The second year ‘English Work Experience’ module… well – even if you haven’t taken it, you can guess what it does. Part of LJMU’s commitment to preparing our graduates for the world of work, the module also aims, where possible, to involve students studying English in the research activities being carried out by staff in the department. Prescot, a town eight miles to the east of Liverpool, is coming out of some very difficult economic times with a cultural revival. The long-term efforts of a wide variety of residents, community and charity organisations, and members of Knowsley council are soon to be crowned with the construction in Prescot of a Jacobean theatre and education hub. LJMU English’s Professor Elspeth Graham has played an important part in this exciting regeneration, and for many years has offered students on ‘English Work Experience’ the chance to take part in a range of community-based cultural projects. Megan Bagnall has recently completed the module, and here she reflects upon the kind of work she’s been doing across the year:
‘Being a greedy work experience student, I have worked with both the community arts organisation MATE Productions, and The Townscape Heritage Initiative team on the Prescot Work Experience strand of the module.
For MATE, my experience centred on being general project support for an archive project that gave the history of Prescot to school children in a comedic and engaging play. I helped go through research, filmed pieces as the actors devised, scripted, even helped to make props and take photographs on the performance day! I now work for them part time as a Project Support and Admin assistant, doing lots of odd bits and bobs for the company, even being included in a photoshoot for their Easter event!
For the THI, I have been working with a group with other students researching the history of Prescot and its buildings between 1841 and 1911. We’ve collated information from censuses, the Kirkby Archives and open days held for the local community to come in and share their memories of Prescot. Once we have finished our research, we will be holding a community open day to show the local Prescotians our commitment to learning about their town.
If you want to make the most of your time in Prescot, you need positivity, enthusiasm and determination. Sometimes it will take staying till the last train home to help with final rehearsals, or a confusing library session, where all the research you have about a building is unravelled in a single new discovery, but if you have the enthusiasm for the subject, determination to carry on, and the positivity that tells you, you can do well, all will be worth it come performance day.
Saying yes to opportunities may not sound like a skill, but it is definitely helpful. Once my work experience for the module had finished, if I hadn’t said yes to more offers from MATE for different projects, I would not have had half the experiences or friends I now have. The same goes for the community open day. If I hadn’t said yes to that I don’t think our groups would have been able to engage with people that have lived in Prescot their entire lives. Their information and excitement for the project was a great motivation to keep plugging away at the research for our presentation day.
The last skill I think you need to get the most out of Prescot, is being able to listen. Whether it’s to how the actors want a certain scene to look, or to be clear on what you need to research for your final piece, listening is the key. Never be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand your task, the people that set it will want you to know what to do, and they’ll respect you for asking. Even if it is just to double check how they like their tea.
Being able to say that I progressed from a work experience girl to a part time staff member is an amazing feeling. Putting the effort in and being rewarded with a job is definitely one of the most satisfying things about my experiences with the Prescot Work Experience strand, but the most enjoyable part of Prescot is the people.
I have been a regular in Prescot since October, but already feel like an honorary Prescotian. You can’t walk down Eccleston Street without someone commenting on your rosy cheeks, or bumping into someone you know. If people see that you are willing to put the time in, then they give you more back than you realise they could. The people of Prescot will reward you with warmth and kindness, and sometimes even a job!’