Meet Nicola Hawley, our Primary Education Manager
What is your job title?
Primary Education Manager
What kind of things does your job typically entail?
I love my job, coordinating the delivery of a wide range of workshops and activities aimed at primary aged children. This includes hosting schools at our dedicated venue, the historic Mary Arden’s Farm, but also taking Shakespeare and his captivating stories to schools up and down the country through our Shakespeare Week, Outreach and Hubs programmes. One of my favourite jobs is developing new activities and exploring different ways we can make Shakespeare’s stories, language and heritage exciting and accessible for a young audience.
No two days are ever the same for me! As it’s our Stratford base, I do spend a lot of time at Mary Arden’s Farm getting the site ready for children to take part in our wonderful history and drama-based workshops. This work can vary from managing the programmes, to mixing wattle and daub, not to mention herding a few sheep and geese along the way! I work with the amazing Heritage Team and together we welcome thousands of children to the site every year.
Why do you think learning about Shakespeare and his work is important to us today?
Shakespeare is all around us: in the language we use daily, in the names of people and streets, in theatres all across the world and on our television screens. He was a remarkable storyteller and an incredible observer of people. His words speak to us of things we can all relate to including jealousy, separation, the need to make difficult choices and, importantly, love and friendship. Whilst he wrote his plays over 400 years ago, they are still relevant and engaging today and his language continues to resonate with people everywhere.
What is your favourite Shakespeare related experience - at SBT or elsewhere?
There are so many! I’ve had the pleasure of working at SBT for a number of years so it’s really tricky to pinpoint just one but watching the children who come to guide in Shakespeare’s Birthplace as part of our Museums and Schools programme is always a wonderful experience. Hearing children talk to visitors from across the world about Shakespeare and share his story in countless different ways has to be a highlight. Earlier this year I stood in the room where Shakespeare was born and, whilst I was listening to three 9-year-olds telling me what life was like for Shakespeare as a young boy, I could hear their peers performing extracts from Henry V ringing out across the garden. A very special moment and one of which I think Shakespeare would have approved.
What are the challenges, do you think, in bringing Shakespeare to life for contemporary audiences?
For some, Shakespeare can be seen as inaccessible - many of us have memories of reading his plays around the classroom, possibly with little effort being made to untangle the meaning behind the words or the context in which the plays were written. At SBT we overcome these challenges by teaching children about the time in which the plays were written: the clothes people wore, the food they ate, the houses in which people lived. The hands-on exploration children undertake helps illustrate the meaning behind the text. The beautiful historic family homes that Shakespeare lived in and visited allow children to walk in his footsteps and truly experience what inspired him to write such remarkable stories. If we give children memorable first encounters with Shakespeare, his world and his legacy, they will find that he is relevant, engaging, accessible and above all fun!
Finally - what is your favourite joke? Doesn’t have to be Shakespearean…
What does Shakespeare say when he’s choosing a pencil?
2B or not 2B? That is the question.