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Editor’s View: The Stage Debut Awards is back to celebrate next generation

2018 winners from left: Katherine Soper, Lekan Lawal, Abraham Popoola, Andrew Polec and Samuel Thomas at Joe Allen Restaurant. Photo: Alex Brenner 2017 winners from left: Katherine Soper, Lekan Lawal, Abraham Popoola, Andrew Polec and Samuel Thomas at Joe Allen Restaurant. Photo: Alex Brenner
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No one forgets their big break. What has proved to be so exciting about The Stage Debut Awards is the chance it has given us to publicly celebrate other people’s first steps into the spotlight.

The impulse behind launching these awards was our desire to recognise the best emerging talent in our industry at a time when they need it most: when they are just starting out.

Or, as our associate editor Lyn Gardner observes: “I love The Stage Debut Awards. It feels both genuinely celebratory and useful to recognise people’s talent at the start of their careers. There are plenty of awards that heap praise on the already successful, but The Stage Debut Awards are unique in giving a helping hand to those joining the profession. It has been a privilege to be part of the team helping to select the winners.”

Our winners from 2017’s inaugural outing are a wonderfully talented and diverse bunch – actors and creatives from different walks of life who were recognised for their work in regional theatre, in small London fringe theatres and even in the West End’s biggest auditoriums. They are a genuine reflection of the exciting new generation of theatremakers bursting into our industry.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of catching up with some of them for brunch at Joe Allen’s. To a person, they are all doing brilliantly: many have since landed West End roles, one was about to head to Belgium to film a big-budget BBC drama, one has joined the cast of Hamilton, another landed an Olivier nomination. They are going on to even bigger and better things and this is exactly as it should be.

If the impassioned discussion at our judging meeting last month is anything to go by, we have an equally impressive roll call with 2018’s nominees. You might already be familiar with some of them, others may have slipped you by, but they all deserve your attention.

We are only able to recognise such a broad spread of talent because of the tireless work of our UK-wide network of critics, who served as the judging panel’s eyes and ears on the ground.

Thanks also to our industry experts, who gave their informed thoughts on the longlist, and our sponsors, especially our new headline sponsor – Access Entertainment. Access is the West End’s newest theatre owner (having only purchased the Theatre Royal Haymarket in June) but wasted no time in offering its support for emerging theatre talent through this great initiative.

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