The role of the community-oriented youth group has changed significantly over the past few decades. I spoke to a youth theater company in Ascot for 14-18 year olds who meet weekly on Saturdays and put on a bi-annual show to discuss what their club means to them and the community.
Founder and director Andrew Miller originally created Ocean as a way for young people to grow and develop in a theater environment, and after 14 years and many successful alumni (who have graduated from prestigious drama schools and the West End), Ocean Theater Company continues to inspire young people today through their nurturing environment.
After speaking with many members of the group, they all told me that Ocean was family to them, more than anything. “The ocean gave me the confidence to make new friends,” said Bryn Taylor (17). – This is what I look forward to at the end of the week,” added Lola Jolie (16).
With many members of the company sitting their GCSEs and A-Levels, they saw the Ocean at the end of the week as a nice distraction from their studies, and the Ocean really helped with their exam stress and was “a place that really helps improve mental health and confidence ”, Izzy Perkins (15).
Everyone who recently joined explained to me that Ocean was immediately welcoming and quickly became a safe place to be yourself without judgment. “I’m only at the beginning of my journey here, but I’m going to keep going and I’m looking forward to seeing how I grow,” will be Owen (14)
A key member of Ocean is Georgie Smith. Georgie is now Ocean’s incredible choreographer after going through the process herself, being an original member of Ocean when it was formed in 2009. When asked why she remains at Ocean after years of dedication to it, she told me: “I really relate to the ethos of Ocean and I’m passionate about developing young people in a wider sense than just performing”, adding that “it was a natural transition for me to use my creative skills to give back to the company I learned so much from.” Georgie also discussed the satisfaction she gets from watching people have fun and grow, and told me that her experience at Ocean has been “invaluable to me in my professional life as an adult, which is what I learned most from Ocean.”
After meeting everyone at Ocean, I fully realized that this is a family that puts on a show, and that they would all be different people without this club in their community.