Simon Poole is both an alumnus and current staff member here at the University of Chester. He graduated in 2004 with a PGCE in Primary Education and is now in his fourth year of studying for his Doctorate in Education, which is based around music composition and song writing.
After being a primary school teacher for 11 years, Simon has held a number of positions here at the University, linking his passion for the arts and education. Most recently, Simon has been jointly appointed by Storyhouse and the University of Chester as Senior Lead for Cultural Education and Research, to help share and develop the best of learning and research between the organisation and institution.
As Storyhouse is opening this month in the city centre, we caught up with Simon for a quick chat…
Hi Simon, thanks for chatting with us! For anyone that doesn’t know anything about Storyhouse, can you tell us what it is?
“Storyhouse is Chester’s new cultural centre – it has a theatre, cinema, restaurant/bar and library. It’s the most wonderfully dynamic building, plus the architecture is stunning! The thing I love about it more than anything else is that it has a wonderful vision of democratising culture – making it available to everybody. It’s really centred on community engagement which is a huge positive not just for Chester, but also the wider community of Cheshire. It’s an exciting place!”
What exactly does your new role as Senior Lead for Cultural Education and Research entail?
“It is my job to liaise between the University and Storyhouse, and lead in all areas of Higher Education decision making at Storyhouse. I manage the development of innovative, arts-based practices for consulting the public and community groups on the programming of learning activities, and social, cultural and educational events at Storyhouse. I am also responsible for the co-creation of credit and non-credit bearing programmes, modules, and continuous professional development from levels 4-8, for students and school teachers alike.”
Could you tell us more about your career path that led you to this current role?
“Firstly, I have been a musician all my life. My first gig was in Telford’s Warehouse when I was 13 – the drummer wasn’t allowed in because he was 11! I also spent 11 years as a primary school teacher. I suppose my career has been the coming together of those two aspects of my life. Whilst I was a primary school teacher, I was only part-time three days a week because the rest of the time, I was touring around Britain and abroad with my band, The Loose Kites. We have released lots of albums and had success in various countries – we even had a number one in Greece a few years ago, pipping Lady Gaga to the top spot which was a bit strange!
“One day I got a call to teach at West Cheshire College, to do some song writing and performance sessions. I worked there on and off for about five years. I was then approached to see if I would like to do some art sessions with the associate teachers to which I happily obliged as the arts (and not just music) are what I’m interested in. I very much believe in holistic education, I think it not only enriches a person’s life, but it also enables them to understand all sorts of subjects in different ways. When I came to the University to teach, I decided to start my Doctor of Education because it was a way of bringing back together those different aspects of my life.
“At the University of Chester, I began as the Year one leader for the BA QTS which is an undergraduate course for associate teachers. Then after two years, I was asked to become the Programme Leader for the Master’s in Creative Practice and Education, which I am currently still doing. This role ties in beautifully with Storyhouse’s vision and I am now seconded as Senior Lead for Cultural Education and Research for two and a half days a week to Storyhouse – it’s such an amazing opportunity.”
Has anyone or anything in particular been an inspiration to you?
“My grandpa – I grew up with him and he was a legend. He taught me lots of things, like how to do good and persevere, perhaps with a bit of stubbornness! My other inspirations are people in general. I’m constantly meeting people in this role. You hear of the things people are doing and why, and that is motivation in itself because the stories you hear can be quite touching.”
Thanks for answering our questions, Simon. We look forward to seeing everything Storyhouse has to offer!
“No problem! I would encourage everyone to visit Storyhouse. While it has the most tremendous vision of operating as a democratic organisation for the people of Chester and beyond, things like this don’t work unless people get involved. It’s all about engagement and getting stuck in!”
The first Storyhouse performance will be ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ on May 11. To book tickets visit: https://www.storyhouse.com/two-theatres-one-roof.
If any alumni have an idea and would like to get involved with Storyhouse, please contact Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simon’s band, The Loose Kites, will also be playing a gig at Telford’s Warehouse, July 29.