(this is getting to be quite long!)
August 2005: New crew, new CEO…new changes afoot. The departure of a crew member led to various talks and discussions about where Up With People was headed. Why was there a show? What will happen to the program? Will we go back to the past? The CEO wanted to reconnect with UWP’s glorious past; many of the current crew members thought it was time ot look forward.
Partway through that semester, we were told of a few things: the program will change slightly, with longer semesters and a new & improved show; they didn’t have enough people registered for Spring 2006; since they don’t have enough people, they will cancel that semester and take a half-year break, restarting in mid 2006 with a new name. We were the last WorldSmart crew.
This news got a mixed reception. Some were happy that the show was “back”, that Up With People was returning to its roots. However, some of the WorldSmart crew weren’t too happy that their contributions went unnoticed. Recently, two of them wrote a letter saying look, the show was never gone (indeed, our smaller-scale Celebrations were closer to the original 1965 folk shows in terms of size and intimacy), we’re still Up With People too, treat us as fellow alumni. This generated a response from the new CEO, promising not to ignore the contributions of the WorldSmart era; a WorldSmart Era Rep was also elected into the IAA (myself and Silva).
During the break, the Up With People staff worked hard to rejuvenate the program. A new show was choreographed, arranged, re-recorded. A new educational program was being developed – “Stand For Peace”, aiming to teach schoolchildren about peace and understanding through various activities. New host cities were being sought out. Finances were being rearranged. Fundraising challenges were being set left and right. The atmosphere was busy, busy, busy!
In April 2006, various alumni and other volunteers went up to Denver to participate in the relaunch of Up With People. We got a taste of the new program; the show, the educational aspect (we tested out Stand For Peace at a local elementary school), everything else. The relaunch was a success; alumni were re-energized, and support was growing. Things looked positive.
Then another change. Two staff members, who had been key in getting Up With People back (as WorldSmart), were let go. Two more potential road staff members no longer had their jobs. Many were shocked and surprised – what good would letting go of important staff members be? Why them, why now?
I was one of the people that was very shocked at the decision. Those who were let go were people I were close to personally. They were great at their jobs, and their jobs were necessary, so I couldn’t fathom why they of all people had to go.
However, ever since that decision, we’ve heard some good news afoot. UWP’s finances are more stable than before. The fundraising and recruitment challenges have been met. Cast A 2006 is officially on the road – right now they’re in Denver. There are plans to visit developing countries within the next year.
Will Up With People lose the “shiny happy strange” rep with this new relaunch? Who knows for certain. Will there be more changes? I’d be surprised if there weren’t. Life is about changing, and sometimes it’s a change you don’t like; but good things can come out of change (after all, we WorldSmart people were part of a big change that many people initially didn’t like) and we need to give the changes time to prove themselves.
Here’s to another 40 years of Up With People.