I started attending Sprungsters (then just called Highly Sprung Workshops) at I believe their first ever Saturday session back in 2003 when I was 10 years old. It was a style of working that I hadn’t ever experienced and loved it from the very first minute. From that point I attended sessions until I left Coventry for Drama School in 2012 and then returned for the first Millennials project. I have felt part of Highly Sprung for a larger part of my life than when I have not.
There are skills I learnt on those Saturday mornings that I continue to use now and the performances we did have inspired a love of stories that I still have to this day. Alice in Wonderland, Odysseus and Eurydice and the Cat in the Hat are all embedded in my brain thanks to those Saturday Mornings!! Not to mention everything I know about the Beatles came from Penny Lane!
After a while I moved into the Thursday Group and the wonderful experiences just multiplied. Not only did I learn a breadth of physical and performance skills, but I performed in places I never would have had the chance to otherwise and made friends that I am sure will be friends for life. Specific memories that spring to mind are performing in a multi storey car park, scaring Boris Johnson with a carnival mask, and the multitude of workshops we were able to partake in with leading professionals in the field. Sprungsters give their participants more opportunities than any other group I have been part off.
All young people will probably say they had a difficult time growing up but coming to Sprungsters gave so many of us a safe space. Simply having a space to play in when the rest of the world was trying to make us grow up too quickly was invaluable to me as a teenager.
A favourite show of mine was Chalk Door, I would dream the whole show for months afterwards! I recently saw a Youth Group doing a performance that used the same piece of music as one of the scenes I was involved with in Chalk Door. I had an overwhelming urge to run onstage and wait for people to tie balloons to me when I heard it! I think everyone around me is sick of me shouting “This is Sprung Music!” whenever I recognise a track. I also loved being part of Child of Terror, it really helped me improve my physical skills and I felt compelled to really push myself in developing as a performer. Having the chance to take it to another theatre was fantastic! Seeing that it had another life with another cast was really amazing and I felt very proud that something I had been involved with was giving more young people such wonderful experiences.
Another side of my Sprungsters experience was that I also began volunteering at the Saturday sessions when I was around 14. I absolutely adored helping with the younger children and watching them learn and grow. I enjoyed it so much and found it so valuable, when getting a job that required some Saturday hours, I negotiated my contract to only have to work every other week, so I could still come to volunteer on alternate weeks. This was my first experience of working with children and young people, and recently seeing some of the little 4 year olds that were in the sessions I supported, all grown up and on the Belgrade Theatre Main Stage made my heart melt!
Since leaving Sprung, I went onto a Drama, Applied Theatre and Education Degree and after delivering drama workshops to Young People since graduating I have now begun Teacher Training to be a Secondary Drama teacher. Sprungsters has literally shaped and inspired my whole career. My mum even says when I teach, I sound like Mark! I love watching how they are growing and progressing as a company (and I am extremely jealous of all the young people experiencing it for the first time!).
I am already imagining my future drama department and thinking how I can get Highly Sprung in to work with my hypothetical future students!
At Sprungsters I never felt pressured to be the best, which I had often found in other performance based groups, but simply encouraged to do my best. This has left a lasting impact on me as not only a performer and teacher, but also simply as a person.