I was 16. I'd just left boarding school and, for the first time since age 8, I was a day girl. I didn't know anyone, and they didn't know me. They all had enough friends, and I was seen as too posh to join in. I was terrified of these seemingly-confident girls, and missed my old friends enormously. Every night I'd cry myself to sleep, dreading the next day.
There was one, Sarah Harper, who made an approach of sorts. Her dad was a famous actor, Gerald Harper, I couldn't even believe she knew my name. In Art one day, when we were supposed to be working in silence, she threw a lump of clay at me. I threw it back. This was the tenuous link that brought me to Collis School the next Monday night. I really didn't want to go, but she made me.
It was just a primary school hall, but there was a magic in that hall, a magic that changed many lives. That hall became a safe space for us to try out not only our acting skills, but also our burgeoning personalities. It didn't matter what we wore, why we were there or who we were friends with. We welcomed everybody, we were a broad church. It was like being in a secret society, which we all had the utmost respect for. I used to look forward to every Monday so much that I felt sad on the way home that I was going to have to wait another 6 days. We learnt about different people, we tried being different people, we became different people.
I never felt awkward again. My confidence levels soared, I made new friends, my life changed and I have been in 'showbiz' ever since. And I'm still in touch with some of those YAT people now, 30+ years later.
Like I said, it was a magical time and it changed our lives for ever. Many of us went on to be professionals, some of us didn't. But we all gained confidence, strength and fellowship from our time in Youth Action Theatre.
What started in Collis School hall that day has yet to finish. Let's hope it never does.