Mortal Fools' Intern Maya Spencer-Jacobs shares her experience working with Mortal Fools over the last 10 weeks
I applied for the internship because I am really keen to gain an insight into the business and strategic side of the creative and arts sector and wanted to find out more about how companies were faring during such a difficult time. Having researched Mortal Fools, I knew they had continued to run virtual sessions innovatively and interactively online to keep members engaged. From the internship, I was keen to also be able to adapt to a remote working environment and improve my time management skills alongside my studies. In particular, I was interested to learn how to migrate data from legacy systems to build and populate a bespoke customer relationship system.
Starting a new role is always daunting, especially remotely; new people and new projects. Opening the greeting card which the Mortal Fool’s team posted to me on my first day, I realised there wasn’t really time to be nervous. My day starts earlier than most, as I am completing my exchange program with the University of Sydney remotely from the UK. By our 9am team meetings, I have already been up for 4 hours and am probably thinking about my second meal. The core team understand and value the importance in replicating the pre-meeting norms we were used to prior to lockdown. The low buzz chatter whilst making coffee with our colleagues in the staff room. A ritual which could easily be forgotten in virtual meetings, the core team ensure team check ins are number one on the agenda. We reflect on our personal struggles of the past week and if lockdown is impacting our mental health, before getting down to the nitty gritty.
It goes without saying the arts and entertainment industry is one of many industries which has greatly suffered over the past few months, and there is great uncertainty to when in-person sessions and performances with live audiences will be allowed to resume. However, what is certain, is that the Mortal Fools team having quickly adapted to using digital platforms and spaces and have planned ahead. Their next 6 months are sure to be action packed, fostering digital project after the next. As a summer intern, I’ve been working closely with the core team across multiple projects from seeking sponsorship to developing future business strategy. One of my intern tasks so far, has been to develop Mortal Fool’s existing audience focusedapproach, and take the reins with implementing a CRM (customer relationship management) system. This will allow the team to streamline their communication channels with individuals and stakeholders in the business and free up their time to focus on more creative tasks. While university modules can only take you so far in the theory of integrating such a system into a business, working practically with Mortal Fool’s diverse datasets has been insightful to put my database knowledge to the test.
Also, I’ve been involved with Mortal Fool’s business outreach strategy. We’re keen to spread the word about Mortal Fool’s activities and increase our engagement, therefore an important part to this has been monitoring our digital presence, including our website and LinkedIn to ensure that our projects are fully accessible. We’re keen to champion and share Mortal Fool’s work over the last year, and so I’ve also been creating advocacy booklets and reports to showcase the team’s hard work. We aim to use these resources to evidence why Mortal Fool’s is strongly placed within the creative sector to attract investment to continue to support our activities.
What have I learnt?
By Maya Spencer-Jacobs
Mortal Fools' Ensemble member says his farewells and shares his experience with Mortal Fools across the last 9 years.
Over to Ben:
After being a member of Mortal Fools Youth Theatre since 2012, the emotions I’m currently feeling after the conclusion of another project have been a regular occurrence throughout the last eight years of my life. However, this time it’s different - now that our recent audio theatre project has ended and ‘When the World is Loud’ has launched, I am experiencing these feelings for the last time.
Mortal Fools has become an immense part of my life - I would be a completely different person to who I am today without it. I still remember exactly how I felt walking into the Riding Mill Parish Hall for my first project at the age of nine, as an incredibly shy person lacking in confidence, looking ‘as white as a sheet’ in the words of my mum. Little did I know that it was at this point I was becoming involved in something special, which I have felt I’ve belonged to ever since.
Since this point, after taking part in devising entire plays in one week, improvised nights, the National Theatre Connections festival, audio theatre projects and even going on tours across the north with ‘’Brainstorm’’ and ‘’iWeigh’’, I have learnt so much about myself as a person, life on the whole and the industry that I am now planning to enter in the near future.
One of the most important things I’ve learnt from time at Mortal Fools came about when devising one of the above mentioned touring performances ‘’iWeigh’’, which covered a lot of themes that I feel strongly about, such as toxic masculinity, men’s mental health and the pressures caused by social media for the youth of today. When discussing such important concepts, I soon realised through my personal contributions to the piece how crucial it is to open up about such things, instead of ignoring them by perceiving them as ‘’difficult’’. My experience in the rehearsal room at iWeigh helped me to open up a lot more particularly with regards to my mental health within this context, and after the tour had finished.
At the same time, the process of devising in general across all projects I have been involved in has taught me a lot about the importance of communication and working collaboratively in life. When working as an ensemble young company member, the transferable skills I have developed to be used in a multitude of scenarios outside of a performance context can be owed to our way of working when rehearsing, as we consistently worked as a team towards a common aim to ensure we made the best theatre possible.
Alongside being a member of the Youth Theatre, more recently I have had the opportunity to work as a Company Assistant with Mortal Fools also, which has been extremely beneficial once more in terms of developing transferable skills for later life, whilst also allowing a new perspective into the process behind making theatre. In a practical sense, I was able to experience facilitating drama sessions when working with groups both within the Youth Theatre and externally in our Young People’s Theatre Exchange, and I was supported completely to be able to do so. With this, I have been able to develop experience from a young age in something that I wish to carry forward in the future, giving me a vital insight into our working process. As well as this, I have also had the chance to work in arts administration in the Mortal Fools office, again providing an alternative insight into the workings of the charity, which has been very beneficial to me.
From the very beginning, Mortal Fools has taught me to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone - in my very first show, I performed a dance routine onstage in a dress, so it was instantly clear that this would be the case! When rehearsing for ‘’It Snows’’, I didn’t think I would be able to do the physical theatre sections at all - but throughout the process, I gradually gained the confidence and managed it, despite what I first thought. Again, this is something that I’ll carry forward throughout my life, as the self-belief I have gained throughout my time with Mortal Fools has meant that I’m a completely different person to who I once was, when I walked through the doors for the first time.
Currently, I’m preparing to move away from home to begin studying at university. Although I’m excited for the next chapter in my life, I really wish that I could redo the last few years and experience starting at Mortal Fools again. When looking back on my childhood, my time at Mortal Fools will define the majority of my favourite memories - and I’m beginning to feel a bit emotional just thinking about some of these now!
If I could give advice to any prospective future members of Mortal Fools Youth Theatre, I would say:
Throw yourself into everything - everyone is so welcoming and supportive, so offer ideas knowing that they will be accepted, find your creative side and don’t be afraid to just go for it!
Thank you Ben, we are getting emotional too thinking about all our wonderful memories with you. If want to find out more about our Mortal Fools Youth Theatre and if you fancy following in Ben’s footsteps, you can via our website HERE.