Margaret Casely-Hayford

In my capacity as Chair of Shakespeare’s Globe one of the highlights of going on site (in the days before Covid restrictions) was always to see the many groups of pupils and students pouring into performances, tours of our Elizabethan and Jacobean theatres, and participating in the workshops run by actors from the Globe family. This includes a wonderful sponsorship scheme by Deutsche Bank whereby 20,000 free tickets are given annually to school students to see a performance staged specially for them.

I’ve become quite close to my alma mater Streatham and Clapham High School, and Chris Conneely, the wonderful development director and I communicate from time to time about events like International Women’s Day, at which I might speak to girls about what is possible and available to them in terms of opportunity, which of course is everything! So I was delighted when earlier this year, the Trust’s Education Director Will Wareing wrote to say that the GDST intended to bring 150 girls to the Globe to participate in a series of workshops on Twelfth Night; and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to welcome the young women to the Globe, to give them a little insight into the venue and my role as Chair.

We were fortunate in that the event took place in early March, just before lockdown so we were able to go ahead. It was uplifting to watch the workshops and enjoy the way in which the students responded intelligently to the questions and provocations from the event facilitators. The workshops are not only an insight into the use of language and the characterisations behind the play’s personnel, but probably more importantly, are also the most wonderful investigation of human interaction, human experience and how these create and impact upon the sense of self and one’s ability to develop and to get the best out of personal relationships.

Students were so involved and so obviously excited by the opportunity. I too was delighted because the visit not only gave them the chance to enter a space that’s world renowned as an important part of Britain’s cultural heritage, but also because their experience of it at a young age is crucial to their feeling entitled to enjoy and understand Shakespearean theatre. Furthermore, to view theatre in general as accessible and not something ‘apart’ from children’s everyday experience, either physically or culturally.

The Globe has a mission to make ‘Shakespeare for all’ and is in that respect very much in alignment with the GDST mission to enable girls from all backgrounds to access excellent education. For me, it is all the more important that such experiences are created to help girls develop greater cultural insight, particularly if their parents or carers lack the time or money to invest in the wider education of their children. Missing out on such opportunities puts children at a considerable disadvantage when they get to the milestone stages in their lives at which they’re required to demonstrate that there’s more to them than pure academic learning for example, when they make application to university, or when they seek employment. The more we can invest in our girls to become well rounded individuals, the more they themselves can go on to contribute to society in due course.

My step grandmother Adelaide Smith Casely-Hayford, a champion of girls’ education and a Victorian feminist, founded a girls’ school in Sierra Leone, possibly spurred on by the fact that she was one of the first pupils at Jersey College for Girls which was founded by her father, William Smith, 140 years ago. There is something quite heartening to think that our generation can take up the baton, and similarly champion girls’ education. We can invest in future generations through the gift of money, and perhaps more importantly, if our means do not allow, we can always and should, give of our time, and experience, to lay these invaluable foundations!

“And when I am forgotten, as I shall be, and asleep in dull cold marble, where no mention of me must be heard of, say, I taught thee.” Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.

The GDST visit to The Globe in Spring 2020.

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