£67,500 worth of bursaries have been awarded by The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) today to 19 students from drama schools throughout the UK, enabling them to complete their final year of training.
The annual Laurence Olivier Bursaries scheme, instigated by SOLT in 1987 in honour of the 80th birthday of Lord Olivier, seeks to provide financial support to exceptional students entering their final year of drama school, and who otherwise would face financial difficulties in furthering their studies.
With former recipients including Ewan McGregor, Michael Sheen and Bryony Hannah, the students who can look forward to joining their illustrious ranks are Sínead Sharkey, Nicholas Ralph, Georgia Richardson, Ross White, Khalid Daley, Lauren Waine, Grace Saif, Rakhee Sharma, Harley Viveash, Paisley Fay Jackson, Rebecca Tebbett, Nathan Carter-Dale and Luke Westlake.
Nick Searle was announced as the recipient of the inaugural Society of London Theatre Bursary for Musical Theatre Dancers, allowing him to pursue future ambitions in music and audio production, while Luke Thallon was awarded the Clothworkers’ Foundation Bursary, which sees £7,500 awarded to a student annually as part of the scheme.
The Behrens Foundation Bursary was awarded to Patrick Elue, Gaby French and Jack Taylor, while the Carmen Silvera Bursary was awarded to Emma Lucia, and the Mary Selway Bursary to Ruthxjiah Bellenea and Patrick Elue.
Lee Menzies, leading West End producer and Chair of the Olivier Bursaries Committee, explained the impact of today’s awards: “I think the strongest way to illustrate the profound importance of the bursaries is to quote the students themselves demonstrating the struggle they have to support themselves through their studies.
“One wrote: ‘Last week I managed to shop around at Tesco and Sainsbury’s and managed to just spend £6 on food for the week, so I really try to budget well’, while another said: ‘I am currently at a point where I am having to choose between buying food and paying for text books.’”
Michaela Cole, actor and recipient of a bursary in 2011, said “The Laurence Olivier Bursary was invaluable to my time studying. It allowed me to concentrate on art and developing my craft without being torn in two by working a night shift somewhere.”
Every year, the Principals of 20 drama schools from across the country put forward two nominees, who are then auditioned on a West End stage and interviewed by a panel of industry professionals. This year’s auditions took place last week at the St Martin’s Theatre.
Each individual can be awarded a sum from £500 to a maximum of £7,500 at the discretion of the judges, with this year’s grand total of £67,500 allowing the bursaries to support the thespian stars of the future.