Golden Toad Theatre recently announced its Errol’s Garden project, where children across the UK are encouraged to engage in theatre through song, dance, and a little bit of gardening. I spoke with Golden Toad Theatre’s co-directors Caroline Wigmore and Jen Green to find out more.
Can you tell me about your Errol’s Garden project?
We’re inviting children from across the UK to join West End stars Joe Griffiths-Brown and Courtney Stapleton to sing in Errol’s new music video.
With our 2020 tour of Errol’s Garden – a stage adaptation of Gillian Hibbs’ award-winning book – postponed until next year, we are working hard to create opportunities for children to continue to engage with theatre and the arts from the safety of their homes. In addition to the chance to sing in Errol’s new music video, we have lots of creative activities for children on our website, from animated videos where Errol will help you plant a seed in your own decorated pot or make an origami flower, to time capsules and competitions.
What was the inspiration behind the idea?
We both have young kids, and we know how hard lockdown has been for children and parents. We wanted to give families an opportunity to engage with their creativity and imaginations even though theatres are closed. The seed of inspiration for a music video actually came from Jen’s son – his primary school concert was cancelled because of lockdown and all the kids were really upset; they love singing together. Some parents compiled recordings of them singing individually, and it was brilliant. We realised that we could do that on a nationwide level, and everything started from there.
How have you found putting it all together while in lockdown?
It’s been crazy. We did the preparation and writing in March/April, when lockdown was most intense. Having young kids – as all parents will know – meant finding time to work when schools were closed was incredibly hard. When it was time to record the singers, we actually had plans in place to send out home-recording equipment to Joe and Courtney, but in the end, the restrictions eased a little and we were the first live recording project back in Auburn Jam Studios. It was a very different experience to usual – we ran the session remotely, with the creative team linked in online. It was only Joe and Courtney who were there in person – separately, and with a LOT of disinfectant spray in-between recording sessions!
How important is it to you to encourage children to get creative in these times?
Theatre, stories, performance, art, and music are how we learn about ourselves and the world we live in. I don’t think they’ve ever been more important – even as our opportunities to access them have been greatly reduced. I’m sure that we’re not the only parents to have noticed extreme emotional and behavioural changes from our children during lockdown, and creative activities are really important in helping kids understand, express and release these.
What would you like the project to achieve?
We want Errol’s music video to create a sense of community and achievement for children across the UK. All of our online offerings are free and help children explore their emotions, engage with their creativity and encourage their talents – we know first-hand how difficult these uncertain times are for children and their parents/guardians.
How can children get involved?
Head to our website or youtube channel! Our musical director Katy Richardson has made a video to guide you through the vocal recording for the music video. All you need to do is pop in a pair of headphones, press record, and then send your file to us at www.goldentoadtheatre.com
We also want to see what children have been growing – if you put photos or drawings of your favourite plants online and tag us on any social media @goldentoadtheatre we’ll include them in the animations for Errol’s music video!
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