David Weatherall, part of Fatherland’s Chorus of Others and Finance Manager at Siemens, tells us about treading the boards for the first time since his schooldays
I’ve been to see shows in previous years at MIF, and enjoyed hanging out in Festival Square, but this is the first year that I’ll be in a show! Siemens are a sponsor of the festival, and they encourage participation in stuff like this. We do quite a lot in the local community, but most of it tends to be around education and the environment. This is slightly outside that normal scope, but I think the reason we get involved with MIF is purely the community aspect. We’ve got a lot of people working here and living in Manchester and surrounding towns, and we want to be part of our local community.
I used to be in a choir at school, and it’s always been something I enjoyed, but there weren’t many opportunities to do it in a formal capacity. When you hit 18, 19, it doesn’t feel like a cool thing to be doing, and if you don’t get back into it at university then it’s harder to pick up again. Then The Hallé came in to lead our Christmas carol singalong, and management realised what a great thing it was and invited them to come and set up a choir. It’s been going for about five years now, on a Monday lunchtime. We’re encouraged to get involved, and no matter now stressful a Monday morning you’ve had, or how hard it was to get out of bed, it’s a lovely thing to have in the diary. It’s good for the soul.
This year, I’ve signed up to participate in Fatherland at the Royal Exchange, which is a very new thing for me. I was in a couple of musicals at school, but this feels like a big jump from the choir singing I’ve been doing to performing like this! The Festival team came in and talked about volunteering and all the different ways Siemens staff can get involved, and this is what drew me in. I had to audition, but I thought “wow, this is an opportunity that won’t come along again”, and now I’m part of the Chorus of Others.
I’m excited and nervous – as you would expect. We’ve had some amazing rehearsals, but because this is not a normal thing for me, I have no concept of how it should be going, or how I should be feeling! I don’t even know if I’m nervous enough! I’m outside my comfort zone but I’m mostly excited. It’s been amazing – the mix of people we’ve got participating is incredible. We’ve got people with full-on performing arts training and then people like me, finding their feet.
Outside Fatherland, I’ve got tickets to a few bits and bobs. I think the thing I’m most excited about is What is The City?, which looks really interesting. It’s such an unusual idea, and I’m a fan of Jeremy Deller anyway, I think he’s really cool. And the fact that it’s the kick off of the whole festival, as well, and the idea of Manchester coming together after the events of the past few weeks – that’s brilliant. The city has been affected, and so an event that really tells the stories of all the different people who call this place home, that celebrates what make this such an interesting and vibrant city, is just brilliant.
Fatherland is at the Royal Exchange theatre from 1 – 22 July as part of MIF17. Tickets are available on our website.