CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

How the Weekend Arts College helped as I was growing up

07 August, 2020

WAC Arts, which is based in the old Hampstead Town Hall

• I WRITE this letter on behalf of the Weekend Arts College (Wac Arts) as a former student.

Growing up as a teenager in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Camden was pretty tough to say the least.

Throw being a mixed race male from a single-parent family into the mix and you already have some potentially tricky hurdles to negotiate as you race into adulthood.

A life in the performing arts was never going to be the path for me as my strict Irish mother had already planned my career in the law in her head long before I even knew what I wanted to do.

Nevertheless, she enrolled me into WAC in my early teens. I suppose it was a combination of her wanting to keep me off of the mean streets of Kentish Town and her feeling that my confidence and self-esteem needed developing that inspired her to do this.

Having no musical skills whatsoever, and two left feet, the music and dance classes were never going to be for me.

However, I was pretty cocky and had quite a loud mouth so the powers that be quickly found a home for me in drama.

Under the watchful eye of firstly Celia Greenwood, and then Che Walker, I was soon introduced into a world of improvisation, Shakespeare, alternative Shakespeare, body movement and all sorts of other exciting and often excruciatingly embarrassing expressions of performance art.

I spent 10 years as a drama student at WAC and although I would never go on to tread the boards I developed great confidence and experience during my time there that would prove essential to me in my career as a lawyer.

I now appear regularly in the law courts and it is not at all lost on me how the skill of advocacy and performance are so closely related and how my education at WAC has helped me in my ability to speak publicly.

One only has to look at the roster of esteemed talent to have come through its ranks to see how high the standard of WAC’s tuition is.

What should not be underestimated is the sense of family and community that has always underpinned WAC’s identity.

For me WAC’s true strength has been its inclusivity – the bringing together of people from many backgrounds and races under one roof. WAC has given opportunities for many voices to be heard that otherwise may not have been.

This in particular is why it pains me to hear that an organisation that has brought over 40 years of equal opportunity to our community could ever be managed in such a way as to raise questions as to its integrity and diversity (Famous arts college’s future is under threat, claim former pupils, July 16 and Forty years on: whatever happened to WAC Arts?, July 23).

I have faith that this issue will be resolved swiftly.

DARRELL ENNIS-GAYLE
Senior Associate
Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors

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