10 June 2020
Actor Andrew French chatted with 15 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students about his life, acting career and all things Shakespeare, as part of a collaboration between Bradford Theatres, Bradford College and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The session was scheduled to last 45 minutes but continued for more than one and a half hours because the students were so engaged.
Julia O’Keeffe, Bradford Theatres Learning Co-ordinator, said:
“Andrew really inspired the students. He spoke about his background, how he comes from a working class single mother family, and how you should never give up on your dreams, work hard, be real and authentic and believe in yourself.”
The Level 1 ESOL students, from 12 different parts of the world including Slovakia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kenya, Italy, Honduras and Turkey, have now completed their Bronze Arts Award, as part of the Start programme run by Bradford Theatres.
Student Muhammad Talla Ahmed Yasmeen said:
“Andrew told us that acting was everything to him. I thought he was going to be a very serious person and use very complex words but that was not the case. I learned you have to strive to reach your goals and objectives.”
Esther Wilkey, ESOL tutor at Bradford College, said: “Andrew was so engaging and supportive of our students. He spoke about the fact he had come from a working class background and wasn’t from the typical background of a Shakespearean actor. He talked about being true to yourself and, with hard work, you can achieve whatever you want. He was absolutely inspirational.”
Cllr Sarah Ferriby, Executive Member for Healthy People and Places, said: “This wonderful initiative between Bradford Theatres, Bradford College and the Royal Shakespeare Company has provided this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the ESOL students. I am delighted it has inspired them to work hard and pursue their dreams – and my sincere thanks go to the RSC, and actor Andrew French.”
Adam Renton, General Manager of Bradford Theatres, said: “This is a great example of how we can learn through theatre and the arts – even in lockdown. I’m very proud of the work my team and the students at Bradford College are doing as part of the Start programme.”
Start is a three-year engagement programme of arts activity between selected cultural organisations and local schools that tackles inequality by working with young people who are deemed at risk of missing out on a creative and cultural education. Bradford College is among Start colleges and schools participating in the Start scheme.
Children from participating schools and colleges have made visits to the Alhambra Theatre over the last two years to see a selection of shows as part of the Start programme, as well as working with the team at the theatre in workshops to develop their critical eye and have fun creating their own artistic work.
ESOL students are taught the English language and develop their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills to help them gain skills and qualifications to join a new course, such as Science, IT, Business, Sport, Catering & Hospitality, Construction or Travel & Tourism.
This course also includes a large variety of activities and projects throughout the year such as trips, cultural events, work experience and volunteering opportunities.