The Be Inspired Champions (Mark Thorburn third from left) collecting their plaques on the Olivier Awards 2017 with Mastercard red carpet (Photo: Matt Humphrey)

Diary of an Olivier Awards Be Inspired Champion

By Mark Thorburn, Published January 25, 2018

For last year’s Olivier Awards with Mastercard, 6 inaugural “Be Inspired Champions” were unveiled. Nominated by members of the public and theatre industry, these six individuals were put forwards by friends and colleagues for inspiring others with their love and commitment to theatre. Mark Thorburn was amongst them, and gave us an account of what the experience meant to him.

Who inspires a love of theatre in you? Nominate your Be Inspired Champion before Friday 16 February.

Just a year ago, for the first time, six unknowns became Be Inspired Champions, acknowledged by the Olivier Awards as inspiring a love of theatre in others. After a fun day filming interviews came a unique VIP experience to make us feel theatrically very special.

I was ‘the Enthusiast’, a retired ‘theatre-goer’ who saw 140 shows in 2017. The highlight? The Olivier Awards ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall on 9 April 2017, when I basked in my fifteen minutes of fame with five very special people, unexpectedly honoured by the UK’s top theatre Awards, for our work over the years, inspiring others to enjoy theatre in one way or another.

The Be Inspired Champions on the Olivier Awards with Mastercard 2017 red carpet (Photo: Pamela Raith)

The Be Inspired Champions on the Olivier Awards with Mastercard 2017 red carpet (Photo: Pamela Raith)

My wife nominated me for my ‘passion to inspire others’, in 250 words persuading champion selectors to pluck me from the large pile of nominations. My ‘qualifications’ were the varied nature of my ‘inspiring’.

For over 50 years, theatre has fascinated and beguiled me. As a young boy, I created theatre through marionette shows. As a Primary Teacher, I shared my enthusiasm with my pupils, encouraging confidence, creating performances, enjoying trips to inspire classwork through Theatre-in-Education, David Wood’s trail-blazing Whirligig Theatre, Pantomime, Ballet.

I inherited a Coventry Education funded ‘evening class’ in Youth Musical Theatre, Coventry YOG, working with all groups, profitably staging two major musicals a year – from a mere £650 to stage my first show, through 12 years of nurturing and enjoying growing talent, to staging 42nd Street at £40,000. Over 500 youngsters displayed talent way beyond their years, learning their craft in the rehearsal room and live performance. Non-vocational, but one show saw 14 cast members deciding to make theatre their profession.

As Chief Executive of the national umbrella body for amateur theatre, NODA, I travelled countrywide encouraging the highest standards of production, and celebrated the centenary with a weekend of stunning concerts at the London Palladium and the Royal Albert Hall, with over 7,000 happy patrons and performers.

I helped create vital early theatrical experiences for children, working for a professional pantomime company. As Editor of Amateur Stage magazine, I drew together information, reviews, advice, encouragement for amateur theatre nationwide. Even now, I encourage readers of my village quarterly Magazine, to visit local professional theatres through Show listings.

My ‘Enthusiasm’ is broad, but I was fascinated by last year’s winners, all so different. Teachers like me, but performance specialists, Sally-Anne Coleman and Stuart Clements, alongside long-serving professionals like Harry Gabriel, Shaftesbury Theatre Stage Doorkeeper; Janet Hudson-Holt, The Mousetrap Wardrobe Mistress, and Edwin Shaw, the doyen of Box Office Managers. Inspiring people, now acknowledged by the Society of London Theatre. And, countrywide, so many do so much every year to inspire others to embrace theatre.

And in 2018, four more very special, unsung inspirers somewhere in the UK are going to share our experience, be given a day beyond compare, enjoying the limelight alongside the stars. It is so special, in celebration of their achievements in theatre over the years.

Who do you know who could join this elite band of Be Inspired Champions?

You can now buy tickets to the Olivier Awards 2018 with Mastercard ceremony.