Ode To Gemco
By Belinda Smullen
“I have a Question for you. How many kids can say that they’ve been a 6 of hearts, one of Robin Hood’s prestigious merry men or the King of the Yellow ants and be telling you the entire truth? I can.
Approximately 3761 days ago I began my life with GEMCO. I was 8 or 9 years old facing a life of being compared to Pippy Longstocking. I had the long curly red hair, the freckles and that ever so scrawny KID look. 3761 days ago I joined a family. A group made up of the most diverse range of people ever who all shared a common passion for the stage.
One of the most important elements of being a child or a teenager is to feel secure. And I can tell you that there wasn’t a week where I didn’t enter the Gemco Hall or the Clematis Hall for that matter and not see the buzzing electric atmosphere of my friends welcoming me in.
Experiences yes experiences. From directing and writing to doing up Tweedle Dee’s costume on those hot and ever so sweaty Melbourne Days. Pantomimes were the best of experiences as a child. I remember sitting under the trees at Emerald Lake singing songs, eating left over donuts and rolling down the long hills only to stand up and find duck deposits mushed into the fibres of my clothes. It felt great to walk around with the other actors and joke around with them, it was truly the best.
I have so many good memories of my life with GEMCO, but what has GEMCO done for me?
GEMCO has turned me into who I am today. Opportunity and experiences has enabled me to acquire the skills I not only need for performing but also skills I need for life.
I was thirteen when I was given the chance to write a script and only 14 when asked to direct a youth production. These opportunities have changed my life. My passion lies in directing and writing and the encouragement from GEMCO over the years has now lead me to running the 3 youth groups over the past three years as well as being elected Vice President and Youth Co-ordinator.
However focusing on strengths isn’t the only main objective of this group, but also to turn weaknesses into strengths. My weakness believe it or not was confidence. I crumbled in my seat when show and tell time came around every week at school, as I could not bare the inquisitive eyes on my innocent face. But there were no hurtful eyes at GEMCO on Tuesday nights at the Clematis Hall. No one judged or whispered…they encouraged. And to sit down to a round of applause every time I played space-jump made my face beam. I grew with praise. A pat on the back equalled another rung higher on that ladder. My leader’s kind words and smiles has made this young woman into school captain both at Primary and Secondary school, the recipient of a number of acting awards and the current Youth Co-ordinator and Vice President. I don’t boast to you but share my success so far with you as my success is also Gemco.
The leaders have made sometimes-smelly kids and somewhat pimply teenagers’ feel respected, wanted and voiced.
Growing up as a kid in the hills you may have been interested in sports, guides or scouts and while they are great areas of interest what about those who didn’t fit into these categories? You came along to GEMCO and you acted, you danced, you sang, you played instruments, you designed costumes, you wrote plays, you became a lighting technician, you paddled in directing or were a member of the audience. Whichever way you go there are so many areas to explore. To me and the other 79 or so kids involved across the three GEMCO youth groups GEMCO was and is our interest. It is our ‘thing’.
It is important in the hills and in any area in the world to provide something so diverse that provides something for youths and people of all ages to get involved with. There’s not much to do around the hills when you’re a teenager. In fact around 50% of Cardinia Shires youth population live in Emerald and surrounding Hills communities. But with the friends and activities you become involved with in Gemco you know there is always somewhere to go and someone to talk to.
So through my stages of development as a person there was always a place for me right here. Making GEMCO and their involvement with youths a complete and utter success. I thank everyone who has walked through my life that I’ve met through GEMCO and I am deeply grateful to the founders of such a fantastic community theatre group.
And I can tell you for certain, that in 20,30, 40 years time I still will be here supporting the youths and GEMCO like they did for me.”
Belinda presented this touching speech at Gemco’s 21st Birthday Celebration.