Did you know that 50% of people that work in youth theatre are volunteers? From the Fri 5 – Sun 14 May 2017, it’s Voluntary Arts Week across Scotland – a time to celebrate and share the work of voluntary arts groups. We’ll be shining a spotlight on some of the youth theatre leaders who volunteer their time to create brilliant theatre experiences for young people.

Shakespeares KidsOur final spotlight is on Sharon McNally who has brought the bard to the bairns through her group Shakespeare’s Kids in Cumbernauld.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My journey into Shakespeare’s Kids is an unusual one. I was previously the Training Rep for Scotland and Manager for Citibank for 10 years but my daughter was born seriously ill and would require many serious operations so I took a career break. To keep me occupied I opened a small book shop and ran classes for children exploring the books we sold and decided to undertake a degree in literature and language with the Open University.

My final courses were Children’s Literature and then Shakespeare and The Sonnets. It occurred to me then similarities in the themes of both and the appeal Shakespeare would have to children. I had spoken with the RSC and other similar organisations and became aware that there was little support for children in Scotland to explore Shakespeare in any depth and in a fun way without excessive costs so decided to open one class to explore the play “Macbeth” and have never really stopped over the last five years.

How would you describe your group in 5 words?

Unique, life-changing, daring, vibrant and family.

How did you get involved in running your Youth Theatre?

I got involved in Youth Theatre as I became aware that children were not being given enough opportunities to showcase their individual talents outwith school and the deep desire of children to perform on stage and be recognised for their potential. Shakespeare’s Kids ensures every child has a moment of recognition in every performance or film. To begin with, we set up 1 class after school in the local primary and then extended into other schools and the local college.

What role do volunteers play in your organisation?

Without our volunteers the group would not be as it is. We have students who volunteer their time for hair / make-up for all our productions. Lee our class photographer is also a student volunteer. We have numerous parents and students who volunteer at classes and productions to help in any way they can to ensure that productions, classes can continue and be effective. Without their assistance we would really struggle to have an efficient theatre group.

What do you enjoy most about Youth Theatre?

What I enjoy most without a doubt is my relationship with the children. There is nothing more rewarding that working with a child who is unaware of their potential or afraid to participate and watch them slowly blossom or simply burst into that character on stage or screen.

Children are so full of talent and given the confidence and opportunity and support – they can amaze.

I have worked with children with difficulties both physical and learning, and what I know for sure is that there is a gift in every child just waiting to be unlocked or recognised. Some of these particular children are most gifted in the arts but their potential is often hidden inside and just requires the right environment for that talent to be embraced. This could be as dramatic as singing and dancing or as simple as organisation, compassion for the group.

Every child has a special place that they can fill like no other.

What are you working on right now?

Having just completed three Shakespeare productions in three months, the children have earned some fun so we will be holding our Oscar celebrations, after show parties and then touring some local schools and appearing at a number of local events. We then have our summer week-long camps were we will begin to put together our Halloween production. Last year’s “Calling All The Monsters” was a huge success – an original production created and choreographed by the children themselves. This year will see us explain how the Monsters came to be and explore the tragedy and romance behind the Sanderson Sisters story. This will be an elaborate production with around 100 children.

Voluntary Arts Festival runs from Fri 5 – Sun 14 May 2017 and is a project of Voluntary Arts who work to promote and increase active participation in creative cultural activities across the UK and Republic of Ireland.


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