I have just read an article in The Telegraph that features TV presenter and Property Developer Sarah Beeny. I found it so patronising that I had to share it with you all. Even given the propensity of the media to embellish and make a good story out of anything, I thought the tone of the article was a little ‘smug middle-class’ and not in tune with the hard financial times that many families face in the UK today.
Let me start by quoting just one paragraph: “It’s absolute nonsense to say you cannot afford to cook properly. Chicken nuggets are expensive, actually, and it’s not about time either. That’s nonsense. There’s a million recipes. A baked potato takes one minute – you get potato, put it in oven, done. That’s not a complicated, time-consuming thing to do. Getting chips out of the freezer and putting them in a deep fat fryer is more effort than a jacket potato. Saying your kid won’t eat a jacket potato is nonsense because no child will starve themselves to death.”
I found this blog post last night written by film director Ben Gregor (yes – I know it was written last year, but better late than never!). The full article is well worth reading, but let me share the first paragraph with you immediately: “So your kid likes acting and wants to be famous? You want them to be the next Harry Potter? Well, as a film director I have to say that the first thing you need to do is…..STOP”!
Ben goes on to say that children’s enthusiasm is a precious commodity and they should hang on to that and enjoy life for as long as possible. Which is why he would never want his own children to have an agent or act professionally while they are young. Reading his article, I found myself agreeing with him wholeheartedly and it reminded me of why I set up Perform.
When I was 21, I got my first acting job in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of “Oliver” at The Palladium. Because I loved working with children, I also became involved in auditioning and rehearsing the kids in the show. And I was shocked to hear children aged 8 discuss their careers and how much money they were making. It seemed so strange and sad listening to these children talk like adults. Sure – they were enthusiastic on-stage, but maybe not for the right reasons?
At the same time I had adult cast members bemoan the fact that they’d gone straight into performing as a child and now weren’t qualified or experienced to do anything else. They felt that they’d been robbed of opportunities and their options had been closed off before they were even 16.
So that’s why I started Perform. Having been an actor and worked for other drama organisations I wanted to create a drama school that focused on the fun to be had when singing, dancing and acting and the skills that it gives us – regardless of what career we go on to have. And to this day, Perform is still unique in this.
Go to the website of any franchised drama school out there like Stagecoach, Razzamatazz, Pauline Quirke etc, and the front page will probably be celebrating a child landing a role in “Matilda” or “Les Mis” or a tv series or film. And that’s fine. That’s what they do. They congratulate the children who get the jobs, because it’s such a hard and very competitive world. But what about the 100s of their students who don’t? Who get rejected and don’t feel good enough?
I remember my parents telling me I didn’t get the part of “Annie” when I was 10 in a local repertory production – and I still remember how sad and rubbish I felt! Now I know that’s life and we all have to deal with that sort of thing, but at such an early and impressionable age? Isn’t it better for children to be children and enjoy singing, dancing and acting for its own sake? And if they’re still enjoying it and are good when they are older and a little more mature, then isn’t that the best time to encourage them to take it more seriously?
Being a performer is a magical profession and I would hate the world to have been deprived of child stars such as the recently deceased Shirley Temple. But it’s tough and I do think that you need to be older to deal with it. And in the meantime, there’s always Perform! What do you think?
My last post about why drama is beneficial prompted some parents to comment on the positive impact attending Perform classes has had on their children. While it’s great to receive that feedback, it made me think more about how that positive impact affects us throughout our lives. And specifically how Michael Gove’s plans to “cleanse the curriculum” and offer less traditionally academic subjects to children will potentially harm UK plc.
So I chatted to a few successful business people I know who have performing backgrounds and asked them if they thought this had helped them in their professional lives in any way.
Jim Lawless, author of Taming Tigers and CEO of the Velocity Corporation started off his working life as a City solicitor. But he felt that his communications skills were so inadequate that he took a one-year full-time drama course to improve his skills in this area. The result has been an international speaking and writing career and a successful business that he simply could not have built without understanding the finer points of communication – one to one, with a small group and with audiences of up to 3,000.
To illustrate how subjects like maths are not always as important as the ability to communicate for success in business, Jim related to me the story of meeting a very wealthy man who explained that buying at 5 and selling at 10 gave him a 5% margin. Not quite GCSE maths, but this great communicator had nevertheless built up quite a network of satisfied and regular customers!
West End and Broadway leading lady Charley King, well known for playing roles such as Velma Kelly in Chicago and Ulla in The Producers, set up www.bluebellevents.com - an award winning wedding and event planning company in Los Angeles . For her, it is the discipline that she learnt from being a dancer that gave her the focus to build and grow her business to the successful enterprise it is today.
Hannah Rouch, a drama-trained journalist who set up the hugely successful www.stylenest.co.uk a fashion and destination website for the modern women, feels that her drama background gave her the confidence to be able to speak and make business presentations. Even dealing with CEOs of large companies didn’t faze her as she knows how to control her nerves and make a confident impression to hold her own in these meetings.
Supporting these conversations with Jim, Charley and Hannah is this article I read recently, written by a successful PR and Marketing businessman who has never taken a business or marketing course in his life. Instead, he attributes his success in business to the skills he learnt taking a theatre degree.
As Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” If in our schools we only hone in on academic intelligence, we risk demolishing esteem and confidence in less academic children. And these children could be the entrepreneurs of the future. So it’s not just the arts that suffer, it’s all jobs. If you take away the ability for children to learn in different ways, then you take away their potential to achieve. And that’s something that education shouldn’t be doing.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. And if you’re a Perform Alumni I’d really like to know if your experiences at Perform has helped you in your adult life in any way.
As Principal of a leading drama school, I’m asked this question a lot. And I could write a book on the many reasons why drama is so excellent – not just good – for children. But for this blog post, I’ll focus on just one benefit; and that’s the improvement drama can make to a child’s oral communication.
At school, there’s an emphasis on children learning to read and write and rightly so, as these are fundamental skills. But where’s the interest in how well a child is communicating and how clearly and confidently they are speaking? If you consider how much we communicate orally, interacting with friends, family, colleagues and strangers, then it seems odd that more emphasis isn’t put on this in schools.
I always adored receiving books as presents when I was a little girl and, now I’m a mother, I love it when my children are given books too. A book can open your mind to new worlds, take you on adventures and introduce you to characters who end up as best friends – and all from your bedroom!
At Perform, we always theme our holiday courses around great children’s literature. We run courses putting together specially written versions of stories like Alice in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. Parents often comment how the experience has inspired them to read the whole story. Read more »
I am normally quite a talkative person but even I was rendered speechless when I read this article about some of the many ‘Curriculum Cleansing’ changes that Michael Gove is planning.
For example, currently all GCSE students have to study English by either taking English Language GCSE and an English literature course, or a single English GCSE which combines both language and literature. Both options introduce children to English literature. Read more »
Did anyone read this story recently about a grandfather in Kent who went to pick up his granddaughter and was given the wrong child?
He took this child to a doctor’s appointment where she was prescribed liquid paracetemol and then took her back to school. At the end of the day, she was picked up by her mother and, it was only later when she told her what had happened, that the whole story came to light.
I don’t know the exact details, only what was reported, and regardless of the extraordinary notion of a presumably competent grandfather confusing a random child with his own granddaughter, the obvious question here is:
How on earth did the school give the wrong child to the grandfather in the first place? Read more »
I had to share this piece by Tim Lott in The Observer last week.
Tim talks about the struggle he had to get his eldest daughter Ruby to eat fruit and vegetables as a child. Ruby refused to eat anything remotely healthy and the article starts with him talking about the meltdown he had with her at Ikea Brent Cross over a pea. He was determined for her to eat just one little pea, even if it was smothered in tomato ketchup or dipped in honey. But, despite offering rewards and punishments, she wouldn’t eat the pea and hasn’t ever eaten one since.
Read more »
I really can’t stand the term Mumpreneur.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s a series about a young girl whose mother marries the King and therefore becomes Royal overnight. The episodes are based around the dilemmas that young children experience and the plots all have strong moral messages behind them. the show also has a fantastic musical score which particularly appeals to me. Read more »