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The Stage Scholarships 2016: Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts

PQA students perform their most recent show, The Lazy Ace, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London. Photo: Brian Thomas PQA students perform their most recent show, The Lazy Ace, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London. Photo: Brian Thomas

True to form, the Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts continues to break records with the number of places it offers annually as part of The Stage Scholarships scheme. This year, up to 81 Saturday scholarships are up for grabs – one at every PQA location across the country (at a cost of more than £85,000). For each winning applicant, aged between six and 18, that’s worth more than £1,000 to cover a package of tuition fees. This includes three hours of lessons (in musical theatre, comedy, drama, film and television), uniform, masterclasses and Trinity College London group exams.

PQA creative director Adam Davenport originally joined the ranks as an academy principal six years ago. So what does he think is special about the school? “Every individual is valued for what they bring to the table. It’s just like our motto says: ‘Be yourself, be amazing.’ That sentiment feeds down to every child and each of them is given the opportunity to express what makes them happy. They are free to be themselves.

“Some young people join classes to enjoy themselves and build up their confidence, others wish to develop their skills in acting and singing, while a number hope to pursue a career in the profession. But what is most important is for the classes to have an open and friendly atmosphere. It’s as much about developing the individual as it is about developing the performer.”

There’s plenty of opportunity for practical training too. Within the film and TV module the youngsters get to create their own short films, and every two years a number are shortlisted for a festival at the Empire, Leicester Square. There is also an opportunity to take part in PQA’s annual West End productions at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

PQA’s creative management agency, Quirky Kidz, has helped some students to win roles in the West End and on TV. However, great care is taken in managing children’s expectations and explaining what a tricky business performing is.

PQA founder Pauline Quirke’s own introduction to acting came from another famous drama mentor – Anna Scher – who introduced generations of working-class Londoners to showbusiness. From there she went on to a TV career, starting as a teenage presenter in the 1970s, before becoming a household name with fellow Scher graduate Linda Robson in sitcom Birds of a Feather.

Quirke’s approach is about trying to give something back and in 2007, along with husband Steve Sheen, she turned her ambition into reality when she founded the first Pauline Quirke Academy school. Since then, PQA has expanded to 108 sites, from Edinburgh to Torbay.

Twelve-year-old Abigail Collins, who won a scholarship last year to attend PQA Tonbridge, said: “The scholarship has made a real difference to everything, it’s been such a boost to my confidence both at PQA and at school in the week as well. The classes open up such a lot of opportunities.”

Davenport also commented on the incredible feedback he has had from The Stage/PQA winners: “Our students are extremely grateful to have won scholarship places. PQA and our principals love to watch our winners flourish and hear of their achievements.”


Course: One-year musical theatre/film and TV/comedy and drama
Educational level: School age (after school/weekend)
Number of scholarships offered: Up to 81 (one per academy location)
Value of scholarship: £1,056 (£85,536 in total)
What costs are covered? Tuition, uniform, masterclasses, group exam fees
Location: Various sites around the UK
Audition dates: These will take place on various dates in May and June.
How do I apply? Fill in an application form here. The closing date for applications is May 1.

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