To raise awareness of young talent, performing arts school franchise Stagecoach is sponsoring a new category at The Stage Debut Awards – Child Performer of the Year
Speak to most actors, and they’ll tell you their passion for performing started young. Maybe it was seeing a musical or taking part in a school play. For many, though, it was being part of Stagecoach, the UK’s largest network of extra-curricular performing arts schools.
This is why Stagecoach is announcing it will sponsor the Child Performer of the Year award, a new category at The Stage Debut Awards  to celebrate the youngest and brightest talent in the industry.
Every week, Stagecoach classes take place across eight countries. In the 30 years since it was founded it has seen more than one million young people take part in its programmes.
Stagecoach chief executive Sarah Kelly explains: “We believe every child has potential. That potential is nothing unless it’s realised. Every Saturday morning we help children unlock that potential through the wonderful medium of performing arts. We call this ‘developing creative courage’, helping children go forward and accomplish on the stage of life.
“Anyone who has done musical theatre knows it’s much more than the skills of singing, dancing and acting. It’s also about resilience, self-esteem and confidence.”
A vital part of Stagecoach’s ethos is to recognise and celebrate young people who unlock that potential. At its annual Creative Courage for Life Awards there are categories that celebrate diversity, outstanding singing, dancing, acting, as well as the Creative Courage for Life award itself.
“It’s for that shy child who didn’t want to come in on the first day, hiding behind their mum,” Kelly says. “A year on they’re in the middle of the stage singing their hearts out.”
But the problem for Kelly is that younger talent is not recognised on a national scale. That’s why Stagecoach is sponsoring this new category at The Stage Debut Awards.
“The Stage Debut Awards are a wonderful celebration,” says Kelly. “It’s exciting to see people in their first year of performing going into the world and being recognised. We’ve been doing Stagecoach for 30 years and a lot of the people who are at the Debut Awards are there because of Stagecoach. If we hadn’t inspired them at four years old, eight years old, many of them wouldn’t be on that stage today.”
Stagecoach wants to celebrate those outstanding young performers, some of whom are already earning critical acclaim in West End shows such as Matilda and School of Rock.
As The Stage Debut Awards enter their third year, the new category will show how vital young people are for the industry.
“This is the grounding of what helped inspire people to go into the profession. This is to say: ‘Brilliant, there’s a lot of talent coming up’, but if you don’t have the talent pushing up from that young age you might not have the awards in the first place,” says Kelly.
She adds: “It doesn’t just start at 18. There’s a whole group of kids out there doing brilliant things. We have 45,000 who come to our classes every week across the world. We’re a huge institution that is proud to be feeding the future of theatre and live entertainment.”