Jamie and Helen Read (directors of theatre and dance respectively) set up Read College in 2008 to help students fulfil their potential and to train students “based on their talent and suitability to the industry, rather than their ability to pay fees”.
Their philosophy is as follows: “We want to help young people who deserve a place at dance school or drama college but aren’t quite ready or who can’t afford to go.”
The independent college and registered charity – providing foundation training for students wishing to pursue a career in the performing arts – is once again part of The Stage Scholarships scheme, with one lucky applicant having the chance to win a full scholarship to attend either the acting or musical theatre one-year course (worth a total of £7,425).
In 2016, Emma Hutchings, 18, from Kingsteignton, Devon, received a full scholarship to join the acting programme. She said: “I am so honoured and privileged to have received The Stage Scholarship to support my acting foundation at Read College.
“This scholarship has allowed me to fulfil my passion for acting, and I feel extremely humbled to have been chosen.”
In recent years, Read (based in Reading’s St Bart’s Theatre, a beautiful Victorian listed building and professional arts venue) has gone from strength to strength, with 97% of students gaining places at the UK’s top dance and drama colleges.
Jamie believes there are two main factors that have contributed to the success of the school. The first is its intimacy: “We take a maximum of 15 people on each course, so Helen and I and members of the faculty get to know all of the students really well. A lot of them are living away from home and experiencing life as a student for the first time, so we help them with all the various issues they encounter along the way.
“It’s very professional, but it’s also a family, and we get to work with them on a personal as well as a professional level. It makes a really big difference.”
Also significant, Jamie says, is the fact that Read itself is not affiliated to one particular three-year school: “We get pretty much every acting and musical theatre school you could name coming out to us to do audition classes, talks and workshops. We get to know all their representatives really well. We’ve had schools ringing up saying, ‘Please can we come?’ ”
So what kind of qualities is Jamie looking for in a would-be Read student? “We are seeking out applicants who are open to the intensity of the training. They also need to deal with the pressure of us saying, ‘Yes, your monologue looks great for this school, but for another college you’ve got to do something completely different’. If they’re too technically locked down in what they do, that’s quite hard to work with.”
Jamie believes Read’s partnership with The Stage has helped him spread the word across the industry about the school’s dedication to working with young people who have the talent, but perhaps not the financial backing, to pursue their training: “To be able to give someone the opportunity to be fully funded through the course is amazing. We want to let more people know this is what we do, that there is more than one way to access funding.”
The last word goes to Emma Hutchings, who has been able to take advantage of such an opportunity: “It has meant I have been able to focus on my training and fully dedicate myself to it. It’s so great that The Stage and Read College have done this for me.”
Course: Foundation course in acting or musical theatre
Educational level: Post-school
No. of scholarships offered: one full scholarship awarded to a student on either
the acting or musical theatre one-year course
Value of scholarship: £7,425
What costs are covered? Fees
Where is the school? Reading
Audition date: End of May. The scholarship audition is open to those who have first been successfully awarded a place at Read College, so applicants will need to attend a regular audition day first. Successful applicants will then be recalled to the scholarship audition
How do I apply? Online at rdtc.org.uk. Click on Apply Now, or to request a paper application form call Admissions on 0118 966 6275