Friday, January 27, 2017
Familiar Face: Sue Britt
Sue Britt is a very familiar face in the Halswell community because she has lived here for twenty years but also because of her public performances as the ever patient assistant of Elgregoe aka Greg Britt, Sue's husband. Sue and Greg are recognised as two of New Zealand's top school show performers and spend most of their time delivering a 'You've Got the Power' message that has been seen by over 850, 000 students and reaches an estimated twenty percent of New Zealand Year 1-8 students every year. Combined in their show are tricks, ventriloquism, puppets, parrots, songs, poems, amazing illusion and audience participation making a fast and fun show. Their passion is not just to perform great shows but to challenge students about how they treat others at school. The traffic theme this year, taught students "to STOP bullying, to SLOW down and think about what they can say and to go and be the student that can make a difference."
A born and bred Cantabrian, Sue went to St Martins Primary and Cashmere High. Sports and creative classes such as cooking and sewing caught Sue's interest, rather than traditional academic subjects. On leaving school, Sue enjoyed working as a receptionist for an accounting firm. Life took a different turn when she met Greg through a youth group and they married. Sue's life became focused on raising their children and working part-time. Once her children were independent, Sue began touring with her husband, entertaining children throughout New Zealand.
The El Gregoe show evolved gradually. Greg's passion for magic led to the opening of a magic shop in the Shades Arcade and then in Colombo St for fifteen years. However, stiff competition from outlets such as the $2 shops, The Warehouse and the internet began to make the business uneconomic and sadly, they had to close the store. However, sometimes great things come from the most difficult of circumstances, and the magic shows were born with a timely request from a Halswell school principal at the time. He asked Greg if he could bring some magic with a message addressing bullying issues and the show was so well received, other schools started requesting a visit. Greg then, went to Australia to spend time with Clifford Warne's Television presenter and author of many books on communicating with an audience, in order to develop routines that would work with an anti-bullying theme.
The Elgregoe school show has been very busy ever since travelling up and down the country delivering the much needed message that Bullying isn't cool, and You've Got the Power to Make a Difference. It has been a very rewarding experience as Sue and Greg meet adults in the malls who recite the earlier slogans such as It's cool to care, from shows they had seen in their school days. Sue says that in recent years, schools are seeing the importance of teaching key values, building good relationships and encouraging students to make a positive contribution at school. Responsible, Respect, Courage, Integrity, and Acceptance, are key words of the show. Sue loves that they are teaching life skills and giving people tools to combat bullying. Touring the poorer areas, tugs on her heartstrings; the places were there is not enough money for children's lunches or shoes. However, seeing many parts of New Zealand, has also been an interesting, as Sue suggests she wouldn't have got to visit them otherwise.
Despite all the travelling, the Britts have managed to grow a close family. Sue describes herself as "fairly family minded" adding that they "modelled their family on other families they had observed around them." Their three children, are friends but give each other space too. Interestedly, a public life working with children, has been embraced by Sue and Greg's children as they have all, in their own ways followed in their footsteps. Melanie, pursued a career in early childhood. Nicholas worked with his dad for four years and has now carved out his own career as a magician on the Sunshine Coast and Tash is a 24/7 worker in local schools and is in charge of the children and youth's Sunday School programme at South West Baptist Church. Melanie and her husband Sam have just had their first baby, Nicholas and his wife Jess have three children and Tash is about to get married to Curtis from Wales who is working on the rebuild downtown.
At the moment, the Britts are also in the midst of designing and practising a new show for the new year, in order to begin a whole new round of touring. Balancing grand parenting, wedding planning, tour planning and performing, Sue finds peace when walking and gardening. The tranquil surroundings of Halswell, are also a welcome tonic. Sue and Greg together, have created a very happy family life, while at the same time have been delivering a great proactive message to huge numbers of New Zealand children. These are both pretty impressive achievements.