The Norman Beaton Fellowship

25Mar14

The Norman Beaton Fellowship is an initiative to encourage the inclusion of regional voices from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’ in BBC Radio Drama. The Fellowship is launched as a competition to attract voices through a series of regional heats, followed by a Semi-Final and Final – both hosted by the Radio Drama Company studio at BBC Broadcasting House, London.

I first become aware of the competition when it was co-administered by Birmingham-based producers Kate Chapman and Peter Leslie Wild back in the mid-Naughties. The remit of the Fellowship was and is partly to offer pathways for actors of Black and Asian heritage, for whom access might not be so readily obtained via the traditional training routes via Drama schools. A criteria for NBF is that applicants should have no accredited Drama School training (a ‘Soundstart’ sister award scheme, the Carleton-Hobbs Fellowship, is designed to offer Drama School graduates the same opportunity).

This year I was invited to apply for the NBF via The Birmingham Rep, and after succeeding in the regional heats round and then the London Semi-final, I revisited Broadcasting House last week to attend the NBF Finals along with 11 other  performers from across the UK. From a series of rigorous on-mic recorded challenges (pre-selected monologues prepared in advance, sight-readings handed out 15 minutes beforehand, duologues and 4-way dialogues prepared overnight) the studio judging team selected two winners, whose prize is a 5-month contract as part of the BBC Radio Drama Company. Friends Sarah Thom and John Flitcroft won top prize and runner-up respectively back in 2012 and Sarah has been regularly on radio ever since.

The Winner’s list for 2014 was published here today.

….No, I didn’t win, but am very happy to have been awarded one of the consolation runners-up prizes, with an RDC recording promised for later in the year…  All in all, it was a great opportunity to feel the white heat of the recording studio and to see first-hand the whirring machinery of the Corporation in its glitzy new surroundings in W1.

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