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Bristol: 'Inclusive' acting school wants to drive change

By Steve Mather
BBC News

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image copyrightSam Ford
image captionNancy Medina and Stuart Wood are Bristol School of Acting’s co-artistic directors

The director of an "inclusive" new drama school in Bristol says one of her priorities is providing opportunities for "marginalised areas of society".

Nancy Medina said Bristol School of Acting wants to do things differently, with a focus on driving change prioritised over achieving top grades.

"Our industry has to change; I don't like what I see at the moment," said the school's co-artistic director.

Daredevil star Charlie Cox helped devise one of the school's new courses.

Ms Medina said that as a start-up there was scope to be "radical and bold" and she wanted to move away from traditional ways of working which she feels often don't get the best out of students.

image captionDaredevil star Charlie Cox has visited to carry out acting workshops with students

"There are a lot of unhealthy habits in the industry. I want to change the way it has worked for years of 'I am the expert and you are the pupil' and allow students to really contribute," she said.

"Students from different backgrounds can contribute with their own life experiences, culture and language.

"We are creating a new kind of course that will empower young people to find their voices and make themselves heard.

"We are training actors who can shape the industry of the future."

The school is being run by arts company Boomsatsuma in partnership with Bristol's Bottle Yard Studios, which has played host to TV series including Poldark, Broadchurch and Wolf Hall, and the Tobacco Factory Theatres.

image copyrightSteve Daniels/Geograph
image captionThe school is working in partnership with Bristol's Tobacco Factory Theatres on the new venture

Artistic director of the Tobacco Factory Theatres, Mike Tweddle, said students would have the opportunity to work with "renowned artists" while using its facilities and that the partnership tied in with the theatre group's' commitment to providing "inclusive pathways into the industry".

Ms Medina was a theatre director for 20 years before moving into education and has lived in Bristol for almost 13 years after moving from Brooklyn, New York.

image copyrightSam Ford
image captionCo-artistic director Stuart Wood (right) said new approaches were needed to 'create the actors of tomorrow'

A BA (Hons) Acting for Screen degree course was devised with the help of actor Charlie Cox, who is also a patron of the school.

Ms Medina said that Bristol's diverse and multi-cultural style made it the perfect fit for her plans.

"Starting from fresh means we can be bold and steer a radical approach to inclusivity, with a pro-active anti-discrimination policy.

"It's a priority for me to bring opportunities to the marginalised areas of society," she said.

Arts Council England, which funds the Tobacco Factory Theatres, has welcomed the opportunities created by the new partnership.

Director of philanthropy, Clare Titley, said the new collaboration "will encourage greater access for young people in Bristol to enter the industry".

"Arts Council believe that people everywhere, at every stage of their lives and from every background, should have the opportunity to develop their creative skills and talent," she added.

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Related Topics

  • Acting
  • Bristol
  • Theatre
  • Black interest

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