Our four young Italia Conti scholarship winners

Students from the world-renowned Italia Conti school on stage
Students from the world-renowned Italia Conti school on stage

Founded in 1911, the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts is the world’s oldest theatre training school. Now four young people will be going to Italia Conti to train in the performing arts, thanks to The Stage Scholarships scheme.

They are Madeline Reynolds, aged 11, Jessica Adair, 14, Isabella Galloway, 12, and Alistair Lyons, 13.

Their scholarships are worth £86,200 in total – £11,200 more than was stated when the auditions were first announced – and will cover a percentage of the school fees until the end of year 11.

Madeline Reynolds, who lives in Ashford, describes the news as a “golden ticket” moment, as she has a thing about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She has been awarded an 85% scholarship.

“I’ve always wanted to be on the stage – since I was two,” says Madeline. “Whenever I looked in theatre programmes I always used to see the name Italia Conti in people’s biographies. I said I wanted to be there one day.”

Mum Nicky says: ”Her eyes widened when she read the letter from the school, so I knew there was something good happening. Then she was jumping through the ceiling.”

Jessica Adair has a 50% scholarship. She is from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, and has been performing since she was eight. She is currently appearing in Billy Elliott. Before that, her performing highlights included being in the original cast of Matilda.

“The spark just hit me when I first went on stage. I just wanted to make people happy,” she says. “I joined the Musical Kidz Company. They had an agency and I was put forward for things.”

Isabella Galloway, from Leighton Buzzard, has a 15% scholarship. When we speak a couple of weeks after her good news had arrived, she says it still doesn’t feel real.

“I felt very nervous at the audition because everyone was very good,” she says. “Being at Italia Conti will help me do what I want to do – I want to be a professional dancer. When I was quite young I wanted to be a pathologist, but that didn’t last very long.”

Alistair Lyons has a 25% scholarship. He lives near Bishop’s Stortford and started attending a stage school when he was four years old.

“One of my friends was already there and he said it was a great place. I decided to keep doing it,” Alistair says. “The atmosphere at Italia Conti was nice. I want to have a career in acting when I leave. I get involved, my focus goes to 100%. In my audition I did a piece from Shakespeare’s King John.”

Explaining why these four youngsters were chosen, Cliff Vote, head of the Italia Conti School and vice-president of the Italia Conti Academy, says: “Jessica is just delightful, a fabulous all-rounder. It’s clear she has had a very good standard of training to date. We hope The Stage Scholarship will see her through to the end of year 11, at which time we hope that she will be a strong enough candidate to be able to get a DaDA award, so that she can continue with her training till 19.

“What we like about Isabella is that she showed very strong potential and there is no doubt that she could be a strong triple theatre performer with a successful career ahead of her.

“Alistair is a very strong actor, a great singing voice. We are really looking forward to seeing him here. He should do well.

“Madeline? Wow. She is going to be mustard – wonderful performer, strong attack and absolutely fantastic audience contact every second of the way. She has got the largest scholarship and she will be holding it for the longest period of time, since she is only year 7. We don’t often give full marks for the different categories – Madeline got full marks for acting.” These scholarships have come along just in time. Talented children were getting anxious and their parents were desperate. Alistair’s mum, Sharon, was worried she might have to put him into a local school that did not specialise in drama.

Mr Vote adds: “I am thrilled that we can offer these Stage scholarship places. The scheme is offering places to talented youngsters who would not have been able to afford to come here.”

For more information, go to www.italiaconti.com