President's Message - December 2016
In November I visited the Abbey Theatre to watch an evening of Shakespeare with a twist. The Abbey Theatre is truly one of our great local treasures and I have been lucky enough to be present at numerus performances over the years which have made me laugh and cry in equal measure. The theatre is operated by a wonderfully committed group of volunteers and actors and continues to produce an excellent variety of performances with something for everyone throughout the year.
This evening of Shakespeare was no different from the usual high standard of production at the Abbey Theatre featuring fine acting talent, a mixture of tragedy and comedy and all received with rapturous applause from an audience hanging on the company’s every word. And now for the twist! These actors were very special indeed as they were made up of year 6 and year 10 pupils drawn from three of our local schools Grove Junior School, St Albans School and Kings Langley School. Three Shakespeare classics were performed: Hamlet, Macbeth and Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and it was genuinely easy to forget the age of the actors and that those performing the plays had never performed in front of such a large audience and for such an extended period. Indeed, for the majority of performers, this was their very first time performing at all never mind coping with the challenges of a huge stage or an expectant audience.
Reflecting on what was a truly remarkable evening, I began to ask myself how it was possible to get these children so engaged with Shakespeare to such an extent that they would give up their own free time including lunch breaks and after school in order to put themselves through several months of hard work in order to deliver the outstanding performances witnessed.
Firstly, this programme is organised by the Shakespeare Schools Festival www.ssf.uk.com who must take great credit for producing such amazing results. In their own words, the festival “transforms the lives of over 30,000 young people every year” and provides children with the confidence to “stride onto whatever stage life has for them”. The programme costs £2,000,000 to run annually and does rely on donations and sponsorship to survive. This year will see 1,100 schools performing Shakespeare in 131 locations right across the country.
Secondly, the teachers who drive these programmes at a local level must also take great credit for instilling these children with the confidence and self-belief to progress over a very short period from a novice to an accomplished performer. In a curriculum that has become ever crowded with strictly controlled content with ever decreasing space of self-expression and exploration, I applaud the work of both the SSF and our local schools for partnering in something which will undoubtedly provide the children with important life skills and an experience they will never forget.
You will have all now received your membership subscription invoice for 2017, your prompt payment is appreciated and thank you for your continued support.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and prosperous 2017. We look forward to working with you next year and have a fantastic calendar of networking events lined up for you! My new guide dog Dennis (pictured) graduated last Thursday 8th December and is looking forward to meeting you all soon!
David Clarke, Chamber President