After 16 years, we are finally FINDING THE WILL in Wales! We were delighted to be asked to contribute to the Merthyr Tydfil Children’s Literature Festival earlier this month. The theme was Shakespeare and the special guest was Michael Rosen (our Patron), so it was fitting that we were there too.
Merthyr Tydfil Children’s Literature Festival
This is the brainchild of the Stephens and George Centenary Charitable Trust. The chariy aims to enhance young people’s chances, raising literacy standards and engaging the community in training and education. FINDING THE WILL was contacted last August to ask us to take part in the annual Children’s Literature Festival. We agreed to provide Interactive Workshops and a scene from MACBETH to be performed at the launch of the festival. We were delighted to be part of, what is now, the biggest event in the UK celebrating World Book Day. NB not just in Wales, but in the UK!
Just before Easter, I headed to Wales to pick up my fellow practitioner Fay, After meeting the children from Class 3/4 at Gwaunfarren Primary School, (and their fabulous teacher, Mrs Bibby), we took the children through the Interactive Workshop of MACBETH. Very quickly, they were immersed in the story. Their classroom was transformed into the spooky heath, the grand High Dunsinane Castle and the battle ground of Great Birnam Wood. All this was achieved with the aid of some atmospheric sound effects and, importantly, their imaginations.
After lunch, we embarked upon the scene that was specially written by FINDING THE WILL co-founder RICHARD CURNOW. This covered a vast amount of the story on just two sides of A4 paper! At this point, neither Fay nor I had seen the venue where our 7&8 Year old actors would be performing. This meant that staging the scene involved a little bit of guesswork! Within the acting company, there were some naturally loud voices and, inevitably, some naturally quiet voices. Luckily, FINDING THE WILL is famous for helping children to ‘find their voices’. I’m happy to say this was the start of some seismic journeys for many of our actors.
We were straight back to Wales after the Easter holidays, to the hub of the Festival, St David’s Church. Here we met Mrs Bibby and her class once more to rehearse their scene. The actors had worked really hard over the holiday learning their lines, and so now it was a matter of staging the scene in situ. The big voices were still big, the little voices were a little louder but the church holds 800 people! The presenters – even Michael Rosen – had a microphone over a lectern, but not our 7/8 year old actors. This was going to be purely down to their natural vocal power! Every time they ran the scene, they became more confident and their voices grew. This turned out to be even more important as a second performance was scheduled for outdoors!
On Thursday 20 April, Shakespeare hit Wales big time! Three and a half thousand children processed through the centre of Merthyr Tydfil, many dressed as Shakespearean characters (including Bottom the donkey!).
In St David’s Church, the Festival was Launched by Trustees of the Charity, local dignitaries and, of course our patron Michael Rosen. Our 25 actors from Gwaunfarren Primary School were the first to take to the stage. We could not be prouder of them. At the age of 7 or 8, speaking out in public is a big deal. Speaking original Shakespeare language in front of 800 people is an even bigger deal! Every actor, including our all important drummer, gave it everything they had. When they repeated their performance outside later in the day, to an audience of parents, friends and supporters, the pride felt by actors and audience alike was palpable. And rightly so! Mrs Bibby and Class 3/4 take another bow – you deserve it!
“The staff and children have certainly been inspired by your work over the last few weeks. They have loved working with you guys. The children’s performance yesterday both inside and outside of the church was amazing. Again, thank you for being so inspirational to our pupils and undertstanding as many of them are young and inexperienced in this”.Mr A Lewis – Head Teacher, Gwaunfarren Primary School
Welsh spoken Workshops in Wales
When in Wales, speak the language! Luckily for us, our practitioner FFion is a Welsh speaker. Not only did she deliver three Taster Interactive MACBETH workshops in Welsh but she also translated them. How lucky are we to have such a talented practitioner! Listen to this very short extract of some of the most famous lines from the play spoken in Welsh.
And now we have a toe-hold in Wales! We sincerely hope that the Merthyr Tydfil Children’s Literature Festival 2023 is the start of the FINDING THE WILL campaign in Wales to help more children find their voices! Thanks are due to Helen Hughes and her team for making all this possible.
Return to St Dominic’s, Hambledon
You may recall that last month we spent a day at St Dominic’s working with Years 7 & 8 on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and THE TEMPEST. We were delighted therefore to be invited back this month to work with Year 9 and some of Year 10 on TWELFTH NIGHT.
At this extraordinary, wonderful school on top of a hill, the students have a range of complex needs. Nick and I were acutely aware that our usual practice of going into a school and immediately gaining the trust of a group of students who have never seen us before, was going to be far more challenging. The fantastic staff worked alongside us, playing characters, creating fun and helping to make all the learners feel more comfortable. Over the break, we talked to some of them individually to gauge their level of comfort. In this way, we gained some understanding of them and in turn, they felt more at ease and able to engage and contribute in their own way. Special mention must go to an excellent Olivia and two remarkable Malvolios! By the end of the morning, we felt that a lot of progress had been made.
Performing isn’t for everyone and the older you get, the more embarrassing it can become, especially if it’s not your thing. So we are truly grateful that they threw themselves into as much as they did. Thank you also to all the staff in both groups who stepped into roles to help out.
And that was April!
Again, Mr Shakespeare (who was 459 of course last Sunday) has helped children from 7- 15 to come out of their shells. To all the young people we have worked with in the last month, whether it is speaking out loud, dancing to some music, or simply looking up from the floor, we salute your courage.
Here’s to more of this, in Wales and beyond!