Looking Back: Get Happy 21

In Summer 2021, we worked in partnership with internationally renowned theatre company Told By An Idiot to host a week of workshops for young people with SEND which explored themes of their show, Get Happy. Matthew Wiles joined the team for the week as a Young Creative, a paid opportunity for early career skills development and work experience.

Matthew kept a blog throughout the week, reflecting on the activity and his experience in working as part of the creative team. Here are some highlights of his journey:

Day 1: Art

Today was the first day of my mentorship week at the New Wolsey Theatre, part of a seven-day learning experience for me. Today, the group’s theme was Wish You Were Here, which was an art workshop where the participants made post cards by painting over A3 pieces of paper with stencils and paint, and writing their own messages on them. I first assisted the group workshop leaders in setting up the spaces that they would be using, before helping with the register by checking the temperature of the participants before they entered. I helped the participants by showing them how to roll out white paint onto the papers using the rollers, and then how to cut out one of the stencils that they would be using for their postcards. After lunch, I made myself an asset to the group by using a hairdryer to dry out all of the paint on the participants A3 pieces of paper. The end result was a wonderful display of A3 postcards.

I enjoyed today quite a bit, and found myself almost always having something to do during the workshops that we had, whether it was helping out the participants or someone else instead, so that was good.


Day 2: Music

Today’s workshop was much more relaxed, as we focused on playing instruments and learning how to make rhythms rather than creating new pieces of arts and crafts. I helped to sign in and register arriving participants much like I did yesterday, only this time I was given much more independence to do so. Once the group had finished their warmups, we began to use various instruments to build a rhythm and tune. After that, we created a song with them, before practicing with vocal warmups for the second part of the session, and moving to create a vocal and instrumental song at the end of the day.

The last part of the session was focused on compiling ideas to make lyrics for a song, which I helped  to write down, that the participants then sung into a recorder. This session was much calmer than the previous workshop, with more emphasis on playing than with creating. All in all, while I did enjoy the workshop today, I hope that tomorrow’s will allow me to be more practical, and have a bigger hand in what’s going on.


Day 3: Hip Hop

This workshop was much more energetic and focused on physical movement when compared to yesterday, as we focused ourselves on dancing.  First, we warmed up our bodies with games, and then began to develop a shared dancing technique with the practitioner Martell, by copying his movements and building onto them, developing a routine that we all could perform in unison.

After a quick lunch, we created a second routine and recorded our final rehearsal of the dance piece, which we then drew out in stick figures, which I personally called the Wibbly-Wobbly Movey-Wovey.

I found this workshop to be a lot more fun and rewarding than the previous day’s workshop, as I found it to be physical and inventive, even if I grew tired from it and had to step outside for a few minutes in order to regain myself!


Day 4:  Slapstick Comedy

Today’s workshop was mostly focused on activities, with the first activities of the day being a warm up involving passing a clap around the circle that we were in, as well as introducing ourselves to the group along with our favourite foods, and then performing activities such as copying the movements of the others in the group before changing it, as well as getting into pairs, changing three things about our physical appearances, and then guessing what those changes were.

There were not a lot of actual tasks for me to do this in this session, so I joined in with and encouraged the participants in their activities. We used one of my favourite warmup exercises, Wink Murder, which I had a lot of fun in.  I found the session to be too energetic at times, especially in the morning. However, I was able to participate more in the afternoon activities and found myself enjoying them more, especially with how they were focused more on collective work instead of individual participants.

Day 5: Installation and Technical Rehearsal

Today was the final day of my week-long work experience with the New Wolsey Theatre and Told By An Idiot.

The first part of the day was focused on creating the installation for the postcards and other pieces of work that the participants had made over the week, as well as snippets of my blog. With the other helpers, we stuck two pairs of the stands together before cutting slices into the sides and pushing string into them, making them look like clotheslines, to which we then hung the postcards and other pieces on, and then carried them over to the foyer and finished the installation. Afterwards, I watched the performers for the TBAI staff, and saw what they intended to do for tomorrow’s performances.

Overall, this week has been very informative for me, as I was able to learn a lot about what I might get from a future possibly working at the Wolsey, and I look forward to seeing and hearing as to what happens with the TBAI crew and the Wolsey in the future.


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