners are facilitated by a core team and a wide network of volunteers. Workshops and performances are held at schools, youth clubs, arts centres and Meetinghouses. Participants are honored with arts awards: Discover, Explore, Silver and Bronze. Funding comes from individual Friends and Friends Meetings; non-Quaker organizations; and the Leaveners Patrons (Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, Sheila Hancock, John Whitney and Sally Beamish).
Now nearing 40 years old, the Leaveners continues as an active and vibrant organization.