Mitch's fond tribute to his dad

Ken, Mitch and Sheila Jenkins

Mitch Jenkins, founder and artistic director of Worthing-based Sussex Youth Theatre, will be looking for passion and raw talent as he launches a new arts award to commemorate his late father.

Through Sussex Youth Theatre, Mitch has come up with the £1,500 Rising Star Award open to everyone aged six to 18.

As Mitch explains, the idea is that the new performing arts award will benefit a child who wants to learn the core skills of performing arts. The idea is that it will give them the kind of support Mitch’s parents gave him.

“I was at state school until I was 15, but I had quite a bad time. I was quite good at drama without thinking of making a thing of it, never thinking of it as a business, and then I went to the West Sussex Theatre Studios in Worthing, and that totally changed my life. Mum and dad supported me. They had to pay the fees, and then I went to theatre school in Maidenhead, and there were fees for that too.

“My parents were just so supportive. They never pushed us in any one direction, but they always supported what we wanted to do and in the last half year, they really couldn’t afford the fees, but they managed it somehow… and you don’t really realise that when you are young. You don’t appreciate the sacrifices that your parents are making for you.

“But I realise that now.”

Especially since his father Ken’s death last year, at the age of 73: “He was as fit as a butcher’s dog until 71 and then he had a stroke and then they found lung cancer. He died two years after that. He was always chipper right until the end, and it wasn’t a horrible end. All the family were there. But it was just really sad.”

And it is with his father in mind that Mitch has set up the new award.

“I have created this award to honour not just my amazing parents, but all devoted parents and carers out there who work hard and make sacrifices to support their loved ones’ dreams.

“This award will give them a whole year’s tuition at Sussex Youth Theatre, including workshops, masterclasses, membership of our TV, theatre and film agency, a guaranteed place on the prestigious LAMDA exam course, vocal group tuition and tailored advice from professionals in the business.”

Joint artistic director Laura Davies, who has been with SYT since the beginning five years ago, said: “This is open to everyone aged six-18.

“We are looking firstly for passion. We can teach you the rest! So, whether you have little experience or are a seasoned performer, we want to see you! Both mine and Mitch’s performing careers started in youth theatre and this gave us the best start for sure, so we can’t wait to see who else is going to audition for it! If you are aged six-18, apply today!”

The closing date is the end of February. There will be a workshop in Worthing in early March, followed by auditions on Saturday, March 24 at the Chatsworth Hotel.

Applications need to be made online. Apply at www.sussexyouththeatre.co.uk/Star.

Mitch added: “I think we are looking for passion more than anything. We can train people because that’s our job, and we don’t expect the children to come in being perfect. What we want is raw talent and passion. I really don’t care where you come from or how much money you have got or haven’t.

“It is about your passion, about what you can do and can develop. Auditions is such a horrible word. These will be very nurturing auditions.”

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