Jennifer Waghorn blogs about Schools Takeover Day at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust…
“Today the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was commandeered by about fifty ten-year olds. They quite literally took over the organisation for the day, from pricing items in the shop to putting on a performance in the Shakespeare Centre.
Thankfully, it was a planned and very welcome invasion (or we wouldn’t have stood a chance!). This was the Trust’s first year of participating in Children’s Takeover Day, a nationwide initiative which allows schoolchildren from across the country to experience working at various heritage organisations. Dragged from the safety and comfort of my desk, I found myself helping to supervise a group of eight children (looking incredible in mini Tudor costumes) in a whirlwind of different of activities throughout the day. This included conducting surveys with arriving and leaving visitors, selling tickets and working at the front-of-house reception, organising the pricing, displays and sales in the shop, and guiding visitors around the different rooms in Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
While very tiring (for both schoolchildren and supervisors), it was great to watch the children carry out their assigned tasks with confidence and enthusiasm, once their initial nervousness had died down. They were happy to approach people to ask them questions or provide historical information, and they quickly learned how to work the tills and pricing guns: a large number of children had managed to value themselves at £99.99 by the end of the day, with appropriate price tags. Even the children who admitted that history wasn’t their preferred subject really committed to the activities, providing an astonishing amount of information on the historic house and artefacts that they had managed to learn. The visitors also seemed to enjoy the experience, and were very complimentary about the unexpected additional customer service!
We left the children to watch a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream put on by another group – they had actually learnt all of their lines and put together the production in under a week, which was very impressive. It went very well – although I did have to explain to a very confused girl that I didn’t actually want her to break a leg, I was just wishing her luck.
The day as a whole seemed to be a great success: the children genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves (they much preferred it to being at school, at any rate), and I found that it was great to have a go at something different and see how everybody else in the organisation spends their working day. The Trust and the school were both very pleased with how it went – so it looks as though the Shakespeare Centre and Birthplace will have to prepare for a re-invasion this time next year!”