When Richard Curnow and I started FINDING THE WILL in 2007 it was meant to be a ‘fill in’ job. Something we could do when we were ‘resting’ as actors. We never dreamt that it would become the success it has, nor did we ever think it would become our main income stream. What a joy then to find that ten years later we are still just as passionate, just as proud of all the children with whom we work and, maybe, just a little bit richer (and I don’t mean financially).
This is not to say that it has been an easy road. It has been a ‘slow burn’ as they say with the same sort of angst, frustrations and disappointments encountered in building any business. So why do we do it? Because we believe in our product. More importantly, because we believe that helping children to gain confidence, team working skills, listening and speaking skills and generally raising their self-esteem is a lesson every child is entitled to.
You might notice I’ve not mentioned Shakespeare in that. That’s because FINDING THE WILL is not just about William Shakespeare (as much as he remains our hero) – FINDING THE WILL is about giving children a chance to experiment with and to discover new skills which ultimately will stand them in good stead for life. Learning a Shakespeare story is just an added bonus.
Imagine you are eight years old, have only been in this country for a few months and are just learning English. Or you are seven years old and extraordinarily shy (complex reasons no doubt). You are perhaps ten years old, not very academic and not particularly good at sport. You are nine years old, the class clown, everyone loves you, but underneath you are desperately insecure. And then you have to play Hamlet, Juliet, Puck, Miranda, Sir Toby Belch or a cleaner at Glamis Castle (a hugely important role) – how would you cope? You might only have one line to say but it’s going to take a huge effort to say it. How would you feel standing up in front of a hall full of parents and friends? Or say you are eleven years old, full of confidence and ‘acting’ is dead easy but, in this instance, you are only cast in what you consider to be a minor role. How do you deal with not being the centre of attention? How would you feel stepping into another role at the last minute because someone is off sick on the performance day? Most importantly how would you feel once you’d done it?……… “Awesome!” is a word we hear quite a lot.
FINDING THE WILL works nationally with primary and special schools. However we are lucky enough to work annually in schools in Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire, Warwickshire and London and biannually in Wiltshire. All Saints Primary in Whiteparish near Salisbury has become a huge fan of our work (and us of them) and we’re proud to say we are already booked in for a week in September 2018! We also have lovely links in Devizes with Rowde Academy (where we actually led one of our first Shakespeare Project Weeks way back in 2007) and also Nursteed Community Primary where we have visited several times and indeed worked with them on ‘Twelfth Night’ as their KS2 Christmas Show in 2015. And because, as a company, we feel that all schools should benefit, not just the larger ones with larger budgets, we have also pioneered a Cluster Project fortnight here in Wiltshire. This involves four primary schools (splitting the cost equally between all four) having interactive workshops for 120 children in each school during the first week, followed by 30 children going forward from each school in the second week to perform the chosen play. The added social benefit here is children from different schools mixing and working together.
So believing, as we do, that what FINDING THE WILL stands for is worth fighting for, we’re not going to be put off by budget cuts and targets that don’t feature ‘drama’. We’re quite prepared for the road to get even tougher. Why? Because we know that what we, as a company, can offer is not quantifiable on paper but it is more valuable to some children than all the Maths, English and Science lessons they will ever have.
Every child deserves a chance to shine and at FINDING THE WILL we give every child just that. Whether they are performing, answering questions, making props, playing an instrument, pressing Play on the CD player – no one is left out. And that is what business and life should be isn’t it? Equal, fair and playing to everyone’s strengths (even if those strengths have only just been discovered). We’d like to think that FINDING THE WILL is playing a small part in shaping the future generation – here’s to the next ten years!