NEAT are very proud to share the news that one of our Volunteer Promoters, Mel Shand, has recently been awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) in the Queens Honours List.  

Well done Mel! This is great news to start 2021 and we are very grateful for her hard work and commitment to NEAT. 

Mel received this award for services to the Arts and to her community during the Covid-19 Response. During lockdown, Mel started a local community group to help others with shopping, collecting prescriptions as well as organising socially-distanced social contact with people who were on their own. The group sewed scrubs, face masks and bags to help the NHS. She also found time to paint three portraits as part of the Portraits For NHS Heroes project’ artist from across the UK created and gifted portraits of NHS staff from a still image.  

Mel is an artist, photographer and playwright.  It was through her love of the arts that Mel discovered NEAT 

I’ve been with NEAT since 2007 I think, when it seemed like an excellent way to bring culture to our lovely village hall. In addition, as part of our Portrait of Our Time (POOT) project where I took 250 portraits of people who lived within the 4 joining rural parishes of BirseBallogieFinzean and Strachan. We were fortunate to receive Lottery funding for this big community project from Heritage Lottery and they wanted to see evidence of preservation of oral history and traditions. So I took all the stories that I’d gathered whilst photographing the families and turned it into a play called “I’ve had another idea”. I wondered just how hard it could be to write and direct about 150 people in an all singing and dancing production with a cast ranging in age from 3 – 85. Sometimes naivety is really the best help! So I set about writing the play and taking all the pictures and quite simply ran out of realistic time, and since we had promised the community a play I discovered NEAT and in advance of our own production, we hosted The Sun and The Moon and A boy called River! After that I was absolutely delighted to discover that lots of amazing companies were willing to travel, and I discovered lots about our audiences as well. I could pretty much rely on families to come, puppet shows were particularly popular. 

Mel has been a Volunteer Promoter in Finzean for over 13 years and has promoted a host of diverse and engaging performances.  

In over 13 years we have only had a couple of disasters – far more memorable shows stand out such as the Ariel Dance Theatre group who brought us Three’s a Crowd, and the Tasho Lhopo monks – 8 Buddhists who between them consumed 97 sausages and 4 litres of cola! (apparently what goes on tour stays on tour!)  

I am extremely grateful to Emyr and the NEAT team for all the support and fun we have had together over the years – life has changed hugely for the arts, but I believe that we can creatively come up with future solutions.” 

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