Sunday, 29 June 2014

The 'Last' Day at Ashcroft...

Okay, so the thing about calling it the 'last' day is that it's a bit of a misnomer - we've still got exams ahead and many of us are still going to be going in to school to revise in the run up to them.

Nevertheless, Friday 16th May 2014 was the last day you would have virtually the entire of our year group in one place, and the last day we were sort of obliged to be there. We therefore marked the occasion in style ;)

Back-track a bit. So, for this last day, we were told not to come in before 11.00am. Maybe it was to minimise disruption of school decorum. Maybe it was so the teachers had time to ready everything. Who knows - but most of us were rather grateful for the lie-in.

Or at least, the opportunity for one... after my first chance to be able to stay in bed for a bit longer on a weekday in aaaaaaages, I ended up waking up at 6.00am anyway, unable to get back to sleep. Ho-hum.

I then also had to spend a good few hours waiting around at home doing not-much. To be fair, I was just ready and raring to go - I was excited! It was the chance to be in fancy dress - and I was particularly pleased with my choice of character....

I got on the bus, hat and coat in my bag. (While as I'm sure won't surprise you, I've no shame in wandering around London in a ridiculous costume, my mother quite rightly pointed out that in the day's heat I didn't want to be wearing the coat when it wasn't necessary, and the hat was liable to be taken off my head by some passerby for a laugh). At the bus stop, I ran into Oumesh, my old friend from Sellincourt Primary School, who joined Ashcroft for Sixth Form in Year 12.

As I sat on the bus, making this journey into Wandsworth for what would be my last proper day at school, it felt very fitting that I was making that journey with a friend who I'd known for so many years :)

Fast forward a little more to arriving at school. I met Michael on the hill, who had gone and bought himself a ninja costume along the way - and was coming to the realisation that the amount of black he'd be wearing would cause him to roast (admittedly, I'd be wearing black too, but I had considered this in advance).

Some people were already present in their costumes. Chris in his camouflage morph suit, Philippa as Trinity from The Matrix and Joseph Ruff as "Joseph Ruff-Holding-A-Plant".

Only trouble was - Mÿca (Thing 2) had the white face paint (the plan was to share it between Things 1, 2 and The Cat). So, me (The Cat) and Monet (Thing 1) were left face paint-less for the first part of the morning. Naturally I was concerned - a Cat In The Hat costume without the face paint (or at least, one thrown together in the manner I had done so) looked more like a magician with a stripy top hat than one of the most famous of Dr Seuss' creations. 

The buffet was laid out at 11.00. The Leaver's Assembly was due to start at 11.50. As the clock ticked on, I did begin to get more and more nervous - I knew, obviously, that Mÿca, Cathie and Nicole would be there - but at what time was beginning to be anyone's guess. Eventually, I sent Mÿca a text:

Context: Esther was also dressed as The Cat In The Hat. She had used eye liner for the whiskers. We were planning to do the same when Mÿca got there for mine. If face paint wasn't gonna be available in time, I thought borrowing Esther's eye liner to draw on some whiskers might be an option. 

Yes, out of context it is a lot funnier.

Anyway, shortly after I sent the text, Nicole, Cathie and Mÿca arrived in full costume, looking fantastic, and I hastily borrowed the face paint and some eye liner, before returning looking like this:

Much better. ;)

We then headed to LRC 1, where we were to have our final little presentation from Mr Roberts and Ms Graves.

Mr Roberts' part of the presentation was much more serious (no surprises there), but surprisingly heartfelt in places, and very honest and open.

Ms Graves' presentation was naturally more fun, and included a few notable blasts from the past - photos of our first days in the school back in 2007, mostly (with the odd one from when we were in Year 10, for those who joined the school that bit later) :P

Finally, there was a video that Anjimae had compiled from various people's goodbye messages, and Mr Roberts presented a few awards to a few students - Monet, Deborah, Steven and Shamim. Monet and Deborah even had their awards presented to them by their primary school teachers, and I have to say, though they weren't my teachers, my eyes were glistening at the kind gesture on the school's part.

We then headed off back to G Block to pick up our things, stopping for photos with each other and the odd member of staff, before going for a lovely picnic in Wandsworth Park.

All in all, it was a great last day, and it was lovely to be sat with everyone enjoying the sunshine - and I was very glad people got so much into the spirit of things dressing up.

Now all that remained was for us to do our exams...


PART 2 - "Category Busy Bees..."

PART 3 - "Ashcroft Prom 2014"

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Group 64...

"Does it feel very sad that it's over?"

"It hasn't quite sunk in yet."

That was an exchange I had with my Granny, earlier yesterday evening. I had just finished my last show at Group 64.

It would be mere hours before that fact would properly register for me.

I've been quite good at compartmentalising things as of late. I'm at a stage of my life when a lot of things are ending - where I'm having a lot of lasts. Last Religious Studies lesson, last exam, last BTEC Drama performance, last day of school...

But yesterday was my last day at Group 64.

Eleven years.

Eleven years I've been there. I've been going there over a decade. I'm an adult (well, legally speaking) now, and I've been going to this place since I was seven.

When I first started at Group 64, I was very different. I don't know if I'd say I was shy, but I wasn't as outgoing, that's for sure.
Group 64 brought me out of my shell. It was a place where I got to go, every Saturday, and I loved it. It started out as just a bit of fun, and then I started doing the odd show with them. Not big parts, mostly just being a little bit part in scripted shows or part of the ensemble in an end of term performance.

After a while, I started getting a bit lively and mad. Not in a troublesome way, just very energetic. Mum once said to one of the tutors, Ned Glasier, "He used to be so quiet..."

Ned's response? He laughed and said, "Henry? Quiet?"

Eventually, due to this increasing level of childlike madness, I was cast as Professor Plumpton - a part especially written for me by the youth director at the time, Kirsten.

Going to secondary school was a massive change in my life. I had spent my entire childhood in the same school and was very attached to it. What really helped ease the transition was having this one constant - you've guessed it - Group 64.

I started to get parts - very good parts - in more and more shows. Marley in A Christmas Carol, Jake in Sparkleshark, the King Of Mirrors in Beauty & The Beast, Specs in A Handbag, Lord Boreal in His Dark Materials...

I made more and more friends who would frequently be in classes and shows with me. I could write an entire blog post entirely dedicated to the friends I'd made over the years at Group 64, and I still probably wouldn't cover all of them, or feel I'd fully expressed how much they mean to me. I could write a book about all the wonderful times I've had at this place.

Group 64's been a comfort blanket, through the tough or the sad times, and a place where I've had some of the maddest, happiest, most brilliant times of my life. It's been the grounding at Group 64 that I've had in Drama that's lead to doing so well in it at school, getting in to the National Youth Theatre (with three other Group 64 friends that year, and many more have joined since!), getting to perform onstage at the National Theatre, and being part of the first season of the National's Young Studio initiative.

I would not be the person I am today if not for Group 64. I would not have some of the truly loveliest friends I've made in my life. I would not have had such an amazing wealth of experience, I would not have learned so much about theatre, and drama, and people, and myself, if not for the influence this magical place has had on me.

The place may be 50 years old, but the impact it has on people's lives is immeasurable. 

The moment it sunk in that it was all coming to an end was later last night, when Nicola, the youth director, presented us all with these wonderful posters of ourselves in productions from over the years, and a special message from her to each of us. At that moment, both me and Stanley (one of my oldest friends at Group 64) broke down into tears. Group 64 really does mean so much to us, and although a part of us will never truly leave, we are at a point of big change in our lives - last night, performing in the Young Company Sketch Show, really was the End Of An Era.

I can't quite believe that I'm not going to be attending there week in, week out any more.

I owe my Granny so much for taking me to see one of their shows, and asking me if I wanted to be a member, all those years ago. Without my Granny, this huge part of my life that I am so grateful for would never have happened. She even got a little mention at the end of the show, which she was over the moon about!

It's difficult to truly express how I feel about this magical place, especially if you haven't been to see me in a show there before. I feel like our Young Company Sketch Show did quite a good job of capturing some of the essence of Group 64, and since it was filmed, perhaps soon I can show you a little bit of it to give you an idea. 

Until then, I'll leave you with a video, made by my good friend, Kate Mason. She made it late last year, but at this point, for me at least, it feels even more poignant, so I'll share it again.  It's the end of an era, but it's the end of one of the happiest eras of my life.


"The people here are just brilliant, and the friends you can make are just legendary..." - Stanley Miles