The Garage in Norwich is excited to reveal its new patrons and ambassadors. These include Everybody’s Talking About Jamie star Layton Williams, theatre and film heavyweight Lady Anwen Hurt, Olivier, Tony and Emmy Award-winning producer Richard Jordan and Frozen The Musical actor Gabriel Mokake.
Layton Williams said: “The mission of The Garage Trust resonates with me personally. I believe everyone should have access to the arts. Being able to develop skills and explore techniques in a safe and supported space is incredibly important for children who may live in difficult circumstances. To build confidence and allow them to dream is a gift. I will 100% bring some FAB to Norfolk. It’s place I adore touring to and have many fond memories of performing and teaching here.”
Layton began his career aged 12 playing Billy in the West End production of Billy Elliot, making his debut TV appearance as Kylie in the BBC comedy Beautiful People.
His many credits include Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo Theatre), of which he’ll be reprising the role in the forthcoming UK tour. Layton’s also appeared in Rent (London/UK Tour) and Thriller Live (West End). His TV and film credits include Rocketman (Paramount), Benidorm (ITV) and Murder They Hope (Gold).
He’s also the director of Pros From The Shows, which provides workshops for young performers across the country.
Layton added: “I am looking forward to working with the young people… To inspire and motivate them. The importance of organisations like The Garage Trust is huge. Not only do the children and young adults in your programmes benefit but also their families are assisted and supported.
“The current backdrop of loss and hardship for so many whether financial or personal, means that it is crucial that people support and contribute where possible. I’ll do my bit. I hope to inspire young LGBTQ+ people and people of colour especially and let ya’ll know you can make something of this career if you like. Whether that’s in front, or behind the scenes. There’s room for us all to shine and live our true authentic lives.”
Lady Anwen Hurt and her late husband Sir John Hurt moved to Norfolk in 2008. She studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire of Music and worked as an actor and producer in theatre for a number of years.
She became Head of Production at Mad Cow Films, specialising in film and television advertising and music videos. She has produced and cast a number of feature films including In Love with Alma Cogan which was shot entirely in Norfolk. She’s Artistic Director of Holt Festival, Pro-Chancellor of NUA, a trustee of the Sir John Hurt Film Trust and a member of the board of management of Sheringham Little Theatre.
Lady Hurt said: “I’m delighted to be joining as patron. Performing arts develop the confidence of any age group, but I’m especially mindful of how a feeling of belonging can benefit the health and well-being of disadvantaged young people and give them the life skills to find their own way in the world.”
Also joining The Garage as a patron is Peter Wilson, the founder and Chief Executive of PW Productions, which is responsible for many West End and Broadway productions.
The former Norwich Theatre Royal and Playhouse Chief Executive oversaw and managed the £3.75 million agreement with the North Earlham Larkman and Marlpit Development (NELM) Trust which resulted in the creation of The Garage.
Peter said: “I want to champion The Garage’s mission. Whether or not you go on to have a career in the performing arts, participation at The Garage and working with your peers will teach you the value of teamwork, give you personal fulfilment, and teach you that everyone has potential.
“If young people are to value themselves and contribute to society, they must be offered ways to express themselves personally, creatively and collaboratively as well as academically. Passing exams is certainly a skill; but it’s not the only one of value.”
He was also chair of the SeaChange Trust (now Out There Trust) and St George’s Theatre in Great Yarmouth, leading to the multimillion pound restoration of St George’s into a viable performance space. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk and Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk.
The Garage’s final new patron is Susan Kyd, an actor, artist/designer and actor trainer who continues to learn new skills and sees the importance of The Garage as a cultural dynamo in Norfolk.
Born and raised in Norfolk, The Garage’s first new ambassador Richard Jordan is described by The Stage as “one of the UK’s most prolific producers”.
A new writing and musical theatre specialist, he’s been at the forefront of developing and presenting works by a diverse range of established and emerging UK and international writers and artists. He often produces work with a strong social agenda which has been recognised with two Amnesty International Awards and the US Black Alliance Award. He was the first British producer to receive every notable Broadway and Off-Broadway Best New Play Award.
Richard said: “For me, discovering the theatre was something of a secret passion. At the comprehensive school I went to in Norfolk, you did not even do drama as a GCSE subject and admitting to other kids at school that you were interested in theatre would not have been particularly cool. When I did tell my school careers officer that I wanted to work in theatre, both they and my teachers spent the rest of my time there actively discouraging me from ever pursuing such a career. Looking back on it, that makes me feel sad. Yes, I am grateful that I did not listen. But their reticence in discouraging such a career path came from a lack of understanding about it.”
“If The Garage had existed when I was growing up, I think it would have changed my life, not only in the hub and community it would have afforded me, but also with the fuel for creativity that empowers those who step through its front doors. Not everyone who discovers an interest and love for the arts is going to want to work in the theatre but making such a connection can be influential in many ways and where The Garage and its programmes and activities is demonstrable. Whether that’s in building confidence, public speaking and social skills, collaboration, teamwork, listening and kindness – all skills that we take into our lives and in those we share in others.
“I am looking forward to inspiring conversations, learning, sharing, and helping The Garage to continue its work in inspiring and empowering Norfolk’s young people as a nationally recognised place for creative and social development where, post-Covid, such organisations have never had a more vital role to play especially within the communities that they serve.”
Ambassador Lloyd Gorman is no stranger to The Garage, having composed music for every one of it and All-in Productions’ My First series of shows for ages 0-7 as well as music for The Pillowman (Norwich Playhouse) and Grimethorpe Race (The Arcola Theatre).
His theatre credits include Once (UK Tour) and Sunny Afternoon (Harold Pinter Theatre, West End). His TV and film appearances include BBC shows Doctors and Tittybangbang and the film So What Are We Called (Blotched Ink/Show Me TV).
Lloyd said: “As a teenager, I watched The Garage be converted into the building you see today. As a young adult, I rehearsed and took classes at The Garage with The Theatre Royal Arts Courses. It is a vital resource and arts institution… Harnessing and nurturing the talent and enthusiasm of young people to encourage them to be whoever and whatever they want to be. I’m passionate about producing theatre for the county and feel privileged to be able to support The Garage, just as it has supported me.”
Also joining The Garage as an ambassador is Tanzanian born Gabriel Mokake who was raised in Norwich. His film credits include Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix), filmed in Norfolk. His many theatre appearances include Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre) and Dreamgirls (Savoy Theatre). He is set to appear in Frozen the Musical (Theatre Royal Drury Lane).
He said: “The Garage provided so many wonderful experiences and memories of my time in Norfolk as a young artist in training. I want to give back something. It’s amazing to have such facilities available for young artists to develop and build on their skills in a safe space. I’m looking forward to meeting and working with the artists and seeing their pathways blossom.”
The final new ambassador is Alex Sturman who grew up in Taverham. He first started dancing at Stagecoach Norwich, where he trained for several years in dance, singing and acting. Alex graduated from The Urdang Academy’s Dance and Musical Theatre National Diploma course. He’s a regular lecturer at Urdang Academy, teaching subjects including jazz and contemporary.
He’s performed in many productions including Sir Matthew Bourne’s tour of Swan Lake (UK, Asia and USA), Edward Scissorhands (UK Tour), Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, Classical Brit Awards and with Jessie J for Strictly Come Dancing.
He said: “Growing up in Norwich and not fully knowing where my journey could take me, was hard to see. By working with the trust, I want to make sure everyone who has an interest or wants a career in the arts, knows they 100% absolutely can, no matter what anyone else says.
“I am looking forward to working on any projects I can, to offer advice and most importantly, encourage young people of all backgrounds and ethnicities to get involved in the wonderful world of the creative arts.
“Organisations such as The Garage Trust are so special to have. It provides a place where young people have the opportunity to feel safe whilst they dive into a world that inspires them. Having the facility to do that is important and paves the way to make dreams become a reality. I think the past year has really made people acknowledge just how important the arts are.”
Adam Taylor, Executive Director at The Garage, said: “I’m thrilled that Lady Hurt has agreed to become one of our first patrons. Her reputation and connections, not just in the world of film, will help us spread the word about our work and I look forward to collaborating with The Sir John Hurt Film Trust on projects that will dovetail nicely into our education, participation and performance strands, helping turn dreams into reality.
“Layton shares our passion for helping young people shine and is an inspiration to so many. We can’t wait to work with him. Peter, Susan and every one of our ambassadors bring years of experience and passion to pass on to our participants.
“This is just one of many exciting announcements we’re going to be making over the coming months. After the challenges and uncertainty of the past year or so, we can’t wait to put the region’s amazing talent centre stage once more.”
For more information visit thegarage.org.uk.