This season we're interviewing Josh Whatsize, our new Education Officer & Youth Theatre Leader, who has recently joined our Learning and Participation team.
Welcome to the Corn Exchange Josh! Can you tell us a little about what you were doing before you joined us?
Before I started at the Corn Exchange I was a freelance theatre director working predominantly in London, but also across the South East. I devised several projects that focused specifically on political and verbatim theatre, as well as working in schools to deliver drama workshops, alongside running sessions with several youth theatres in London. I also did some work for the Holocaust Educational Trust, for whom I am an Ambassador. Prior to that, I held a role with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust; as their National Ambassador, I helped set up their Youth Champion programme, which is now a national project.
What attracted you to the Education Officer & Youth Theatre Leader role?
Several things attracted me to the role at the Corn Exchange, in particular the organisation's emphasis on supporting the local community and engaging them through the arts. The variety of courses available for the community is great and I wanted to be a part of a theatre that not only offered this, but also continuously works hard to improve and develop the programme they offer. I really enjoy working with young people and I saw the recently established Youth Theatre as a great opportunity to contribute to the programme and help develop it into something really strong and successful.
What’s been your highlight so far?
So far it has all been great! But if I had to choose, the highlight has been engaging with local school groups here in Newbury and seeing the classes I work with develop and grow in their ability and confidence, within such a short space of time. It is really rewarding to know that the work we are doing is not only allowing young people to engage in drama and the arts, but also to grow as young people. This goes hand in hand with leading our Youth Theatre which has, and I feel always will be a highlight in my line of work. The groups never fail to bring ideas, enthusiasm and a desire to improve their skill set to each session, which challenges me and pushes me to continuously expand my own ideas and ways of thinking.
How are you finding our Youth Theatre programme?
I have met most of the groups attached to the Youth Theatre and all of them are great and really talented. This excites me because as the Youth Theatre grows, so do those associated with it, the work they create and produce will inevitably get stronger and I look forward to supporting this.
What exciting projects are your groups working on in Youth Theatre at the moment?
I have just finished leading the Intermediate Youth Theatre on a National Theatre Connections play called The Changing Room. The group worked really hard and created some stunning movement pieces, alongside some great scene work. I have also been involved with our Young Corn Exchange group, who helped to run the technical aspects of the show as well as front of house coordination, marketing and fundraising. The production was completely youth led and a brilliant way for participants to progress and learn through the curation process. The work culminated with two performances at the Corn Exchange on 25 and 26 March, and will be performed in front of audiences at the Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton on 6th May, which will give the group an experience that they wouldn’t necessarily get elsewhere.
Lastly, what can we expect from the Learning Centre programme this Summer?
There will be an array of exciting courses and workshops available during the summer, in particular some of our early year courses like Creation Station, Toddler Dance and Infant Massage as well as our other workshops like Make a Play in a Day, Cinema Club and various dance workshops. We are also looking forward to delivering our Make and Do Holiday Club during May half term, as it proved a great success during the February holidays.
Take a look at our summer season Get Involved brochure here.