Sixteen drama students from across the UK have been awarded a total of £53,000 as part of the Society of London Theatre’s Laurence Olivier Bursaries.
Granted by the organisation behind this website, the bursaries have been handed out annually since 1987 in honour of the legendary actor’s 80th birthday.
The monetary support is awarded to exceptional students entering their final year of drama school who are facing financial difficulties in continuing their studies. The intensive nature of acting courses means it is often difficult for students to undertake paid employment while training.
Following in the footsteps of Bryony Hannah, Paterson Joseph, Ewan McGregor and Michael Sheen, all of whom have previously received the Laurence Olivier Bursary, are Edward Bluemel, Jammy Bulaya, Rhianna Compton, Kate Dolan, Georgina Downing, Lottie Finklaire, Emily-Jane McNeill, Megan Pemberton, Juma Sharkah, Lauren Soley and Elena Valentine.
They are joined by Stuart Crowther, Hannah Morrish and Celeste Veazey, who take home Behrens Foundation Bursaries, Carmen Silvera Bursary recipient Jordon Kemp, and Matt Jessup, who receives the inaugural Clothworkers’ Laurence Olivier Bursary.
Bluemel, who draws inspiration from Olivier Award-winning actor Andrew Scott when performing on stage, spoke about the help that the bursary will provide: “The money that I’m getting from this means that I won’t have to work as much during term time, which means I can dedicate more time to actually working on what I’m training for. It gives more time to help yourself improve and achieve your potential.”
Fellow recipient Sharkah spoke about how important it is for aspiring performers to receive financial help, saying “It can make or break your future. Coming from a less fortunate background and having this means so much to me,” while Behrens Foundation Bursaries recipient Crowther said “It can really help people in the last year [of drama school] when they’re about to launch their career and allows them to make the most of their training without worrying about the external factors. You can really focus on getting the best start in the business.”
As in previous years, all of the 2014 recipients were nominated for the bursaries, which range from £500 to £7,500, by principals of drama schools accredited by Drama UK. The selected students were then interviewed by a panel of industry professionals and asked to audition on a West End stage in order to decide the winners.
Talking about this year’s lucky recipients, Chair of the Olivier Bursaries committee Lee Menzies said: “The standard of applicants this year was, once again, extremely high making the selection process very difficult. With the erosion of educational funding nationally, the support we are able to offer students through the Olivier Bursaries is needed more than ever.”
The West End producer gave particular thanks to those who donated the bursaries: “We are extremely grateful to all our donors and, for the first time this year, the Clothworkers’ Foundation for the significant amount of money they have pledged for the next five years in support of these objectives via the Clothworkers’ Laurence Olivier Bursary. Financial support of this kind, via all the bursaries, allows the recipient to continue their studies with a small financial cushion.”