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Community fun day to celebrate 25 years of Queen’s Theatre youth company

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 June 2017

An adaptation of beloved children's tale The Wind in the Willows will be the main attraction at Queen's Theatre's QYouth anniversary celebration. Picture: Mark Sepple

An adaptation of beloved children's tale The Wind in the Willows will be the main attraction at Queen's Theatre's QYouth anniversary celebration. Picture: Mark Sepple

Mark Sepple

A youth theatre which has nurtured hundreds of aspiring stars is gearing up for celebrations marking its quarter-century.

The Wind in the Willows. Picture: Mark Sepple The Wind in the Willows. Picture: Mark Sepple

QYouth has been an essential part of Queen’s Theatre’s community programmes for the past 25 years, and its successes will be showcased at a family fundraising weekend next month.

The main attraction will be a specially-adapted production of Kenneth Grahame’s treasured tale The Wind in the Willows, performed by 120 young people, while an exhibition detailing QYouth’s proud history will also be on display.

James Watson, learning and participation producer at the Billet Lane, Hornchurch, venue, said: “This weekend is set to celebrate all that QYouth has become, with a large cast ensemble show celebrating the full breadth of our current membership, whilst allowing past members, parents and potential members of the future to join in the fun.

“We want to celebrate these 25 incredible years with all those who have been a part of it, whether for a short period or as a long-standing member.

QYouth 25th anniversary: The cast of 2015's Seussical the Musical QYouth 25th anniversary: The cast of 2015's Seussical the Musical

“QYouth has been a remarkable springboard for so many young people, whether or not they have followed a performing arts route in later life, and we are excited to get back in touch with past members, and see where their journeys have taken them.”

The founders of the youth theatre, Terry Abbot and Lea Madlin, say it has exceeded all their expectations.

Across 25 years, QYouth has provided a whopping 95,000 engagement opportunities for young people aged between seven and 18 in the borough.

The programme opens up opportunities in drama, dance and technical theatre, building on children and teenagers’ creativity and confidence, as well as simply offering them the chance to have some fun.

The Cat in the Hat on stage during 2015's performance of Seussical the Musical. Picture: Mark Sepple The Cat in the Hat on stage during 2015's performance of Seussical the Musical. Picture: Mark Sepple

Graduates include Lloyd Warbey (from Disney’s Art Attack), Gemma Salter (a television and West End performer) and Billy Irving (appearing in an upcoming UK tour of War Horse).

“It’s been overwhelming to see QYouth grow in the past 25 years,” said Terry. “We did an Easter workshop here and eight people turned up and that was it. It started to grow and grow and we’re now accommodating 150 young people every week.”

Lea added: “The thing for me to know that it was successful was many years on we started getting the children of children we’d already taught, and it makes you feel old, but it also makes you think, yes we did it right!”

The celebration, to be held on July 8 and 9 at Queen’s, will feature fundraising opportunities to enable the youth theatre to flourish further in coming years.

A scene from Seussical the Musical, 2015. Picture: Mark Sepple A scene from Seussical the Musical, 2015. Picture: Mark Sepple

Running from 10am to 7.30pm on both days, the event is open to residents from across east London and Essex, who will be able to enjoy activities in the foyer, including workshops, and browse the previously mentioned exhibition in the cafe.

Musical adventure The Wind in the Willows, adapted by James Watson and Andrew Linham, will run at 7pm on both evenings, with a matinee available at 2pm on the Sunday.

The charming production will reacquaint audiences with Mr Toad, Ratty, Mole, Badger and those pesky weasels.

Queen’s hopes the weekend will bring together young performers both past and present.

2011's Virtually Just So. Picture: Nobby Clark 2011's Virtually Just So. Picture: Nobby Clark

Current QYouth member Tegan George said: “I’ve been doing QYouth for three years, I’ve made loads of friends from it.

“QYouth has given me loads of experience and opportunities. If you like making friends and having different opportunities, then drama is good for you.”

Former member Billy Irving added: “Being a part of QYouth helped me find out who I was as a person, and where I wanted to go in life.

“It gave me the confidence to be who I wanted to be. It’s a wonderful community here – I met some of my best friends here, and they’re still my friends today.”

An adaptation of beloved children's tale The Wind in the Willows will be the main attraction at Queen's Theatre's community fun day celebrating 25 years of its youth theatre QYouth. Picture: Mark Sepple An adaptation of beloved children's tale The Wind in the Willows will be the main attraction at Queen's Theatre's community fun day celebrating 25 years of its youth theatre QYouth. Picture: Mark Sepple

For more details, visit queens-theatre.co.uk. If you or your business would like to contribute to the weekend – through a monetary or prize donation – call 01708 443333 or email development@queens-theatre.co.uk.

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