“We’ve always recognised that there is a huge fund of talent in this country which doesn’t have an opportunity to develop,” says Cliff Vote, who is head of the Italia Conti secondary school and vice principal of the entire academy. “It’s fantastic that The Stage is offering this kind of incentive. It is a very important scheme. It’s very important for us that we don’t lose anyone who is capable of following a career in the industry.”
The Stage/Italia Conti scholarship is worth up to £ 75,000 and is for one student, or perhaps two – depending on who impresses the audition panel on the big day. The scholarship will cover the winner’s secondary education training fees to the end of year 11.
Italia Conti is the UK’s, indeed, the world’s oldest theatre training school. It grew from a production of the play Where The Rainbow Ends at the Savoy Theatre in 1911. The actress Italia Conti was asked to manage and teach the children in the production. She enjoyed the work so much that she decided to turn her attention fully to teaching. Soon after the Italia Conti School was born in a basement studio in Great Portland Street. It has been a cherished family concern ever since and is now housed on three sites in London.
The scholarship winner will be based at the theatre school which is at Italia Conti House, a beautifully equipped nine-floor building near the Barbican.
Alumni of Italia Conti include Sir Noel Coward, William Hartnell, my own hero Richard Todd and now Pixie Lott and Russell Brand. The name of the first Stage/Italia Conti scholarship winner or winners could one day be joining the list.
“The most important part of life at Italia Conti is that we’ve all got to respect one another’s work,” says Vote. “We’ve got to applaud courage and people encourage everybody to try new things – to break away from stereotypical ways of behaving and of acting. Effectively they become themselves through what they are doing.”
Italia Conti’s principal, Anne Sheward, explains: “We are looking for potential. Ideally we would expect them to have had some part-time, prior training and have reached a standard worthy of this amount of funding – though not to have reached a specific standard.
“Italia Conti builds confidence and gives excellent academic and vocational training. We are not looking for the child prodigy. We are looking for talented, interesting young people who will earn their living in the business as an adult. They are given the breadth of training to back that up. The academic education is almost as important as the vocational. Our students can deal with every type of situation, mix with all ages and types and have the confidence and skills to give a good account of themselves.”
Tradition and experience, heritage and history are cherished at Italia Conti but the school moves with the times.
“Technology has changed the profession by leaps and bounds,” Sheward adds. “We were the very first school to offer video classes. We were the very first to put in a recording studio. You have to keep updating, all the time, and we do.”
This scholarship provides the opportunity for performers to build a firm foundation to a future career without the worry of finding training fees. It is, by any standard, an extremely attractive offer – download the application here.