Who are we?
Speak Well With Willpower consists of founder, Matthew Collins, and directors Annabel Yonge and Craig Lawson.
Matthew became aware of the need for clear articulation after one of his three brothers was born profoundly deaf. (His brother learnt to speak by lip-reading.) Matt's career began in TV. For 10 years he was ‘Special Assignments Man’ on BBC2’s The Travel Show. He presented on Open Air; This Morning with Anne & Nick; Good Morning with Richard & Judy; Well Worth a Visit; and Wogan. And he hosted Paperchase, an Anglia TV quiz show for sixth-formers.
He started prison teaching while bringing up two sons alone. For two years, he was a volunteer on the Wormwood Scrubs Prison-Fathers Workshop. Then, while doing an MA at The Central School of Speech and Drama, he met RSC Voice Director, Cicely Berry, who inspired him to take Shakespeare into Wormwood Scrubs. His first prison project was Romeo and Juliet. Matthew was moved by participants’ responses: ‘Really got me out of myself. Cheers guv,’ said one man. ‘Fair play,’ said another. ‘You got us through this s**t and it was cool. Respect.’
He taught for ten years at Wormwood Scrubs (as well as, occasionally, at Send, a women’s prison). But although constantly moved by prisoners’ responses (after speaking a line from one of the history plays, at the start of the pandemic, one Young Offender said, ‘"I have wasted time and now doth time waste me…" This is me, guv – I’m Richard the Second!’ ) Matthew has never been precious about Shakespeare. He didn’t enjoy him at school (‘We weren’t encouraged to experience the physicality of the language’) and he still doesn’t understand every word in every work. ‘But,’ he emphasises, ‘Shakespeare rewards repetition. The more you read and speak him, the more his words resonate… Although, having said that, not every line’s a corker. And I do sometimes wonder how the person who wrote speeches like “To be or not to be…” also wrote “When birds do sing, hey ding a ding ding…”’
As well as teaching in Wormwood Scrubs, Matthew has run voice and Shakespeare workshops for schools, corporate clients and The Women’s Institute. He’s been a professional speaker for thirty-five years (on subjects ranging from TV travel, to single fatherhood, to teaching Shakespeare to prisoners) and he runs corporate voice clubs and voice training sessions.
Craig Lawson is a teacher in an inner-city comprehensive school. He teaches all the sciences to GCSE and Biology to A’ Level. He is a housemaster, providing pastoral support for pupils aged 11-16. He also runs a school rugby team and has directed musicals. He was a child chorister and sang on major film score recordings, including those for The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter .
Annabel Yonge is a Television Production Manager. She spent twenty years as a volunteer for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), working in Africa in her early twenties and, more recently, in London as an external selector.