Local Face: Tess Churchard
Tess moved to Wendover 11 years ago with husband Matt and her young son Ben. Having grown up in Great Missenden, Tess loves living in Wendover which she says is so welcoming and friendly.
Tess is a trustee at the Wendover Youth Centre and has worked on a voluntary basis to run drama classes there throughout this summer. “It’s been lovely to offer children who have been off school for so long a chance to meet up and have fun.” She also volunteers at John Hampden School, helps with junior church at St Mary’s and has been a volunteer at Wendover Swimming Pool.
At primary school in Great Missenden, Tess had a teacher who loved drama and gave her part of the witches’ speeches from Macbeth to perform. She remembers ending the speech with a loud scream before having an asthma attack – but she was hooked!
She moved to London to do a Sculpture degree and then worked for a Victim Support Scheme, saving up to fund a one year postgraduate course at Drama School. She paid her way over the next few years with work as a waitress, cook, furniture maker and tutor.
When Tess was 30 her father was diagnosed as terminally ill – she took some time out of acting to be with him and take stock. She had always loved tutoring so she decided to do a post graduate teaching course. Since then Tess has combined acting and teaching. She has taught in hospital, special and mainstream schools.
“I went into acting to perform in plays that had an important message to tell or to make people laugh and these are the jobs I have been most proud of.” As an actress Tess started in theatre and has played leading roles in the West End including 39 Steps and Noises Off. After her son Ben was born she didn’t want to do any more theatre tours and moved into more TV work including Call the Midwife, Casualty, Doctors, The Coroner and EastEnders.
5 years ago Tess decided to combine her 2 loves – teaching and acting – and started Drama Hub to provide affordable drama classes to local children and young people. Drama Hub celebrates its 5th Year anniversary this October and now has over 90 pupils.
“It’s a privilege and a joy to teach the children and young people of Wendover. They are so creative and enthusiastic – we have such fun in lessons. As a shy child drama helped me so much and it’s lovely to see my students grow in confidence and develop their communication and collaboration skills.
“At Drama Hub I treat each student as an individual, drawing on their interests and often writing scripts especially for them. In our shows there is no star – every student gets a decent role. In our recent version of the BFG we had 7 Sophies and 7 BFGs!
“Many of my students have been with me from the beginning and some of my older students help out with the younger classes. Older students take part in film making workshops and we are developing a student technical team.
“Coronavirus has been a challenge for us. We missed a term of face to face lessons due to lockdown but when the regulations changed I was able to change our planned show of the BFG into a socially distanced film which we showed at outdoor screenings in September.”
St Mary’s vicar Sally Moring has been very supportive of Drama Hub and last year Drama Hub students of different ages put on 3 different shows there: one based around Michael Rosen’s poems, a Horrible Histories show and Alan Ayckbourn’s play ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’.
Tess is planning to stage an outdoor production involving local children and young people in the first week of the summer holiday in 2021 – she hopes this will become an annual event and will lead to a really established Wendover Youth Theatre.