Story of creation will give 125 members a chance to Shine

Members of Shine rehearse for Children of Eden
Members of Shine rehearse for Children of Eden

There are youth music theatres, and then there is Shine.

Having started as a flight of fancy in the mind of headteacher Gordon Beck 14 years ago, it has become one of Scotland’s largest youth theatre companies.

From humble beginnings in a Carluke hall with a dozen participants, Shine has now shone its light on the lives of almost 700 young people.

As well as hosting productions ranging from Oliver, Joseph and Starlight Express to Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables, Shine is enhancing the lives of its members in so many ways.

“The young people we have see Shine as really a second home,” said director and founder Gordon.

“It’s something they treasure, it’s where they have met their best friends, and it’s where they get to perform on stage. For so many, it’s the highlight of their week.

“It’s certainly changed my life – I met my wife Laura through Shine.

“It’s also surpassed any ambitions I had for it, in terms of its growth and I am quite an ambitious person.”

Shine now has 125 members – all of whom will be performing in its next production Children of Eden which will run next week.

Opening on March 14 and running for five nights, Gordon expects an audience of around 3000 at Motherwell Concert Hall.

Although Shine is not in the habit of using all its members in one show, the subject matter for next week’s performance made it a necessity.

Gordon said: “Children of Eden has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz who wrote Wicked, and it is his favourite musical. It will be an ambitious production for us, with it taking place on the floor with the audience around us rather than performing it on the stage.

“It takes in the story of how the world began, from Adam and Eve to Noah and the great flood.

“It’s a very powerful story, with incredibly emotional music. So we don’t always use every member in one production, but you don’t get bigger stories than the creation of the world.”

Shine’s last production, Hairspray, was just six weeks ago, and the past 12 months has seen five major productions performed.

Gordon said: “I think we are headed for the Guinness Books of Records for the number of productions we have put on.

“We are very much driven by ambition, and we have such a wide range of members with our youngest at seven years old to a volunteer in her 80s.”

Over the years, Shine has had so many successes, including attracting thousands to its shows, and organising its own fundraising and grants which cover its costs including the £40,000 each production costs.

Its even had members perform in Billy Elliott in London’s West End in 2011.

And three years ago, Shine
rented and opened the Light-house in Carluke’s Castlehill Industrial Estate, using it as its studio and arts centre.

Not only is is a physical home for Shine, it aslo has an office space and is available for hire by other community groups and art organisations.

The Lighthouse facility is in addition to the company’s workshop and set-building premises in the same industrial estate.

Gordon added: “Having our own venue is a huge thing for us, and means we can do so much more. We have always created our own sets and made our own custumes, and it’s all done by our volunteers.

“I think the key to Shine’s success is that people are drawn to our ethos.

“People are invited to come and experience something they never have before and actively encouraged to get involved.

“The young people themselves are the ambassadors for it, with many having their own responsiblities, so they have an ownership of it.”

Next year, Shine’s 15th anniversary celebrations will begin with a January production of Sister Act with more plans in the pipeline to mark the milestone.

And for Gordon, it will be a significant year, one he could not have imagined when Shine was born in 2003.

“This all started in my head, and was originally an idea I shared with some friends and we worked hard to get it going,” said Gordon.

“It’s been so successful, and I think the key to that is our ethos and the fact that we are always looking to refresh and that we have never stayed the same.

“It’s also a family-centred, community group with a place for people of all ages.”

And, as the principal teacher of Douglas Primary School, a father-of-two under four years old, and a director of a youth theatre, Gordon is often asked where he finds the time.

“You always find time for the things you are passionate about,” he said.