For the past ten years, I have been lucky enough to work on a part-time basis as writer in residence at the Bournemouth & Poole College in Dorset. This role has enabled me to work closely with many talented young people studying on the degree programme in performing arts.
Each academic year, I get the opportunity to create an original piece of work for the new cohort, and each year it’s always so different in terms of story, but always so similar in terms of the heart of that story – it’s lively, honest and unpredictable. I am always overwhelmed by the standard of performance and by the enthusiasm and commitment.
The problem that I was seeing at the end of the programme was that there was a distinct lack of opportunity for the graduates to continue their learning within the industry. Every year, I would watch the talent disappear into other means of making a living, and before long, the steady flow of a monthly income was enough to suppress the performer.
I’m not saying that earning a living is wrong; it’s not, it’s essential. But what I am saying is that with a distinct lack of opportunity for anyone hoping to work in the creative industries as a performer, Dorset is unable to cater for that individual. The only real hope was for any of these graduates was to make the leap to London, and for a lot of these people, that leap was simply too much – for whatever reason, but mainly, the financial implication was beyond their means.
And this was why Mark Sands and myself wanted to create an opportunity for these ‘outsiders’ to access industry professionals through various workshops held in London as well as a fully paid opportunity to perform in a new play, written specifically for them and produced at the Soho Theatre.
We both felt that these young people deserved an equal opportunity, and this is how we view the Ardent8 – providing an equal opportunity for those young people who perhaps otherwise would never have had the chance to access an industry that can often overlook some of the regions around the UK.
I worked with the Ardent8 during their time at the college, and this gave me the insight to be able to turn around Sacrifice relatively quickly and with little fuss. Prior to the performances at Soho Theatre there is one-week rehearsal in London, so overall, this becomes a two-week London residency.
Since the start of the Ardent8 programme, there have been no false promises; we have simply said that this is an opportunity for you to experience a part of the industry that you worked so hard to learn about as part of your education. There is no guaranteed pot of gold at the end of this, but an experience that may well determine what your next step might be.
Photo credit: Jimmy Lee