Collingwood Learning is a truly international family. It’s not solely the six-strong team at our Yorkshire HQ who bring our projects to life but a whole network of actors and freelance theatre teams, too.
To give you an insight into the talent behind each scene, we want to introduce you to a different member of the team each month. This time, we’re finding out more about Lindsay Richards, account director and office supplier of banana bread.
Tell us a little bit about what you do with Collingwood Learning
My role within the company can be quite versatile and regularly changes depending on where I’m needed. Ultimately, my main job is to project manage and oversee all of our UK-based touring projects, which includes our flagship alcohol education programme ‘Smashed’ – touring Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales annually and filling almost a full academic year.
I also manage other projects which have included, for example, a young driver road safety education programme to Year 11 students across the whole of Essex, as well as a child sexual exploitation programme across Wales.
I also support our touring teams on the road and organise logistics which can range from booking rehearsal space and tour accommodation, to running DBS checks or vehicle and transport planning. Finally, I also take care of the company’s overall social media presence.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My younger daughter has Autism, and travels to and from a specialist school on dedicated transport. As such, I have to be at home to put her onto and help her off the bus at the beginning and end of each day, meaning my hours are fairly flexible – although I’m usually at my desk from around 9.30am.
My arrival is often swiftly followed by making a round of coffee before checking my email and working through a list of tasks. I’ll then have a catch up with my colleague Katie Broomhead – who books and coordinates the school tours – to check we are on target and look at strategies and data for booking upcoming performances.
I keep in contact with clients to let them know how their tours are booking up and work with them to manage any PR or other communications around the tours, such as inviting stakeholders, MPs or media to a performance.
I might then be working on a social media post, liaising with our insurance brokers, accountant, or actors’ agents – and have occasionally been found doing some acting myself in one or two of our training videos!
What’s the best part of your job?
I like building relationships with clients and actors, mainly because I enjoy looking after people and ensuring they are happy and have what they need – I take pride in my work and don’t want to let people down.
I want to know that every child that receives the programme has engaged with the subject matter, and have both learned something and enjoyed the experience while doing so – I’ve always believed that the two go hand in hand. How can you really learn anything meaningfully, if you haven’t enjoyed it in some way?
Personally, I’m terrible at retaining information that doesn’t really interest me, so I’ve always been passionate about theatre as a means to communicate and educate, mainly because it appeals to all types of learner at some point in its delivery.
I also enjoy the variation and organisation of my role. Because it’s always evolving, one needs to be super-organised so that nothing is missed. There are so many elements to a touring education programme and so many unexpected things that can happen – sometimes we have to be very quick to respond and quite resourceful!
Ours is a product reliant on people, which sometimes leaves us open to any number of potential last-minute changes. Luckily Chris and I have been doing this job for many years now, so we rarely come across anything we haven’t seen or experienced before these days!
Has there been a standout Collingwood moment for you thus far?
Starting out on our own for the first time was a very exciting moment for Chris and I. We had been doing the same jobs as we do now – running a training and education department – but working for a company rather than ourselves.
We had always spoken and fantasised about establishing our own firm, along with our colleague Katy, but we were all fiercely loyal to the company we worked for, and at the time saw no need to break away.
Unfortunate circumstances meant the company eventually went into liquidation and we suddenly found ourselves without jobs. At the time, I had just returned from maternity leave with my first daughter and had no plans to make any great career changes at this point, so when Chris asked me to come on board as his business partner, Collingwood Learning was born!
We began by sitting on the floor of Chris’ living room, calling a few old clients and seeing who might be willing to give us a chance! Ten years later and we’re all back together again (Me, Chris and Katy) working from our own large office in Holmfirth – with six full-time employees – running a global education programme in 25 countries around the world! We have to give ourselves a little pinch occasionally!
Which one word do you think your colleagues would use to describe you?
And what word do you think best describes Collingwood?
What or who would be your dream project / storyline / sponsor?
I love the really hard-hitting content that can make a real difference to the lives of young people. I suppose I say that because it’s where I feel we can make the biggest impact. The more difficult the subject matter and the more ‘hard to reach’ young people, the better, as far as I’m concerned.
We deliver a very powerful young driver programme called ‘Dead End’ which is designed to encourage young drivers, those learning to drive and their passengers, to consider the four biggest contributors to fatalities in road traffic collisions – seatbelts, speed, drink/drugs and distractions.
Delivered in a sophisticated, ‘talking heads’ style piece of theatre, the message really hits home and gets young people thinking about their actions. If we can change the way one young person thinks in a high-risk situation and change their actions in some way, that is what it is all about for me.
I can honestly say we’ve already delivered some of my dream projects – see below – but the aspiration now would be to increase the scale and reach of those programmes, much like we have with Smashed. By gaining a large sponsor – perhaps in the world of Corporate Social Responsibility too – we could really give something back to the community and help to make meaningful changes in society.
- ‘A Curious Journey’ – a transitional puberty and relationships programme across Lincolnshire primary schools all designed around the story of Alice in Wonderland.
- ‘Mirror, Mirror’ – a Child Sexual Exploitation project across Welsh schools sponsored by Barnardos.
- ‘Hidden Depths’ – a Homelessness Education programme across South Yorkshire funded by Crisis, are some examples).
If one of your colleagues could win an award (industry or office-related) who would it be and why?
The Award for ‘selective hearing’ goes to Chris Simes! Chris could win many comedy office-related awards but luckily for him, he is also the most supportive, generous, intelligent and articulate person I know. I’m very lucky to work alongside him.
You’re in an industry that tackles a myriad of social issues, but what’s the biggest challenge facing young people in the UK at the moment?
I know it’s already been said time and time again, but social media is a really difficult one. It’s fine if it’s managed safely but it can be so easily misused and leaves young people so open to risk, criticism and the potential feeling of failure.
I feel like it speeds everything up too, for example, bullying situations or ‘romantic’ relationships. We used to send little hand-written notes across science lessons when I was at school, and it would take weeks before anyone realised you fancied them; now someone pops something up on Facebook or Snapchat and the whole school knows before breakfast!
Not only that, but the fact that everybody is so easily accessible means there’s never really any let up. I’m certain it’s this level of pressure that leads to mental health issues being so prevalent among young people these days.
That’s very difficult to manage if you’re a young person finding your place in the world and trying to fit in. It’s the reason so many of our programmes focus so heavily on peer pressure and encourage young people to carefully consider the choices available to them, as well as working with them to find realistic strategies they can employ in every day.
When you’re not at work, how do you like to spend your free time?
My absolute favourite thing to do is mooch around vintage or handmade shops and markets, with my partner Karl, finding lovely old things and giving them new life. I love spending time with my girls, drinking good coffee, eating delicious cake and watching the world go by.
I enjoy reading interiors and lifestyle publications when I have the time too, and my dream is to one day have a small shop of my own, filled with wonderful, handmade and vintage goods. The store would be attached to an old, characterful home which would be an ongoing project of its own!
Tell us something that people wouldn’t know when they first meet you…
I once performed naked onstage in a production of Calendar Girls! I needed considerably bigger buns!