Interview with Barney, a marathon runner for SSF

Every year across the country up to 30,000 young people take to local professional stages supported by their teachers, local communities and Shakespeare Schools Foundation facilitators. There is, however, one other group of people who play a vital role in bringing the transformative power of Shakespeare to young people around the UK: our fundraisers.  Earlier this year we spoke to Barney, a proud Festival alumnus, as he prepared to run the London Marathon in support of our work.

I started by asking Barney about his first experience of the Festival. He told me about taking part in the Festival for the first time at about 14 years old, performing The Comedy of Errors at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol. The experience was incredibly positive and, in his words, “eye-opening.”  Barney had always loved theatre, but like many young people had been nervous about Shakespeare being “hard to understand and perform”.  When it actually came to getting onstage, Barney found the Festival process inspiring and was struck by the confidence he and his friends gained from working alongside SSF’s team of professional actors, directors and facilitators.

One of the things Barney most remembers is the sense of togetherness he felt with the rest of his cast and the incredible sense of scale he felt, performing in a drama Festival alongside other schools in towns and cities across the country. He spoke passionately about how the Festival makes you “a part of something massive” and how inspiring this was, and noted that many of his school friends, who had never previously been interested in drama, pursued the subject to GCSE level and beyond. Two things emerge from my conversation with Barney: the remarkable scope of the Festival and the powerful, positive force it can have on individuals.

I asked Barney how he came to be such a strong supporter of SSF, raising money through cake sales and pub quizzes and, now, running the London Marathon. We spoke about his school’s performing arts specialism and how the loss of its funding for this stream of work led him to reflect on “how lucky we’d been” to have had the opportunity to take part in the Festival. Barney told me how he hoped that, through his fundraising, more young people might be able to access this incredible opportunity and noted, in particular, how supportive his work colleagues had been of his fundraising efforts.

Barney gave us his valuable advice for anyone thinking of fundraising for SSF: “It’s something to go for. Even if you have a small idea, dive in - it will help!” and he’s absolutely right. The contributions, big and small, of supporters across the country enable young people like Katie, Jacob and Ben to access incredible, transformative experiences.

We’re incredibly proud to have wonderful supporters like Barney. I ended our conversation by asking him, all these years after first taking part, what the Festival means to him. His response summed things up perfectly: “A lot of people who’d never have dreamed of getting involved in Shakespeare did thanks to SSF and, across the country, that must have a huge impact”.

Barney ran the London Marathon in support of the Shakespeare Schools Foundation on Sunday 22nd April 2018. There are countless ways you can join him in supporting thousands of young people all over the UK. To find out more, get in touch on: maya@shakespeareschools.org

SSF is a cultural education charity that exists to instil curiosity and empathy, aspiration and self-esteem, literacy and teamwork - giving young people the confidence to see that all the world is their stage.

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