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New celebrity-backed charity will boost access to arts training

A coterie of actors and TV personalities have thrown their weight behind a new charity set up to provide access to the performing arts for young people from non-privileged backgrounds.

The National Youth Arts Trust launched officially last night at a celebrity-studded event at Speaker’s House hosted by Speaker of the House John Bercow.

The charity is already funding various pilot schemes that allow young people aged between seven and 25 to access arts education and training. These include training bursaries, covering travel expenses for applicants invited to second or third auditions, apprenticeships for care-leavers, and a Saturday morning drama club.

The charity’s 28-strong roll of patrons reads like a Bafta Awards invite list, and includes Sir Derek Jacobi, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Bonneville, Christopher Ecclestone, David Mitchell, Arlene Phillips, Alistair McGowan, Stephen Mangan and Gary Kemp.

The Trust is chaired by education campaigner Fiona Millar and trustees include Sir Nicholas Hytner, director of London’s National Theatre and Robert Delamere, the founder and CEO of Digital Theatre and creative director of Amnesty International.
It is the brainchild of writer and filmmaker Fiona Laird, who will be the charity’s director as well as a trustee – though this will not be a full-time or paid role.

It has been constituted as a charitable incorporated organisation and was incorporated on 10 June.  It has already attracted some major-donor support and intends to fundraise from the public, corporates and trusts and foundations.

Commenting on her reasons for founding the Trust, Fiona Laird said it was a direct response to the current crisis in arts education funding. “The presence of drama, music and dance in schools is rapidly diminishing. Artistic and creative talent is handed out equally, yet the ability to develop and nurture these talents is now dependent almost entirely on personal circumstance.

“We need to ensure the best, not just the richest, are given the opportunity to work in the performing arts.”

Actor Ewan McGregor said: “If I were 18 today I doubt whether I would be able to afford to go to drama school.”

And theatre actor Adrian Lester added: “I would not have been able to pay for my training, my food, or keep a roof over my head without the help of funding bodies that no longer exist.”


This article was taken from Civil Society – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/16421/