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Open Door Calls On Industry For Support

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Open Door helps talented young people who do not have the financial support or resources to gain a place at one of the UK's leading drama schools.

Open Door Calls On Industry For Support

In the wake of recent successes of Open Door participants including Sheyi Cole, Tobi King Bakare and Milly Zero, the founder of Open Door, David Mumeni, has called on the industry to support the organisation, and others championing new talent, to ensure progress isn't halted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open Door is a registered charity that helps talented young people who do not have the financial support or resources to gain a place at one of the UK's leading drama schools. Working with people aged 18-26 (actors) and 17-26 (behind the scenes), Open Door bridges the gap for people who are serious about pursuing a career in acting, technical or production arts, but who may need help to do so. Its patrons include Emilia Clarke, Riz Ahmed, Woody Harrelson and David Morrissey.

Support includes free auditions at six leading drama schools, paid-for travel, one-to-one acting tuition, theatre tickets, bespoke workshops and mentoring from top industry professionals. Open Door is funded by generous individuals and companies, as well as through arts bodies, and funding raised goes directly into expanding the Open Door programme to more participants.

Recent Open Door successes include:

  • Sheyi Cole, named in Screen's Stars of Tomorrow 2020, who will play the lead in Steve McQueen's Small Axe for BBC One and Amazon Prime Video
  • Tobi King Bakare, who has recently appeared in acclaimed BBC series I May Destroy You and Netflix's Cursed, and is nominated for Edinburgh TV Awards 2020's Breakthrough Talent for his role in Sky series Temple
  • Milly Zero, who was nominated for Best Newcomer in the Soap Awards 2020 for her role as Dotty Cotton in EastEnders
  • Asha Hassan and Raphel Famotibe appearing in critically acclaimed British film Rocks, in cinemas and on Netflix now
  • Romeo Mika-Kadia, who is a recipient of BAFTA's 2020 UK Scholarship
  • Additionally, there are currently 72 graduates of Open Door in UK drama schools, with the first wave of graduates moving into the industry this year. Over the three years Open Door has existed, the 110 participants the organisation has supported have received 166 offers from drama schools (across acting and behind the scenes)

Commenting on Open Door, Sheyi Cole said: "My Open Door experience was phenomenal. Being able to be surrounded by industry professionals on a regular basis built my confidence tenfold. It gave me the belief and faith that I am enough to take on the industry head on."

Tobi-King Bakare commented: "I think it's fair to say my journey with Open Door has been life changing. Apart from making my dream to go to drama school a very achievable reality, Open Door also allowed me to make connections in the industry that are continuing to shape my career today. The love and dedication given to one's craft at Open Door is one of many things that makes it so special."

Milly Zero added: "Open Door was the best actor training I have done, and I wouldn't be where I am today without it. Despite many financial challenges, thanks to Open Door, I was able to gain confidence, connections and experience in a safe and supportive environment. It gave me a community of creative peers and mentors, so that I never feel alone in the industry. I used to be anxious before every audition, because I thought I wasn't worthy of being in that room, but Open Door helped me realise my individual potential and that what I have to offer is unique and special."

Despite this success, however, the ongoing pandemic is having a detrimental effect on the industry, and there is a very real fear that the adverse impact will see many more talented individuals miss out on the opportunity to pursue a career due to a reduction in opportunity.

Drama Schools have also been subject to a number of of allegations of racism and other inappropriate behaviour, and therefore Open Door has decided not to take on a new cohort of students this year, until the necessary changes have been implemented by the organisations involved and the Open Door team are assured its partner drama schools are safe for participants to attend. Open Door will review the necessary changes brought about, to inform its programme for the 2021-2022 academic term in due course.

However, Open Door continues to operate during the pandemic, providing ongoing remote-based support for those studying at Drama School, as well as a wide-ranging programme for those about to graduate into the industry. It will also continue its Return Programme, keeping its commitment to offering participants the opportunity of a second year of auditioning for a drama school place if they were unsuccessful previously.

David Mumeni said: "We're very proud to see Open Door participants and graduates enjoying such phenomenal success on so many levels. Open Door launched only three years ago and in that short time we have 72 young actors who have gone through the programme, currently training in some of the top institutions in the world, and four of them in some of the biggest TV and films of late. For some time, the industry has been looking for ways to tackle its clear access and diversity issues, often setting up various industry bodies to try to do so. We are so proud to see that Open Door's grassroots, holistic approach seems to be very quickly effecting real and meaningful change. I believe we've found an antidote and hope the industry will continue to support us and take note of our success.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the financial strain on so many within the industry and it is no surprise that a huge part of that impact is most felt by those from poorer backgrounds, including many of the young people we have been working so hard to support and nurture, to the industry's benefit.

"We are built on - and eternally thankful for - the support and generosity of others who recognised the issue of diversity and pledged money to help us tackle it. This search for change has been intensified amid the Black Lives Matter campaign, with positive action hopefully incoming as a result, and we are happy to be on the ground working hard within communities and with young people to make that happen. As Open Door's founder, I'm calling on the industry; arts bodies, individuals, companies, broadcasters - those in a position to help - to support the next generation of talent which represents the diversity of the UK. Help us find and bring them through."

"We need to ensure Drama Schools are a safe, progressive space for our participants to further their learning and opportunities, and we look forward to supporting, consulting, and seeing the change necessary in these institutions to achieve this ahead of the next academic year."

For further information on Open Door, please visit:

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