All the World’s a Stage is a new book by Sarah Walden and illustrated by Hannah Li. The book is a celebration of the value of creativity and details all you need to know about the worlds of theatre, TV and film in a fun and colourful format. Sarah is the Managing Director at Noodle Juice, a content and publishing company specialising in children’s books and she was inspired to write All the World’s a Stage by her daughter, Meg’s experience as a student at Stagecoach Banbury.
Sarah told us, in her own words, how Stagecoach impacted her and her daughter’s love of theatre and how she came to write All the World’s a Stage.
I have always loved the theatre. From a very embarrassing debut as the Ugly Duckling in Harrogate Theatre’s Hans Christian Andersen show in 1986, to playing the cello for North Yorkshire Schools Theatre Group’s performance of West Side Story five years later, I was drawn to the magic that the stage could create.
My parents took me to musicals throughout my childhood, Oklahoma, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Evita, and Starlight Express in the West End. We went to the pantomime every Christmas. I was extremely lucky.
My love for theatre continued at university. Freshers Week – the first society I joined was NUTS (Newcastle University Theatre Society) and from then on, I was absolutely hooked. I never wanted to perform on stage myself though – I was much happier backstage, directing, producing and organising. I hated speaking in public and knew I wasn’t very good at it. My now husband was the performer. Happiest when on stage, in the limelight, entertaining people. We loved the people we met and the friends we made. They felt like our tribe.
However neither of us were good enough to be professionals. We left university, got jobs and got married. We got on with living. I still went to the theatre and fed my addiction to musicals.
Then we had Meg. I was determined that Meg would feel confident about public speaking. That she would follow in her father’s footsteps rather than mine. My self-confidence had grown as I had moved through my career – it had to, as I spoke at board meetings, conferences, presentations, but I was never comfortable about doing so and suffered horrendously from stage fright. This was not something I wanted for my daughter.
So, at the age of four, I enrolled Meg in Stagecoach. Singing, acting and dancing – she loved them all. To be honest, as a parent, I quite liked the three hours every Saturday morning it gave me to myself, but the absolute benefit that Stagecoach provided was the confidence it gave her in herself.
We moved home when Meg was six and once of the first things I did once we moved to Banbury was contact the Stagecoach Principal begging to squeeze her into the Saturday morning slot. Mel worked her magic and Stagecoach Banbury became Meg’s home for the next nine years. There were some Saturday mornings where Meg was reluctant to go, of course, but once she found her tribe, she actively looked forward to preparing for performances and shows.
I remember there was one particular performance of Hairspray where she had her first tiny singing solo – the emotion I felt when she stood on stage and powered out her song was incredible. That was just the start of it – her confidence grew, she even got the lead in Elf, The Musical. There were plenty more talented students in her group who aspired to doing this professionally when they were older. Meg was very clear that this wasn’t something she wanted as a career, but what she learned at Stagecoach meant she was able to perform in school productions and ultimately directed the school’s performance of Lord of the Flies during her GCSE year.
My love affair with musicals continued – only this time I had a partner in crime. The year after lockdown I really wanted to help support the artists and theatres who had suffered such a loss during the pandemic so Meg and I shared a Christmas present of going to see as many as we could. We were blown away by Hamilton, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and Wicked but our favourite by far was Heathers – just fantastic!
When I came to plan the publication schedule for Noodle Juice’s first year, I knew that I really wanted to celebrate creativity in some way. I had been incensed by the government’s clumsy ad campaign featuring a ballet dancer whose next job was in cyber and was determined to show children that there are so many different ways to work in the creative industries. From the lead performer to the sound engineer, from the location manager to the lighting designer, there are plenty of career opportunities in an industry that does such a huge amount for Britain’s reputation.
I also knew that even if you don’t want to work in film, TV or theatre, the benefits of participating in activities such as singing, dancing and acting are huge. They deliver so much in terms of personal development, building confidence and interacting with your peers in a communal achievement such as a performance or show, that I really wanted to share that in book form.
All The World’s A Stage studies the history of film, TV and theatre, and teaches you all about genres, famous theatres, and special effects and what goes behind the scenes. It also examines each career and then has practical guides on staging your own theatre performance and making your own film. It’s stunningly illustrated by Hannah Li, and brings the glamourous world of performing arts right to your fingertips.