Smiles all round for Ariel’s young East Grinstead festival winners

The Group Improvisation winners
The Group Improvisation winners

This May students from Ariel’s Crawley and East Grinstead academies competed in the popular East Grinstead Music and Arts Festival.

Following several rehearsals the talented young actors stepped up and succeeded in impressing the judges across many genres, winning categories from Shakespeare to Musical Theatre.

Harry Simpson and Lizzie Martin

Harry Simpson and Lizzie Martin

The ‘Dramatic solo from Shakespeare’ for students aged 13-15 was won by Sam Brodrick-Ward from Ariel’s East Grinstead Academy, who was also presented with a cup as the competitor with the highest mark across all the Shakespeare solo sections. Fellow students from the Crawley Academy, Grace Towning and Bobbie Smith, scooped the second and third place respectively; meanwhile talented Tom Clarke won the age 16-18 category.

The younger students also captivated the judges with Ivy Brown giving an engaging performance and winning the Prose Reading section for the under six category, while duet Poppy Hadden and Ellie Jowett had the audience in stitches with a fun interpretation of Hakuna Matata from the Lion King.

In the 13-15 class, Grace Towning won the top spot performing ‘If You Hadn’t But You Did’ from the musical Two In The Aisle, while Holly Scott achieved the number two spot performing ‘Cabaret’ and was praised by the judge for her excellent clarity and diction.

It was a hat-trick for Ariel with fellow student Grace Graham coming in third with a beautiful rendition of ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ from My Fair Lady.

Great friends and festival veterans Harry Simpson and Lizzie Martin, for whom this is their last year competing, finished their run with an unbroken record. The duo, who will be too old to participate next year, achieved the highest score of the speech and drama section, winning for four years in a row, with their performance of ‘Bad Idea’ from Waitress. The gifted twosome had the audience laughing and crying at the same time.

In the solo section Harry earned the top spot with an emotional and dramatic rendition of ‘Why God’ from Miss Saigon.

In addition to performing, students’ talents also included writing their own prose. The Ariel team were particularly proud of Tatiana Wortley from East Grinstead who wrote and performed her own monologue, inspired by the atrocities of the Syrian war, winning a highly commended third place.

In the challenging Group Improvisation section it was the students from Crawley Academy who took the top spot. Their key words were ‘water water everywhere’ and they created a hilarious piece about a queue for a water slide. The audience loved it and the students were rewarded with lots of laughs. The improv group was made up of Bobbie Smith, Grace Towning, Grace Graham , Jessica Jardim and Holly Scott and due to their combined talents they were also presented with the Speech Skills Shield as a special award.

Final mentions must also go to Grace Graham, who received a bursary award of a £40 Amazon voucher for her overall contribution to the speech and drama sections, and to the talented East Grinstead Othellos and their buddies who performed a piece about inclusion to Taylor Swift’s song ‘Shake It Off’.

The students had been expertly tutored by Ariel principals Abi Paige and Karen Brown.

Karen said: “It was a very exciting and emotional couple of weekends. All the students did an amazing job. We are sad that this is the last festival that some of Ariel’s students can perform in, due to their age, but we’re absolutely delighted to have new young people participating and being able to introduce the talents of our wonderful Othellos to the judges. Well done to everyone. We couldn’t be prouder of you all!”

Ariel has five established drama academies across Sussex in Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Crawley, East Grinstead and Steyning.

Ariel’s sixth academy opened in Horsham in April.

For more information visit or call 01444 250407.

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