I am Eleanor Grainger, a Sixth Form student growing up and living in the North East, and ever since I was 11 I had my head and heart fixated on developing an acting career.
Growing up in the North East and wanting to go into a theatrical career is difficult, there are not a lot of opportunities for young people to acquire, develop and master their skills in readiness for the working world. In this education system, so focused on STEM occupations and the sciences, it is hard to find experiences that will benefit you as a creative person. Mortal Fools is an excellent charity that will give you just that…
I first discovered Mortal Fools in late 2017 as I was searching for work experience for a week in June. I was immediately interested in their Future Ready Programme that was developed a few years back which selflessly aims to help young people with SEND to grow in confidence and gain skills, ready for their future in the working world.
Additionally, as the years have went by, I have become increasingly aware that when I am out of work, I will need a steady income. Having already looked into set and costume design, as well as dabbling in some directing, I thought working with Mortal Fools will be a perfect opportunity to develop the skills I already have, whilst also gaining many more by working on site, alongside professionals.
I have had a brilliant week, packed with a variety of jobs and tasks to complete that involve many areas of expertise – from creative thinking and problem solving; office-based organisation and helping the preparation for future projects to run smoothly; to working with several groups of fantastic young people in a variety of projects that are running right now.
The majority of my work experience was to help Mortal Fools prepare for a shift from touring to a local production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with Collingwood School and Media Arts College. Despite coming in at a late, busy and quite full-on time, everyone welcomed me with open arms and ensured I was happy, safe, and learning.
My first day was focused on getting Caedmon Hall ready for the actors from the school to perform in the afternoon, as well as getting them settled in and mentally prepared for the performance. This meant my tasks for the day was a mixture of; getting in the set and getting out, so they can put the set back up at the school of a week of shows there; helping everyone get into their costumes, ensuring make-up and hair was completed and all the props were ready for use. Already, my skill set was developed and it made me very excited for the rest of the week, I must admit!
Wednesday was a very similar job-set to Monday, but it gave me the opportunity to hone my skills independently and quickly. I should also add that working with young people with SEND is an experience not many people my age can have, and it was truly magnificent! Having that time to become more knowledgeable about the needs of people living with learning difficulties is really beneficial for the future in both my working life and for society as a whole.
Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were office days – so not only do you develop on-site technique, but numeracy and IT skills as well! This just proves how versatile one needs to be in this sort of profession and having the ability to acquire all these skills in one week has been both helpful and exciting, as you are not sitting at a desk doing a 9 to 5 job becoming extremely and miserably bored.
The skills I have gained from my week of work experience are great, as they can be tailored specifically to jobs that I can look into for when I am not acting, as well as versatile – so not one technique is suitable for that one very specific job in the market. You can use them anywhere.
Speaking of careers, working with Mortal Fools has highlighted a career path I did not discover beforehand. Everyone – if not a good majority – who works for Mortal Fools is freelance, which is a form of self-employment I have never thought about going into. When it comes to education, we are engrained from an early age that we must do GCSEs, A-levels, then go to a Russel Group University, get a steady 8-hour-a-day job… etcetera. But that is not the case when it comes to actually working in the industry.
To conclude, Mortal Fools have been extremely helpful in giving me the chance to work with them, as well as showing me first-hand what it is like to work in the industry. I cannot stress how important it is to have that experience before making a final decision on your choice of career, and how insightful it is.
I think charities, companies (large or small) and professional theatre organisations can all learn something from Mortal Fools, be it their way of creating local, thought-provoking theatre, or helping local communities in a creative manner. I have also gained a lot of insight into the theatrical profession, and all of the careers that come with it that I could research in more detail.
And finally, a quick note to anyone wanting to find work experience in this industry...
It is vital that you do find some work experience before you commit yourself to something you may not entirely enjoy – this is especially important for creative careers as you do not want to limit your creative talent and imagination to something you hate. Work experience can really help you there. You could do several placements that are specific to certain careers and make an informed decision, or you could spend a week or two with one company that does everything and make an equally informed decision. I understand that people work and learn in many different ways but if you are a quick learner and already have some knowledge on the career paths you want to explore, I highly suggest applying for a work placement with Mortal Fools as they will treat you as an equal and will ensure your work experience is tailored to suit you and the intentions you have.
Thank you, Mortal Fools, for allowing me to work with you for a week, it has been useful, fun, and memorable.
If you’ve never heard of Mortal Fools before, what do you need to know about them? We asked Artistic Director, Kiz Crosbie, to explain more about the theatre company – who they are and what they do, why they do it and what’s really important to the organisation.
Mortal Fools are a group of theatre professionals passionate about making really great theatre which also seeks to help improve people’s lives. The company is led by Kiz (Artistic Director / CEO), Helen Ferguson (Creative Producer) and Zoe Anderson (Programme Co-ordinator), together with a magnificent team of Associate Artists and Practitioners who we work with regularly.
We are a company who pride ourselves on being people-centred – all our work is for the benefit of people and we work hard to always balance our business needs with human needs. The values we strive to live by as an organisation are Contributing, Growing, With Others, As Ourselves. These are things we passionately believe help people to thrive and so also help us to thrive as an organisation. They’re not for a poster on the wall – but for every day, present in all elements of our work - as a living, breathing enactment of the world we are working to create.
We are also a company who pride ourselves on crafting deep, supportive relationships with theatre artists at early stages of their careers. It can be extremely hard-going as an independent artist just starting out, so we provide opportunities for them, recruiting partly on the basis of skills and experience, but mostly seeking those who share our passions and beliefs and supporting them to develop as artists through our existing projects and their own projects.
We also believe that, when done in the right way, participating in and making great art can improve people’s lives. We love drama and theatre and work to bring the highest quality of dramatic arts into (sometimes) the most unlikely of places.
Earlier in 2017, we moved to a new base in Prudhoe, Northumberland. We’ve always worked extensively in the county, but we wanted to locate ourselves in an area that wasn’t well-served and work to change that. We’ve been welcomed by the community in the most wonderful way – met with curiosity, intrigue and perhaps a little confusion, but always with warmth.
In the last 6 months alone we’ve brought ‘Stupid’, a solo show by young artist, Sian Armstrong, to Prudhoe High School as part of a regional series of preview performances. She and director, Anna Ryder, were also in residence at the school for a week as part of the show’s development process. We’ve also delivered a leadership training day as part of our adult training programme for leaders in the voluntary, community and small business sector in the area, in partnership with Prudhoe Community Partnership. And now we’re bringing ‘Melva’, transforming a shop unit on the high street into a pop-up theatre and producing our own family theatre for the first time. We’re working with young actors, a young director, supporting a writer with her first full play script and bringing all this excitement to a community who’s had nothing like this there before.
What about Kiz? Who is the person behind the organisation?