Steve McAdam has been putting on Shakespeare plays with The Garden Players for 7 years. With the help of fellow actors, family and friends, Steve has been instrumental in raising funds and awareness amongst audiences and via local media; since their inaugural 2009 production of Much Ado About Nothing, The Garden Players have raised over £43,000 for Child Bereavement UK.
I’ve been involved with local amateur theatre for about 35 years and have performed in a total of 65 productions including musical theatre, operetta and plays. I have worked with John Timewell, a well-known local director, on many occasions; it was John who suggested that the garden at our home in Beaconsfield would be ideal for putting on Shakespeare because we have a backdrop of woodland. Over a few glasses of wine we decided it would be a very good thing to put on productions in aid of good causes; that gave us the real impetus that we were looking for. Our objectives were threefold: to stage a high-quality play, to raise public awareness of the charity and to maximise donations.
Jill Adams who worked for Child Bereavement UK has been a good friend of ours for many years; Jill lost her first husband when her two children were young. We agreed that it would be a great charity to support and since we started seven years ago, Child Bereavement UK has been our main beneficiary. On occasion we support other charities in addition; when we were invited to Bath to perform on the lawns of the Royal Crescent, we shared the proceeds with Children with Leukaemia. We have also supported SportsAble, and, for the last two years, we have supported Rotary for one of our performances. We have raised over £63,000 for charities in total.
Since Much Ado, we have put on a variety of plays including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and The Merchant of Venice. This year it’s Henry IV Part 1, my personal favourite – I think it’s Shakespeare’s greatest history and comedy rolled into one and is full of superb characters.
Child Bereavement UK is a national charity providing extensive, vital services to families who have been bereaved. It’s so important that families in that position are aware of the charity and can get help and support. It must be awful to go through grief without professionals to turn to who can provide support and it is also dreadful to think that local people might need help but might not know it’s available. Members of the public tell us they think it’s an extremely worthwhile cause to support; we often receive donations from people who can’t attend the play but who want to support the charity anyway.
There’s a lot of activity that goes on behind the scenes in addition to the actual performances and I must mention our tireless Box Officer Manager Judith Timewell. We always have a representative from CBUK giving out leaflets about the charity on the nights of the performances and people can talk to them and find out more about its work. Child Bereavement UK also helps with the production and printing of flyers, programmes and leaflets, and they send volunteers to set up the area and work on the site, marshalling the car parks, the bar, the raffle and silent auction and showing people to their seats. We have had generous donations for our raffle and silent auction over the years including a croquet set donated by Harrods for which we received a bid of £2,000 and a weekend stay donated by a German hotel group; we put the word out locally requesting raffle prizes and special prices for the silent auction.
We now perform on the lawns of the 350 year old Stubbings House near Maidenhead, a superb setting for open air Shakespeare, thanks to the generosity of the Good family. When we set up the performing area, we erect a covered stand with raised seating and various mini marquees and gazebos. We can seat 237 people each night which has doubled in number since our first production and we now get just under 1000 in total for each production. I estimate we have reached about 4,500 people through the productions so far and many more thousands have been exposed to the charity through our publicity. We’ve had lots of help from local media outlets – I even got a 40 minute slot on the Mike Reid Show with BBC Radio Berkshire, and lots of magazines and local papers have given us coverage from Maidenhead to Windsor, Henley, Beaconsfield and High Wycombe. We have been supported throughout by good friends and generous sponsors.
I’m now retired from my career in industry although still do the occasional bit of consultancy, which is why I can put a lot of effort and energy into our fundraising. I greatly enjoy the annual Shakespeare project; it requires a lot of time but it’s very much one of my passions. When I read the letter telling me I’d been chosen to be a Child Bereavement UK 21 Champion, I felt very proud and honoured, not just for myself but for The Garden Players, as it is very much a team effort. My wife June has given me tremendous help and support. We felt it was a great privilege to be included in the list of 21 Champions; it really means a lot to us both.
For more information go to: www.thegardenplayersweb.co.uk