Bardolph The Red Nosed Reindeer? No, Rudolph surely! Well actually there is a theory that this famous and much loved Christmas song was indirectly inspired by our very own William Shakespeare! I know, who knew? Well not many people it turns out – let me explain…..

I should say straight away that this story may be apocryphal but I like it! The original creator of Rudolph was a man called Robert May, he worked in the advertising deparment of a department store called Montgomery Ward. Every year the shop gave away colouring books at Christmas and in 1939 the task to design the book was given to Robert May. May was both a Shakespeare and a Verdi fan and in the opera ‘Falstaff’ (based on The Merry Wives of Windsor) the character of Bardolph (renowned for having a red nose) appears as a deer in the final act. So May decided to put a reindeer with a red nose in the colouring book. Bardolph – Rudolph, do you see where we’re going with this? And, as if further proof were needed (well yes, actually) check out this quote from the opera itself:

“So che se andiam, la notte, di taverna in taverna, Quel tuo naso ardentissimo mi serve da lanterna! Ma quel risparmio d’olio tu lo consumi in vino” which roughly translates “Bardolph with your nose so bright, you’ll guide me to the tavern tonight. But you’ll cost me more in wine than you’ll save in oil.”

Call me old fashioned but I’d say that that quote alone means we can chalk up another traditional part of the Western world’s Christmas to dear old Shakespeare (and Verdi too of course). Interestingly the song itself was penned by Johnny Marks who married Robert May’s sister Margaret the same year that the colouring book came out.

In other news, last week we visited our sixteenth and final school of 2019 – Ravensfield Primary in Dukinfield, Manchester. This was a new school to us and we worked with 120 children from Year 5 and Year 6 on ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Macbeth’ respectively. They brought the grand total of children we have worked with in 2019 to just shy of 2000 which (considering we lost a couple of regular schools to budget cuts) makes us feel really quite chuffed! Ravensfield is a modern primary school in a suburb of Manchester – the only primary school we’ve ever been to with a lift (very modern!). The children knew next to nothing about either play – just how we like it – and together we discovered the twists and turns of the stories. Talking of twists we had some contemporary seasonal twists in there too – cocktail sausages for King Duncan’s special banquet and his favourite dish of spaghetti bolognese. So it really wasn’t surprising that later on, instead of Banquo’s ghost being on Macbeth’s throne, the possibility was………a cocktail sausage! Come on, it could have been!

That’s just one of the joys of FINDING THE WILL’s work – giving children the permission to use their imagination and never saying ‘no, that’s wrong’. And as it is Christmas, it seems an appropriate time to talk about ‘giving’ as well as saying ‘thank you’. FINDING THE WILL is proud to be able to give the best value for money we possibly can by keeping costs to schools as low as we can without compromising on quality. This is not always easy because we need to balance the amount paid by the school with the amount we need to sustain a viable business. As we work nationally, travel and accommodation costs always have to be factored in and we are not in receipt of any kind of funding. To this end I have to thank not only the schools who work with us regularly or occasionally but also our fantastic associate practitioners. Their work alongside Richard and me is terrific (which you’ll know if you’ve had the pleasure of their company in your school) and we are truly grateful that the FTW mantle of magic is embracing more practitioners, teachers and children. Huge thanks also to the unsung heroes and heroines on all the Parent Teacher Associations, who fundraise tirelessly not only for visits like ours but for all kinds of curricular and extra curricular activities which would otherwise be impossible. Last but not least our Patrons (Michael Rosen, Bernard Cribbins OBE, Lord and Lady Blair and Sue Pritchard). Thank you to all of you for your ongoing support.

Christmas card courtesy of the catering staff at Great Leighs Primary School.

So it only remains for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas – keep giving, keep laughing, keep loving, keep striving – and, of course….

Peace and Good WILL (see what we did there?) to all.



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