Only 42 sleeps till Christmas (as I write) and time for FINDING THE WILL to reflect on another fun-packed year!

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After a quick tot up I discovered we have worked with just over 2000 children and young people during 2018. Of those approximately 800 were in London, 560 were in Wiltshire, 290 were in the Home Counties, 240 were in Peterborough, 190 were in Coventry, 50 were in Yorkshire and 15 were in Gloucestershire. We kicked off the year with a week of ‘Twelfth Night’ Interactive Workshops at Lyon Park Primary in London. During the week, 600 children aged 5-11 did the Hokey Cokey with us downstairs in Lady Olivia’s kitchen (much to Malvolio’s disgust) and spoke the famous lines “If music be the food of love, play on” with love-sick Orsino. We moved on to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Great Leighs Primary, Essex. This lovely week turned out to be the first of five ‘Dream’ Project Weeks and Workshop Days in 2018. This means ‘The Dream’ takes the top spot in the popularity chart (don’t ask me to calculate how many fairies we’ve worked with!). A close second was ‘Macbeth’ (hundreds of witches!) and, if you’re interested, ‘The Tempest’ came in third just pipping ‘Romeo & Juliet’. ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ took equal fifth place.

Poster for Macbeth at Icknield Primary, Luton

Poster for Macbeth at Icknield Primary, Luton

Our youngest (and quite possibly our cutest) actors this year were the little Foxes class (Reception and Year 1) in Collingbourne School, Wiltshire. It’s not easy standing still when you’re only 4 and even less easy to speak out loudly and clearly, although 4 year old Macbeth managed that exceptionally well! At the other end of the scale were the 90 Year 6 ‘Macbeth’ actors at Icknield Primary School in Luton, in theory super-confident but in reality digging just as deep to pull out some amazing performances. Talking of amazing performances, regular readers of my ramblings will be familiar with the Annie Award Ceremony at Anson Primary in London. The FINDING THE WILL Rising Star Award is now a regular feature (how honoured are we!) and this year Richard presented it to a cracking young Romeo (Year 4). We also hit the streets of Verona in Coventry (if you see what I mean) back in February. Returning to St Bartholomew’s Academy, it was wonderful to see the legacy of our 2017 visit with a whole corridor decorated with artwork and creative writing on ‘The Tempest’. You see a FINDING THE WILL visit is not just for Christmas!

The Tempest Corridor St Bartholomew's Academy, Coventry

The Tempest Corridor St Bartholomew’s Academy, Coventry

As we’re talking ‘Tempest’, let’s talk Swindon! Two Swindon schools booked ‘The Tempest’ in exactly the same week this year – East Wichel and Holy Family Catholic School both turned in some cracking work. Trinculo’s rendition of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ is still with me! Finally ‘Hamlet’ in Yorkshire at Montagu Academy – what a week this was. If ever we as adults need a lesson in teamwork, look no further. At FINDING THE WILL we are used to actors jumping into an additional role on the performance day to cover for an unexpected absence, but taking on roles in four out of eight scenes with less than hour to go? That was something quite mind-blowing, as indeed was the talent of the young actor in question. We hope he goes far (and remembers us when he’s famous!).

Pre-show setting for Hamlet, Montagu Academy, Mexborough, Yorkshire

Pre-show setting for Hamlet, Montagu Academy, Mexborough, Yorkshire

Of course there are lots of schools and memorable moments and performances that I haven’t mentioned.  Thank you to all of you, children, teachers, TAs, parents, lunchtime staff, all of whom have worked with us to give two thousand children an opportunity to grow and blossom. In this time of education cuts, restructuring and general uncertainty about everything, it takes courage, vision and trust to invite us in to work with you and, for that, we send you all huge thanks. If we can’t come back and work with you again next year, we’ve got everything crossed for 2020!

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So FINDING THE WILL has pretty much broken up for Christmas now (I know, part-timers!) but I might be back with a quick Merry Christmas to you all when we’re closer to, say, fourteen sleeps till Christmas. Until then I’m off to the North Pole aka The Eden Project to do some under cover Elf work – come on, you know Christmas wouldn’t (couldn’t!) happen without it! In the meantime I’ll leave you with this catchy little ditty entitled:

‘How many sleeps till Christmas?’

(Ear Worm Alert!)



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