1. What’s your role at Tring Park and how long have you been there?
Director of Development and External Relations. I have been in post since March 2017.
2. What’s the best thing about working at a performing arts school?
There are so many things that I love about working here at Tring Park – coming in first thing in the morning, being able to work inside this beautiful Rothschild Mansion is a pleasure. It is a stunning building and the pupils keep it alive, every day in different ways – sometimes there will be a ballet class in the assembly hall with a pianist accompanying them. The choir may be rehearsing which fills the reception area with the most beautiful sounds, quite uplifting to hear as a start to your day. If I enter through the back door, I might be treated to rousing chorus from the juniors working on their vocals in the ballroom. Sometimes it’s all going on at once.
I have the opportunity to see these young people grow and do what they love. I get to see amazing transformations and true talent flourish on a daily basis. I try to go to every show, throughout the year – each course has the chance to perform in our Markova Theatre, and this is their chance to celebrate why they are here. Who knows, we may be watching the next Daisy Ridley, Lily James, Drew McOnie or Ella Henderson.
I also work with an amazing bunch of people; being a performing arts school we have a large vocational department with some incredibly talented people. We also have fantastic academic staff who support and provide education for GCSEs and up to 23 subjects at A-Level. We take pupils from age 8 – 19 years and although they are attending a Performing Arts School, their academic education is taken very seriously and pupils develop a strong work ethic starting at 8am and finishing at 4,30pm (for juniors) or at 6.30pm (for seniors). I recently interviewed our Head boy, who said, “it’s not like school, I get up every morning and have the opportunity to do what I love, with likeminded friends who inspire me and teachers who I know are invested in me”.
I am exceptionally lucky to work closely with two very important people. Clare Murphy, my assistant/administrator, although she has only been working with us a little over a year, she has slotted in perfectly her positivity/skills and support is essential on a daily basis. She brings reason to my daily chaos!
Karen Fotheringham, who is the Principal and Deputy Principal’s P.A., works all hours on our Alumni Network and social media accounts. She is a very energetic and enthusiastic colleague with her finger firmly on the pulse of our school. From her previous career within the BBC she brings a huge wealth of knowledge and a marvellous understanding of communications.
3. What are your development goals for the school?
We fundraise all year round to raise money for our bursary fund and have various other projects open. At present, we are close to completing a new 70-bed boarding house with drama studios on the ground floor and additional much needed common rooms and rest room facilities. In the future, we have plans to upgrade some of our existing facilities and our dream is to have a new theatre – we love our Markova Theatre; however, we have grown out of it.
4. Are you running any active fundraising campaigns at the moment?
We are always raising money for our bursary fund and as we approach our 75th anniversary we be looking at new ways to appeal to our supporters. Our Alumni Network website has played a large part in how we are moving forward.
5. What mix of communications have worked best for you (events/ emails/ postal/ personal meetings etc)?
We find all forms of communication work on some level, we use all methods of contact to engage different supporter groups. We find social media works very well to engage our alumni and local community. Events, email and personal contact work for our Patrons and Parents. Historically the school did not have an alumni association and with the start of Facebook, many alumni were able to make contact and find each other if they had fallen out of touch. The school was founded in 1945 and many who graduated, went on to work all over the world in the performing arts, it was hard to stay in touch. With the rise of social media and the development of our Alumni network, we have been able to host several reunions and welcome back our older alumni. It is truly a delight to watch the older alumni recognise each other and see the years fall away as they recall their days here.
6. How do you think development/ comms differs for a performing arts school versus other mainstream schools?
I think we are probably similar to any boarding school in terms of our pupils scattering when they leave here and we have to keep track of them. The wonderful thing is that they want to come back and see the students perform and to support the course they were on. We have several recent leavers who come back to support friends and see much loved teachers.
7. Tell us something we probably don’t know about Tring Park!
Over 40% of our pupils are funded (means tested), this allows us to take the most talented students from all over, irrespective of their financial means.
8. What’s the most memorable performance you’ve ever seen, and why?
I have been lucky to have seen so many amazing performance since I was a very young child, my parents were avid theatre goers, plays, musicals, ballet, everything. I have transferred that to my children and the only true answer I can give is seeing my son in his West End debut as Billy Elliot in the Victoria Palace Theatre, November 16th 2015. I think I experienced every emotion possible that night, I still can’t accurately describe how it felt.
Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, a top UK boarding school specialising in dance, drama and musical theatre, uses ToucanTech to power its alumni and development database.
Sam Bellringer has nearly 20 years’ experience managing fundraising and alumni data. This is his advice on how to store and streamline your data to … More...