TWO stand-up comedians are pledging to enrich young lives with the gift of laughter through the launch of their new children’s workshops in south Warwickshire.
Anne Docherty, from Kenilworth and Mark Hinds from Warwick, are the creative minds behind Comedy at Work, an innovative business that has comedy – and mental wellbeing – at its heart.
Now they are aiming to educate and entertain their youngest audiences yet by adapting their brand of humour in a series of two-hour comedy workshops geared to primary school-aged children across the country.
The start of their business journey was far from a laughing matter for the plucky pair who have both overcome personal setbacks in order to embark on this new chapter in their lives.
They met at a six-week comedy course after both deciding to take a new direction in their lives.
Fifty-year-old former stockbroker turned London cabbie, Mark, moved from the capital a few months ago to establish the new business with Anne, a mum of three.
For Anne, 43, left her corporate career last summer in order to become a comedian, it has proved to be the best decision of her life.
She said: “Through comedy I have rediscovered my creative side and my confidence and self-esteem has improved – definitely as a result of making others laugh – it is a great feeling.”
It’s this inspiration that drives her ambition for the core Comedy at Work ethos which, she hopes, will help nurture a healthy mindset in children, especially those who suffer with shyness.
She said: “I’ve had so much benefit as an adult from comedy in day to day life. It’s helped me in terms of reducing my own stress levels by learning to find the humour in situations I would normally have found stressful. And I want to share that with children.
“One of the things we’ve been doing is kids’ career workshops in schools and what we’ve found is that kids are naturally very funny and very creative.
“I have three little girls of my own and I use quite a lot of the workshop techniques with them on a daily basis. It’s just lovely when you see them start to come out of their shell. Even the really shy kids who would hardly speak at the beginning of the workshop are then up on the mic after an hour or two.
“It’s also to show them that laughter helps to bond with other people. It’s a lovely feeling to be able to make someone laugh. It’s also a shared experience.”
The workshops, which have been trialled with more than 500 children at five schools in the area, are open to two age groups: Years 3-4 (ages 7-8) and Years 5-6 (ages 9-11) and tackle performance skills and comedy improvisation exercises as well as ‘laughter yoga’ and even breathing exercises.
The sessions are designed specifically to develop skills such as creativity, public speaking, listening and confidence building among young people
Anne said: “But it’s also about learning to be silly. They’re allowed to be silly. They’re allowed to make the jokes they’re not allowed to make in class. They’re allowed to make each other laugh and it’s lovely to see that, particularly in this day and age where life can be so serious and the kids are under so much pressure to learn and get results. It is joyful to see these transformations happening in a really short space of time.
“By the end of the workshop they will have created something funny enough to present at the microphone and see how wonderful it feels to make an audience laugh – and discover that it’s not actually that scary.”
Anne and Mark also have longer term plans to introduce the workshops for secondary school-aged children.
Anne said: “I think it’s incredible that I’m able to bring something to kids today that was just not available to me as a child. There’s such a gap in the market and as human beings we absolutely love to laugh and yet there is so little focus on that in kids’ education and even in their extra-curricular groups.
“I know it’s a cliché, but laughter is such good medicine. Making life a bit more fun and light-hearted is no bad thing.”
Client Tal Arrowsmith, of Gro-Organic, said: “Throughout their session both Anne and Mark created an encouraging and supportive environment which enabled the pupils to challenge their comfort zones and build their confidence.
“Through their knowledge and experience of the role of a comedian, they gave the pupils the opportunity to develop their skills in performance and delivery, offering techniques in improvisation and adapting the performance to your audience.
“The pupils were also given the opportunity to experience laughter yoga and learned of the incredible benefit this can have on your wellbeing. The inspiring sessions brought excitement and humour into each school.”
The Children’s Comedy Workshops are available 10-12pm (Ages 7-8) and 1-3pm (Ages 9-11) over the Easter holidays at the following locations. . .
Tuesday, April 7th
The Kenilworth Centre
Thursday, April 9th
Warwick Gates Community Centre
Tuesday, April 14th
Norton Lindsey Village Hall
Thursday, April 16th
Kineton Village Hall
For more information or to book, visit: www.comedyatwork.com/kids
The Comedy at Work team is also hosting a series of stand-up nights at village halls throughout the region in aid of local charities. The next gigs are in Stretton on Dunsmore on March 20th; Quinton on April 3rd; Burton Dassett on April 25th and Hartwell on May 16th.