Why is Take Part with us different?
It’s the start of the new season here at Forest Forge and we are busy programming in our regular sessions, adding new ones, and planning the term and year ahead. It’s a great time when new stationary gets cracked open, a new notebook is started, and there is a general feeling of joyful anticipation. This also the time when we get enquiries about new members, and we often get asked “What makes you different?”
It’s a valid question. When you are about to commit to a new group yourself, or sign up your child to a session you won’t be able to check out yourself, how can you know that it is right for you, for your child? Even more so after the past 18 months when trying new things has been difficult to do and emerging from our safe cocoons is a challenging prospect.
So what does make us different? Its difficult to express – on the face of it we are another arts organisation offering participation for all ages and all abilities. How do we stand out? Well, ultimately it comes down to our ethos, which in 40 years has remained steady – it’s about all about people. People as individuals, as a group; about their self-confidence and self-esteem; about encouraging play and creativity; about developing skills for the world and for the professional theatre world. About finding your tribe and being accepted for who you are.
All our groups offer this: Whether it is a 6 year old joining us for the first time; a 15 year old coming back for their sixth year; a Young Company member committing to a year before heading off to further training; an adult taking time out to expend some energy and have a laugh, or flexing their writing muscles for the first, second, nineth time; or an Act Your Ager coming back for a creative outlet, a challenge and some companionship. It’s all there for the taking.
Sounds good- but what is it exactly that we do that makes it different? (See, I said it was hard to express! I will have a go anyway).
- We treat everyone as an individual, celebrating their triumphs and their failures – especially the failures as that is how where we learn. We make failure fun. We have a go and get it wrong in a safe place. Then we have a go again and get it right!
- We make every effort to ensure there is equality in our groups – there isn’t a scramble to be the best to get to the top because there is no top. We all stand side by side.
- Anyone can join – it makes no difference if you have 20 years experience in theatre, or zero. We are all here together to see what we can create.
- We are professional – we only employ people to work with our participants who have the same ethos as us. Who have experience, and are willing to jump on in and work alongside everyone.
- We don’t pit people against each other. You may be rewarded with a high five or an enthusiastic “nice work”, but we don’t have certificates, or hierarchies. You can get just as an enthusiastic well done from a particularly good throw in dodge ball, to an act of solidarity with a friend, to a beautiful scene created in a group. It is all celebrated as equally important. All this stuff makes the ensemble… which makes the group. It is not about stars and sparkles, it’s about a team making something meaningful.
- You will get to perform at some point. Maybe to a big audience, maybe not. Maybe to friends and family, maybe to strangers on the street. Either way, the pieces will be carefully chosen and created alongside the group to ensure they are relevant, fresh and have meaning. Which might be a piece showing social change, or equally something to make everyone smile. They are both as important as each other.
- It’s about YOU. Whether you simply wand to flex your creative muscles and make some brilliant friends, or take the path to working in theatre professionally, we will support you at every level.
In conclusion, the biggest difference we have is that we care about every single one of our participants. Whether they are 10 minutes into the session or a seasoned member. We care about their well-being, their development, their friendships, their self-esteem, their creativity, their fun … just them.
So, if this sounds like something your child, or your mum, or your uncle, or even you want to be part of – come along. Try it out. You are all welcome.
By Lucy Phillips
Creative Learning Director
Photo credit Robin Small