Ariel Drama Academy rewarded for its innovative approach to special needs inclusivity

Othellos and Buddies from West Sussex’s Ariel Drama Academy have won the Chris Copsey Gold Award.

Friday, 27th September 2019, 8:54 am
More Radio Awards 2019
More Radio Awards 2019

Principal Nicci Hopson said: “The black-tie gala evening at Plumpton Racecourse was organised by More Radio. The Chris Copsey Gold Award is a very special award to celebrate an individual, group or charity who really have made a difference to the lives of others.

“Chris Copsey was an extremely popular Sussex radio presenter who had lived close to Haywards Heath for many years until his untimely tragic death eight years ago, so it seemed particularly appropriate that we supported this award in his memory.

“Ariel Drama Academy won the award recognising their work with their special needs students. Ariel believes that drama, song and dance crosses all boundaries and knows no divisions. Ariel’s ethos has always been that the arts should be accessible to all, providing every child with the chance to sing, dance, act and express themselves in a fun and safe environment.“Due to a clear lack of drama classes for special needs children Ariel created their Othellos classes. Making the classes such a success is the fact that students are supported by able-bodied Ariel Buddies. These volunteers give up their own time every week and form a close bond with the students.

“Othello students can have a range of needs from physical problems, such as being wheelchair bound, to conditions such as Downs Syndrome, Asperger’s and autism.”

Nicci said: “I felt deeply honoured to receive this award on behalf our my students and buddies, from what started as small vision of how we could better allow these incredible performers to excel, to what we has been achieved across the whole of Sussex, feels me with such pride.”

One of the students is Freya. Her mum said: “The change in confidence in my 11-year-old has been amazing. She has dyspraxia and other health problems including impaired vision; Ariel have not only accepted her as she is, with no fuss but encouraged her to excel and be proud of who she is.

“She now has a place she can belong and I am so very grateful for the time and attention the staff have spent with Freya and her response to this attention has been amazing – a transformation. Freya has been accepted with open arms and I feel this approach is what makes Ariel so special.”

Ariels 190 Othellos have gained distinctions in exams, performed in productions such as Oliver!, Les Miserables and Bugsy Malone as well as securing work in TV advertising for Sainsburys, BT and Lloyds Bank.

Ariel has six established drama academies across Sussex in Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Crawley, East Grinstead, Horsham and Steyning.

For a free trial call 01444 250407 or visit the Ariel website. There is no audition process and everyone is welcome.

Other news from Ariel is that they have now reached a 3,000 total with LAMDA.

Nicci explains: “Over 3,000 students have been offered free exam tuition within its Academies. The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, (LAMDA) is one of the oldest and most respected drama exams throughout the world, founded in the United Kingdom in 1861.”

It was a passion of Nicci and Neil Hopson, owners of Ariel Drama Academy, when Ariel was formed in 1994 that LAMDA should be accessed by all, not just those who could afford it, so the free LAMDA service was born.

To date, Ariel has put through over 3,000 student at no cost to their parents: “As far as we are aware, no other drama academies do this in the south of England and maybe even Britain. “With 100 per cent pass rate and a 94 per cent distinction record many of these LAMDA pieces have been used in auditions and for entrance into drama schools. LAMDA exams are designed to equip learners with a range of skills.”