Youth-arts charity RicNic is set to celebrate its 15th anniversary this summer, marking 15 years of bringing amazing arts experiences to young people across the county.
RicNic Hampshire was established almost by accident, and no one in the group of founding 16 year olds could have imagined that 15 years on the company would have 3 established branches in the South East and be looking to expand to further areas of the UK! In 2004 a group of friends at Winchester College wanted to put on a musical during the summer holidays, entirely on their own and without an adult director, and their trusting and enterprising head teacher let them have the school theatre for three weeks. With a cast, band and crew drawn from local schools, and no one aged over twenty, a production of Guys and Dolls was staged. Everyone involved had the most amazing summer producing incredible theatre with like-minded people their own age, and the audiences loved it too. When it became apparent it had even made a profit, it seemed silly not to do it again the summer after.
Now 15 years later and with branches in Oxford and London also well established, near to 1000 young people have had their own 'RicNic experience' and have contributed to other successful, sell-out productions, including West Side Story, Thoroughly Modern Millie, My Fair Lady, Singin' in the Rain and other classic shows. Every year, participants say that the whole experience is unique, and even life-changing.
RicNic projects are completely free to participate in, ensuring that the opportunity is open to everyone regardless of their circumstances. Also, it is not just for performers. As young people really do run the whole show, there are opportunities for budding designers, costumiers, journalists, promotions experts, social media enthusiasts, technicians and project managers to get involved and gain a valuable hands on experience of working in a professional setting. Participants for RicNic Hampshire are drawn together from across a wide area, forming friendships that transcend geographical, school and community boundaries.
Executive Director, Jennifer Smith joined the organisation earlier this year and it was this open appeal that attracted her to apply for her role. “I had not heard of RicNic before the opportunity came up to apply for my position” she says “but as soon as I started learning more about the amazing work they do in giving young people ownership of a project; the more I was keen to get involved. RicNic is not just about creating the best onstage performers (though we have a strong alumni base who have gone on to successful creative careers), it is about allowing our participants to explore their potential, gain valuable experience and work alongside peers they may never otherwise have met. Speaking with past participants, it is clear that they regard how the skills acquired through their time with RicNic have helped them into further education, in interview situations and have formed – sometimes redirected - their chosen career pathways.”
Indeed, many participants cite how relating their experience of RicNic in an interview situation, has helped demonstrate to potential employers that they are organised, committed and self-motivated. RicNic alumni have gone on to enjoy careers across a range of industries, with some even choosing to follow a completely new and creative path after working on a RicNic production.
Former participant Alex Lonsdale was the Director for two RicNic Hampshire productions in 2015-2016. He now runs his own theatre company Tiger Stripe Productions. He recalls his time with RicNic very fondly: “I work across the south of the UK as a freelance director, producer and arts facilitator. RicNic absolutely gave me my first step on the ladder. It is a huge talking point in interviews, and the perfect way to express my passion for working with emerging artists (something which was ignited by my experience with RicNic).RicNic allowed me to realise exactly what I wanted to achieve as a creative person. It allowed me to practice, to listen, to pause, to go, to dance in the rain, to sing from the rooftops and to believe in myself”.
Other participants following a creative career, have gone on to work as producers, directors, set designers, performers and props makers on professional shows. RicNic Alumni are hugely supportive and a valuable resource for the charity as they look to build a network of professional contacts for new participants to learn from. As for the founding group of students who started it all, many of them now sit on the charity’s Board of Trustees and oversee the development of the organisation, keeping the original ethos ever at the forefront of plans.
“Joining RicNic is akin to joining a large family with many extended relatives”, said Jennifer “once you have been a part of it, it never really leaves you. We are really fortunate to have such a committed and enthusiastic team of trustees, staff, audience, participants and supporters who enable us to continue offering opportunities year on year”.
RicNic is now at an exciting point in its history, as plans develop to branch out to new regions in the UK, focusing in particular on areas where there are limited opportunities for young people to gain hands on arts experience. From 2020, RIcNic will be moving into the West Midlands as well as starting to develop new partnerships in the areas they already work in.
Jennifer said “There is great potential for RicNic to reach young people who want to develop their skills but who face a lot of limitations in accessing opportunities, whether due to finances, where they live or their family circumstances. Our new plans aim to take RicNic out to young people who struggle to access activities in their area, or who live in places where the opportunities simply do not exist yet. We are now seeking sponsorship and partners who will support us in taking our work to places where we can make considerable impact!”
What is next for RicNic Hampshire?
To mark their 15th anniversary, the team at RicNic Hampshire are currently working on a new production of the classic musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie. Combining tap routines with type-writers, slapstick comedy with 1920s style and set to an amazing toe-tapping score, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a great show for the whole family. It follows the story of love, luck and loss for Millie Dillmount, an ambitious young girl who moves from the country to the bright lights of Manhattan in the 1920s. Based on the 1960s film starring Julie Andrews, the stage musical first appeared in 2002 on Broadway, winning 6 prestigious Tony Awards including Best Musical that year.
To enquire contact: www.ricnic.org.uk
Ticket Information on the show - Thoroughly Modern Millie at Theatre Royal Winchester
Weds 28th – Sat 31st August click the link….
Tickets: £18 (Under 26s £14) including booking fees.
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