“Kids call the studio their happy place”: Premier Drama Academy nurturing the next generation of stars
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Having also trained at Trinity College, the Fulwood-born Gemma went on to appear in programmes such as Hollyoaks and Jonathan Creek, eventually earning her London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) accreditation. In 2014, her first daughter was born and she wanted something more flexible.
That something was Premier Drama Academy, a stage, drama, and musical theatre school based in Preston offering tuition in everything from dance to acting. Designed to encourage more kids to learn new skills, build friendships and confidence, and showcase their budding talents, it also hones and nurtures those budding performers innately drawn to the stage.
“Everything’s been going really well lately,” says Gemma. “During Covid, we went online and tried to keep everything as smooth as we could for the children, but as you can imagine, it’s difficult to do dance, drama, and musical theatre online. But, when we got back, we had this big welcome party, which was lovely.
“It made us appreciate how much we’d all missed it,” she adds. “It’s been great to be back up and running and I’m enjoying it more than ever. Performing arts are so important, especially to children - the confidence-boost you see in them is huge, and it teaches them life skills like team-work and improves cognitive development, motor skills, and speaking.
“It’s all about the kids, they’re why we spend hours doing lesson plans and making the school the best it can be. Then, when you see your passion being passed on to the kids, it’s amazing. We get kids coming to us who are a little shy but they soon catch the bug and that’s it, they’re on stage. It’s brilliant.”
Whether they have a desire to train for a future career in the entertainment industry or just to have a bit of fun, Premier Drama Academy offers kids the chance to shine. They run an eclectic programme of varied classes, from parent-and-child My Grown-Up and Me sessions, to jazz-and-ballet-fusing Lyrical Dance and an Acting for TV course.
“Kids call the studio their happy place because it’s somewhere they can be themselves,” says Gemma, who is joined at the school by tutors Maire Kelly and Jodie Hambler, who has recently appeared on The Voice. “Fundamentally, we’re a stage academy, so we’ll get you ready for a career on the stage, but kids also come because they just love it.
“That’s what the future is all about: catering to the kids with things like our Little Monkeys classes for two-to-five-year-olds, and Dance Cirque for over-sixes, which involves aerial dance, hoop, juggling, and body conditioning,” Gemma adds. “We also have professional workshops - we recently had a West End performer who was in the Lion King come in.
“It’s onwards and upwards from here, but it all comes back to listening to the children and providing for them.”