We caught up with Anna Fiorentini for a quick Q&A to get a better insight into her experience as a principal of a drama school, and how the Fiorentini Foundation has helped children that attend the award-winning Anna Fiorentini Theatre & Film School.
The Fiorentini Foundation supports young people that wish to access the arts. How has financial support from the charity benefited children that attend the Anna Fiorentini School?
The Fiorentini Foundation has helped numerous children access our services that otherwise would have been unable to do so. Some of the beneficiaries have come to us because they needed to increase their confidence and self-esteem. Others have come to us because they have talent but not the financial resources to get professional training.
We provide professional training for children from all walks of life and don’t believe in segregation. So in a class, there will be children from wealthy backgrounds and others that are from less privileged backgrounds. The children themselves often don’t know the backgrounds of their peers and this is what is so beautiful about the performing arts. It brings people together. We have also raised money specifically for children that have been affected by cancer and need a much-needed respite. This funding has allowed several children to attend and have much-needed fun and stress release for a few hours a week. It has also helped get their motivation back and their zest for life.
Can you tell us about Fiorentini’s Got Talent and why this event is so important for both children and the Fiorentini Foundation?
Students who attend our school tend to love performing. Having a show such as Fiorentini’s Got Talent gives them an avenue to do this. The school itself prides itself on not being a franchise but rather an independent stage school. However, we do have four branches of the school throughout London, and this friendly competition is a great way to bring the branches together.
In today’s society, there is a lot of talk about how children shouldn’t compete etc and be encouraged to just enjoy the participation aspect. Although on one level I agree with this, on another I think it is our duty to prepare children for the real world. To get any type of job you will be competing against others, even more so if you want to go into the performing arts industry.
There is a way of setting up competitions so that the participants enjoy competing and try to win but at the same time know that they are being rewarded for doing their best even if they don’t win. Our judges only give positive and constructive feedback. Nothing that will damage their confidence. And ultimately they will all be given the opportunity to perform in front of an appreciative audience. I also think there is a valuable lesson in not winning and learning to deal with that disappointment.
Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt have come when didn’t get the results I was expecting or when I truly thought I was going to win something and didn’t. It helps build strength of character, (as long as it is done in a loving and supportive way). In regards to the foundation, it is such a small charity that he has to rely on those that know about it. There is no budget for advertising. Events like this highlight all the good work that the foundation does and hopefully encourages parents, students and friends, to spread the word.
Seeing the transformation in many of our students. I know it is a cliché to say that performing arts can transform lives but I have witnessed it hundreds of times over the past 20 years. Supporting our students as they become young adults and helping them develop in their life skills is totally rewarding. I’m also very proud of any of our students that we get leading roles on TV, film or in the West End. But even more so when I know they had a bursary to come to our school and wouldn’t have had this opportunity otherwise if the foundation hadn’t supported them.
Why do you think there is such a big class divide when it comes to accessing the arts and what can be done to change this?
Unfortunately, it comes down to money and what families can and cannot afford. I know when I did my postgraduate at drama school I was livid that I had to raise £10,000 for the fees. I didn’t come from money, having grown up on a local Hackney council tower block, and was already in debt having just completed my degree. I thought it was outrageous that drama schools charged so much. But now I run a similar establishment I completely understand why it costs so much to run. Running costs are extortionate and if you want to provide a decent service you have to pay for decent staff as well as premises and all other related costs. There is very little funding out there so the costs have to be paid for by the students. This is obviously not fair if students do not come from wealthy backgrounds.
I think the best thing we can do is give our young people the motivation and tools to not give up. To find ways to raise money for themselves whether that be taking on several part-time jobs or learning to fundraise. I know that’s not easy. I had to have 6 part-time jobs while at university to save for my postgraduate and did several fundraising events. It was tough but certainly character building. And of course, once you graduate you have the expense of getting headshots and showreels made on top of living expenses while you wait for the next job to come along. You can’t take on a full-time job anywhere because so few companies want to employ actors that could go off at any moment and leave them in the lurch. I hope over the next few years the Fiorentini Foundation highlights the importance of the arts and gets the financial support so that we can have some impact on the opportunities made available to those from less privileged backgrounds. And of course, the skills children learn at drama school are so transferable they can be used in a multitude of careers whether performing arts-related or not.