Last week members of our Young Company alongside Matt Hassall (Young Company Director), Sarah Frankcom (Artistic Director) and Mark Dobson (Executive Director) celebrated at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane as they picked up the award for SCHOOL OF THE YEAR in The Stage Awards 2018.

Recognised for the outstanding opportunities provided for young people aged 14-25 The Stage highlighted the wealth of practical training on offer from directing to writing or backstage work and producing. Training 110 people each year The Stage were impressed that ‘the cohort is representative of the 10 districts of Greater Manchester’ and that ‘funding is available for career development’, showing the Exchange's commitment to its community and future-proofing the theatre for generations to come.

Picking up the award Matt Hassall said

"We are delighted to be named School of the Year by The Stage and it is fantastic to be recognised as offering in-depth training akin to a drama school. Our Young Company members bring such enthusiasm, commitment, creativity and energy into the building; it is a real joy to work with them. If you were to slice the building in half, you’d find members of the Young Company in all departments, on all floors and at all times of day and night working alongside our staff. This building is their building. We pride ourselves on not only providing the highest quality training but we strive to offer these experiences to the most eclectic cohort possible each year so to address some of the issues of imbalance and inequality that have been much discussed in the industry over the last few years. This feels like it is just the start for our Young Company."

Matt Hassall and Yandass Ndlovu Royal Exchange at The Stage Awards 2018 photographed by Eliza Power 26th Jan 18

This year Young Company members have featured in ensemble companies across three main house productions, they have been shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwrighting and have gone on to work in theatres across the country, the BBC and to make their professional theatre debuts.

Former Young Company member Justina Aina said
"Winning the School of the Year Award for The Stage highlights the power of alternative study. The Royal Exchange Young Company gives people the chance to experiment and sometimes fail in a real producing space. For people like myself who didn't have family in the arts, The Stage was a go-to for UK theatre news, it's a gateway for people who don't know where to start. For the Young Company to be recognised by The Stage Awards is a nice big signal for other people just starting out that drama school isn't the only acceptable way in."

With a Manchester Evening News nomination for Best Production for their last show WE WERE TOLD THERE WAS DANCING also under their belt, the Young Company are about to head into rehearsals for their latest production MIXTAPE – gig theatre made here in Manchester, so watch this space for more!

With thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation, John Thaw Foundation, Superbia and our anonymous donors for their support of the Young Company.