Local Face: Averil Wilkinson

In September 1977 a new drama teacher arrived at John Colet School, Wendover, Averil Line, as she then was, later to be Averil Wilkinson, produced her first play at the school in Spring 1978 and there has been a John Colet School production every year since. The 1997 diary dates are Wednesday to Saturday, 19th to 22nd March.

Hundreds of John Colet students have benefited over the years from drama lessons and associated extra curricular activities. Their relatives and friends continue to buy tickets for shows long after the students themselves have left schooL

Averil is a great advocate of drama in schools, and is full of praise for the work done in feeder schools. This enables her to build on firm foundations. Drama helps students to develop self-confidence, to work with others and to improve their communication skills. Her lessons are clearly so enjoyable that the students are very keen to share what they can do with a wider audience.

Because she believes drama is a significant educational tool, Averil also taught two evening classes at Grendon Underwood closed prison. Although these ceased when funding ended, they had enabled inmates to examine their previous attitudes, especially towards women. These classes led on to shows performed for other inmates and for relatives. Averil firmly believes that the experience helped the offenders to develop as people.

One joy of working in one place for a number of years is to watch the students grow into adults as they pass through the school. If they then become parents locally, they may well send their own children to John Colet, demonstrating once again the importance of schools at the heart of the community. Over the years, Averil has seen the rebuilding of the school and the resulting performing arts block where drama, music and art can inter-relate. As an example, the school now offers a combined “Expressive Arts” GCSE course. In addition, John Colet also offers ” A” level Theatre Studies which often attracts students from other schools to enter the Wendover school sixth form. Averil is pleased to see the progress of former students now employed in the professional theatre and te1evision as actors and in technical capacities. Other former students have continued their interest in drama in a non-professional way and remain in contact with her.

She sees so much talent in Wendover that she believes it would benefit from a permanent arts venue. Building on her experience, Averil has written a number of items also. Benefiting from a £500 grant, she toured local middle schools using John Colet students to perform her play “Chicken or Dead”. This was part of the 1995 Buckinghamshire Drugs Awareness Week. This year the local Health Authority is sponsoring her new play “Professor Pills Dodgy Pantomime” for the 1997 week.

Away from school, Averil was involved for a number of years with the Aylesbury Vale junior Young Farmers, helping them in the national YF drama competitions. Averil is delighted that she has obtained performing rights to another Rice/Lloyd Webber musical this year. For the first time, her musical director will be Clare Aston, the school’s new director of music. The show is designed to appeal to all age groups, and will take place between Wednesday March 19th and Saturday March 22nd at 7.30pm in the John Colet school hall. Tickets at £4, adults and £2.50 concessions are available from the school office, tel 01296 623348.