The theatre schools helping youngsters flourish and thrive

Families across the country know how theatre can change lives – not just by watching it, but by taking part, too.

The UK’s stage schools and theatre clubs offer a way for children and young people to explore their creativity, learn vital skills and be themselves in a way that may otherwise be denied them.

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Stagecoach is the biggest network of extra-curricular performing arts schools in the UK and is responsible for talent including Emma Watson (Harry Potter, Beauty and the Beast), Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Fantastic Four) and Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark, Jack the Giant Slayer).

Its classes are divided across early stages (ages four to six), main stages (ages six to 15) and further stages (ages 15 and above), covering singing, dancing and acting.

Stagecoach is the biggest network of extra-curricular performing arts schools in the UKStagecoach is the biggest network of extra-curricular performing arts schools in the UK
Stagecoach is the biggest network of extra-curricular performing arts schools in the UK

Following the lockdown period, the company, which has 290 franchisees and 44,000 students in the UK, will soon reopen for the autumn term and is now enrolling new students. In preparation for schools reopening, and in line with the government guidelines, Stagecoach is introducing a range of safety measures to ensure children are kept safe.

A spokesperson for Stagecoach said: “Extracurricular activities have always played an important part in children’s development and it has been a challenging time for children who thrive with a creative outlet.“Performing arts can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing in young people, including reducing anxiety, stress and combating depression. It can help to boost confidence and make children feel more engaged and resilient. Stagecoach encourages children to learn, grow and thrive in a creative environment.”

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Members of Stagecoach Summertown in Oxford spoke about why they enjoy the classes. "It makes me happy and free," said five-year-old Aria. Olivia, 14, appreciates "expressing myself without fear of judgement," while 18-year-old Amelia highlighted "the buzz and excitement from the whole cast mixed with a boost in confidence".

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Playbox Theatre in Warwick is a professional creative arts company working with children and young people aged three to 20 across the performing arts. Its alumni include Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, West End and RSC actor Calum Finlay and composer Spesh Maloney, who has worked for the BBC, RSC and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Artistic director Stewart McGill said: “The aim with Playbox Theatre, realised at its unique Warwick base, The Dream Factory, has always been to create and develop the most beautiful theatre in the world for young people where everyone, whatever their background, can work side by side - exploring creativity and growing together through the different styles, techniques and possibilities of the arts.

“We have learnt, through lockdown, just how much Playbox is valued by people everywhere and those who have left us, some many years ago, hold a special place in their hearts for the company and what it has contributed to their lives.

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“As we return, it will be with a new spirit of determination, aware of how close the company came to closure, how support is needed to bring us back and how in the light of the pandemic and global challenges across many political arenas our work must help reshape the future through the strength and passion of the young.”

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* This article is part of The Show Must Go On, JPIMedia's campaign to support live entertainment venues

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