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Guest Blog: Liam McLaughlin On The Luke Westlake Scholarship For Working-class Actors

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Why the support is even more vital in these challenging times

Guest Blog: Liam McLaughlin On The Luke Westlake Scholarship For Working-class Actors
The Just Add Milk Theatre Company

'Fatima's next job could be in cyber (she just doesn't know it yet)'. This is the latest back-handed, insulting jibe aimed at the arts industry from the Government - ironically going viral on the same day the £257 million Arts Council England Covid-19 fund receivers are being announced.

Sadly, this isn't the first time we've heard this kind of narrative recently. With Rishi Sunak claiming that people in the arts sector "should retrain and find other jobs", it is wholly disheartening to witness the country's leaders constantly belittle and patronise our industry at a time when we are on our knees.

When I joined Just Add Milk Theatre Company (JAM), I knew instantly that Kristain and Kyle had the raw materials to turn it into something that could become bigger than they realised. Their huge ideas and infectious enthusiasm bled into me, and soon we were producing Arts Council-funded shows at VAULT Festival and hosting workshops with some of the biggest Casting Directors in the UK.

Then Covid-19 struck, and we were at a crossroads. Do we continue workshops online? How will we tour our brand-new five-star show? Fast-forward seven months from March, and we've now delivered over 250 casting and agent workshops to more than 2,600 actors this year, as well as raising £1,000 for artists who have been badly affected by the pandemic.

Then, last month, we announced the Luke Westlake Scholarship - our second annual scholarship that offers second-year BA actors-in-training over £3,000 in artistic and financial opportunity upon finishing their training and entering the industry. As part of our ethos, making the industry more accessible, our scholarship is aimed at working-class actors.

We knew the scholarship was going to be important this year, especially thanks to huge support from companies like Spotlight, The Stage and Nick Hern Books, but we didn't realise how much it would highlight the importance of support for actors and artists across the industry.

For an actor paying upwards of £15,00 on tuition a year and spending every day, for three years, from 9am-6pm developing and learning their craft, to be told to 'retrain' by one of the country's leaders is one of the most demoralising and humiliating things to hear.

However, the most confusing and controversial part of Sunak's remarks was implying that these jobs were not 'viable'. When Mr Sunak comes home after a long day at No.11 Downing Street, the actors currently in training and applying for our scholarship will be the people that fill his TV screen on BBC, ITV, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Those shows will have been produced by hundreds more 'unviable' creatives and artists, from the floor runners to the directors.

More ironically, when Mr Sunak wants to go and enjoy some culture in the West End, or perhaps some live music, from the moment he orders a ticket to the moment he leaves the venue, hundreds more 'unviable' jobs have performed tasks to provide him with the entertainment that fills his and everyone else's lives daily.

The Luke Westlake Scholarship exists to support an actor who really needs that opportunity to get a foot into the already challenging industry, upon entering their final year. It focuses on helping those who are from working-class and low-income backgrounds and those who are usually forgotten about by our Government and class system. We want actors to remember that their job is viable and they give an incredible amount to the lifeblood of culture and economy in this country.

If you're a second-year BA actor-in-training, this opportunity is yours. We invite you to apply and be in with a chance of winning some incredible prizes. Each of our 10 shortlisted actors will also receive a one-to-one session with Casting Associate Faye Timby (The Witcher, Netflix).

The further we go into the pandemic, the stronger we must stand together. Applications close on Monday, 26 October at 6pm.

Find out more here

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