Lingard worked for LIPA in its widening participation programme, which led her to the view that the Birmingham area needs events which show school students what performing arts training is and how the industry works. So she founded The MasterClass Experience, of which she is now artistic director. This is just the sort of thing I want to hear, because I am convinced that school students don’t get enough of the right information. My latest book So You Want to Work in Theatre? pecks away at the same need.
“Our aim is to give students a day’s training which shows them a day in the life of a performer in training,” LIngard tells me. “Participants are given an insight into what it would be like to study at a vocational school, and we therefore equip them with the knowledge and understanding of what is both available and expected at higher educational level. We want both to harness and hone the passion students have for their art form and allow them to benefit from the skills, knowledge and industry experience of our tutors. With instruction, support and, personal feedback for each student – in each discipline – participants are encouraged to fulfil their potential and, given the confidence, to take their career a step further. From this experience they can, we hope, go on to make an informed decision about which path is most appropriate for their personal progression into a career in the arts.”
Lingard’s first event, TMCE 2011, was completed on a relatively small scale in her own former secondary school. It got 100% positive feedback and she realised she had come up with something for which there really is a demand. LIPA offered to sponsor it and she was able to run her second event in 2012 over three days at The MAC – Birmingham.
Now into its third year, The MasterClass Experience has become a Community Interest Company and has already secured a second year’s sponsorship from LIPA.
During August 2013 TMCE will branch out, holding two events. One specialises in dance and another has a musical theatre focus to include classes in acting, singing and dance. Both events will work towards a showcase on the final day – free for the public to attend.
The experience provides each participant with a “portfolio” containing a DVD record of the three days as well as personalised feedback from each teacher giving corrections and advice tailored to suit the career aspirations of that individual.
“At present, we are seeking and applying for further financial support which would enable us to provide event ‘extras’ such as a T shirt for every participant and an offer which allows students a discounted price to attend both experiences,” she says.
Lingard adds: “I was very fortunate in the educational establishments I attended to meet some inspirational dance teachers whose aim was to nurture the talents and enthusiasm of young dancers and support their ambitions. I always said that I would like to inspire someone and make a difference as those teachers did to me. I am lucky enough to be in a position that I can use the contacts I have made over the years to offer students in the West Midlands the chance to work with professional dancers and use their knowledge and advice to further their own career.”
I am warmly in favour of anything which gets accurate and helpful information about performing arts careers to school students. I also admire the entrepreneurialism of any young graduate who has an idea and is willing to work her socks off to make it a success.