In the second of the West London Kids interviews with Founders of child-orientated businesses in West London, I speak to Cristin Bullock, Principal of Masquerade Theatre Arts. My daughter absolutely loves her Saturday classes with Masquerade and both my children usually attend the holiday workshops as well and have lots of fun whilst gaining confidence and lots other transferable skills. So I was keen to interview Cristin to find out more about her background and Masquerade’s background story.
Hi Cristin, I am really pleased to be featuring you on West London Kids as a West London business owner that I have long admired. So my first question is, Where about in London do you live and how long have you been there?
I currently live in Strawberry Hill, South West London and have done so for the past 3 years. I lived in Ealing West London for over 10 years previously.
How do you find being a parent in London? What are the main advantages and disadvantages in your opinion?
I love being a parent in London, living somewhere like Strawberry Hill which is nestled between Teddington and Twickenham means we have so much natural beauty on our door step. We have beautiful river walks into Richmond and Bushy park is just down the road, whilst only being 20 minutes on the fast train into Central London. It’s great knowing you can pop into town easily to the theatre (very important to me), museums and restaurants but escape the hustle and bustle at the end of the day. The main disadvantage of living in London is space. Having grown up in Ireland I’m still getting used to having less living space but it’s worth it when you have a city full of wonderful things to see and do as your home.
What inspired you to start your business?
I graduated from the London College of Music and went straight into performing in musicals. I taught singing lessons alongside this and over time became more and more passionate about teaching. I taught for many stage schools through out London and grew a dream of having one of my own one day. I wanted to create a school that saw each child as individual whilst offering top quality training in singing, drama and dance. A meeting with Oaklands Primary School, Ealing, West London and a lot of hard work later and Masquerade was born.
What is your favourite London park?
Bushy park is my favourite South West London park but I adore Hyde Park too.
Where do you prefer to work?
Most of my teaching is in schools and universities however if doing admin for my business then I love a local coffee shop.
When did you first realize you wanted to run your own business?
I worked for a wonderful theatre school in Primrose Hill where I was given the opportunity of overseeing the school alongside delivering singing tuition. This was a new challenge for me as I had only ever performed or taught. I relished the opportunity but it sparked a drive in me to have my own school one day.
What were the most difficult obstacles you faced starting up?
Initially the most difficult obstacle was competing with longer established schools. Once we became established ourselves it was and still is important to retain your standards and individuality.
What activities do you enjoy doing as a family?
We love river walks into Richmond with our 15 month old. She’s too young for the theatre just yet but we’re looking forward to being able to take her to see some shows once she is older.
What’s your favourite West London/ London restaurant to eat out as a family?
Our favourite restaurant is Treviso Italian restaurant in Richmond. It’s a very small family run restaurant and has the most delish Italian food. They are always so welcoming and friendly and have the best customer service I’ve seen.
Any family holiday plans made for the next year yet?
We haven’t made any plans just yet, but it’s on our to do list. We holidayed in the Algarve Portugal with our little one last year which was lovely.
What was your favourite book as a child? Have you included any of your childhood favourites in Masquerade course themes?
I adored The Twits by Roald Dahl. We often feature Roald Dahl in our courses. This February half-term we are doing a 2-day Roald Dahl celebration for children aged 7+. The children will explore scenes from The Twits (of course!) but also BFG, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and more. Roald Dahl has a timeless popularity with children and we always get a full house when we feature Roald Dahl classics in our workshops.
What are your main business goals for the next few years?
We have started offering some extra performance classes at our schools. I’d love to develop these further in the coming years.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a performer and to teach singing.
Do you have any advice for a parent thinking of starting a business?
Do it! Although it can sometimes be tricky juggling home life and a business; the rewards you get for doing something you love and the flexibility it offers out weighs this.
How do you pick yourself up if you have a spell when things aren’t going perfectly?
My Dad always says “Keep doing the right things.” If something goes wrong I just do my very best to make things right and try to stay positive. If you have a passion for your business and it’s something you love, this will shine through and things eventually get solved one way or another.
Some great advice there Cristin, I really enjoyed learning more about your business story. Wishing you lots of future success with your wonderful drama school.
To find out more about Masquerade’s term-time drama classes and holiday theatre workshops in Kingston-upon-Thames and Ealing, visit their website: www.masqueradearts.com