The show must go on
I, like many parents up and down the country, have recently watched my daughter perform in her primary school’s nativity play. She didn’t have a starring role, (she was an ant!), yet I still experienced a surge of pride as she strutted across the stage to the sounds of Adam and the Ants’ Prince Charming. This was the culmination of weeks of rehearsals, dance demonstrations in our kitchen and the usual last minute search for a suitable costume.
It’s a routine we should be used to by now. Every term, the children perform in a music concert, play or talent contest. Each week they are encouraged to bring in an item of interest for ‘show and tell’ and many join the choir or drama, dance and music clubs. But would their time be better spent focusing on the 3Rs rather than prancing about on stage to dubious 1980s’ songs?
Certainly there are those who believe reality TV talent shows have created a culture of celebrity wannabes. Yet, love or loathe them, there’s something reassuring about millions of families converging on the sofa every Saturday night, to watch ‘ordinary’ people perform. Then there’s the nation’s favourite choirmaster, Gareth Malone, who has tapped into the joy of communal singing, including opera, by inspiring everyone from teenagers to a community in South Oxhey to have a go.
We aren’t a particularly musical or theatrical family but even I can see the benefits of learning how to perform, whether it’s taking part in a show, reciting a poem in class or telling a joke. These are life skills that, let’s face it, are just as useful as algebra and conjugating verbs. My son cowered behind his teacher throughout his first nativity but gentle persuasion and numerous school performances over the years have cured his stage fright.
In fact, both my children have found drama, music and role-play at school helpful in building confidence, as well as a sense of belonging. Of course, I’d like them to do well at Maths, English and other academic subjects, but I also believe the performing arts have a vital role in enriching children’s education. Shakespeare meant nothing to me until I saw Twelfth Night on stage. My son became enthused by the Ancient Greeks after an interactive workshop at school. A friend’s teenage daughter has turned her life around since joining a local youth theatre.
Unfortunately, the spending cuts in the arts announced in October could jeopardise future community and school projects for budding young performers. And whilst the recent news of a match funding scheme to encourage private sponsorship of the arts is welcome, it’s likely that smaller, innovative projects in deprived areas won’t attract the attention of the corporate donor.
What can we do to ensure children from all backgrounds, benefit from the performing arts? It’s all too easy to sit back and watch but I, for one, will be doing everything I can to make my voice heard.
Sarah Kingsley is a freelance writer and has written for many parenting publications.