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Michelle Gerencser

South Shields

I never thought of myself as a creative person. The first idea I got about it was when the Great North Run asked for volunteers to perform in an opening ceremony in 2014. Because I did that, I went onto a mailing list, and that mailing list really changed my life – that’s where Cultural Spring got hold of their volunteers and it all kind of took off from there. 

The first major production Cultural Spring did was called Rush, which focused on working class struggles. It was a choreographed forty minutes by Southpaw Dance Company, with a community cast – there were about 80 of us took part. We were sent this email, and I liked the sound of it. So I went along to a workshop, and then rehearsals, and before we knew it we were dancing in a car park, throwing coloured dust in the air, learning routines with professional dancers. It was a brilliant production, with St Hilda’s colliery as the backdrop. These iconic buildings have been around my entire life, and now they have taken on an entire new meaning.

I’ve got a lovely group of friends from it. We support each other. We go and see things together and it’s great. We all say, since we did that first thing we’ve never looked back. It’s been like a rollercoaster three years and where it’s taken us is just amazing. 

I’ve ended up having a try with musical theatre; with acting; I’ve done TV extra work.  I took part in another Cultural Spring project called Great Night Out, which was telling stories of people from Sunderland. Again it’s the professionals you work with who give you the confidence to believe you can do it. I never thought I’d get up on stage. I was always the person saying, no, not me, and now if someone’s asking for a volunteer I’m like, yes please! 

As well as the performance side, I’ve found I’m actively promoting anything that Cultural Spring is doing. So as well as being involved myself I’ve been able to help support it as well, which almost feels like giving something back, but I never thought I’d have the voice to do that. 

It’s completely opened my eyes to culture and the arts. I go and see a lot more. It’s just a huge part of my life now. Every moment of my spare time is taken up with all of this, and it’s brilliant.

Photo: Stephen King