“Hi Keith! We were wondering if you would like to write a few words for the blog, about volunteer work at the theatre?” “I would love to” was my reply to an email sent to me by our new, young and vibrant marketing officer, Jake… another person with a waist!

Tom - the puppet Keith made on the carving course

So here they are…

It would be a fair assumption to make that there are many, many reasons for one wanting or considering to do volunteer work. For someone young , I would imagine it is the experience and a desire to explore an area of work they have an interest in, it would also be fair to say a chance to network face to face rather than in the ether of the internet. For someone of more advanced and mature years, though exactly what that is meant to mean really does escape me!, it could be a passing interest, a way to fill time or the feeling of doing something of value and worth while.

Having to admit to being the latter of the two age groups, my reason for seeking out the Little Angel Theatre was the fulfilment of a long held desire. I had known of The Little Angel Theatre for almost as long as I had lived in London, some twenty five years. It was always there nagging at the back of my mind ‘go and find it, go and find it’ yet for some reason I never got round to it.

Then four years ago life happened and threw me a ‘curve ball’ an occurrence for everyone at some point in their lives, and it is true to say that it left me in a very negative space. However, there was one thing which was always guaranteed to make me feel positive and energised and that was the art of puppetry. I have collected puppets most of my life. As a child and teenager I made them and put on shows and although my enthusiasm/passion was evident, not once did I ever consider it to be a viable career. Also I have always loved theatre, the cliché being, I adore musicals… no sniggers please!

So, one day, one year and eight months ago, and at one of the most negative points of my life, I phoned The Little Angel Theatre and spoke to Lynette Shanbury, the general manager. I was inquiring about volunteer work, in this instance Ushering. Lynette took a few of my details and invited me to pop in the following day, which I did. I didn’t know what to expect and had no idea how professional and excellent the set was.

I think I arrived about 3pm and I was met by a very gracious and welcoming Lynette. We talked about me… and some more about me… and then Lynette showed me round the theatre, I was in awe. Now, it just so happened that there was a show starting at 5pm and after we had discussed me some more, Lynette said “what are you doing now? ” I replied “nothing” to which Lynette said “OK want to start now ?” I really don’t think the prospect of doing anything in my life has been quite so rewarding as the moment I said “OK” and ushered my very first show, John Wrights ‘Sleeping Beauty’ directed by Christopher Leath.

It could not have been a better introduction or baptism of fire for anyone. I was hooked! The show was sublime acted out with the most beautifully carved marionettes (my first love) by John and Lyndie Wright and to cap it all the Mayor of Islington was there and I had my photo taken with him and all the other volunteers – talk about not feeling worthy!

Since that moment, and with the regard to the art of puppetry and my involvement with the theatre, it has been life changing for me. So much so that as a result of the work I do for the Little Angel it has inspired me to take manipulation and carving lessons which has allowed me to create my very first, of many to come, 24” professional marionette ‘Little Tom’ who, thanks to the teaching skills of the amazing John Roberts, I created in just one week.

I have also been involved in production work with the wonderful Lyndie Wright and even done my own little show as part of the summer party’s back stage tour. I have also met my puppetry heroines, who visit the theatre regularly, Mary Turner and Judith Shutt who made and operated the Gerry Anderson puppets and were part of the shows that started my fascination with puppetry.

On a final note I will say, if you don’t want that feeling of arriving late to a party and while reading this, for whatever your reasons are, you are considering volunteer work… then DO IT! Don’t just think about it, DO IT. The more you put in the more you get out and good things will come your way, especially if you are considering theatre or the arts as a career. I have been inspired by so many great people at theatre and all through Ushering, one of the most important jobs, I think, that the theatre has to offer volunteers.

There is no finer place, no more magical place to start with than that of The Little Angel Theatre and the ‘family’ that keep it going, who I am very proud to say I feel a part of and of whom I have come to love dearly.

Keith J

We are always looking for new volunteers here at the Little Angel. You can help by volunteering to be an usher, assisting with shows or even helping in the office/marketing of print materials. For more information see our website, or email lynette[at]littleangeltheatre.com