Sally Catlin (centre)
Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, Chiswick Stagecoach teaches students aged 4-18 how to perform on and off the stage…
The 29 April 2000 is a date etched in Sally Catlin’s memory; that was when she opened the doors of the first Stagecoach school in Chiswick. Twenty-one years later, and with thousands of students having attended the popular dance, drama and singing classes, Sally is still Principal of the flourishing Stagecoach Chiswick schools.
‘If the circumstances allow, I would love to celebrate our 21st by organising a big party in the summer’ she says. ‘The tried and tested Stagecoach approach has remained the same throughout the years; we were the first part-time performing arts school to offer the module of three hours of dance, drama and singing and we still follow that successful method.
‘Also, no previous experience is needed and everyone is welcomed into our “family” and encouraged to support one another – that’s why so many children choose to stay with us through all the age groups. It’s incredible that we have students who start with us aged four and are still with us aged 18; most of them come back to say “Hi” and others continue to work with us as assistants and then teachers.
‘We’re passionate about providing an outstanding standard of teaching and nurturing our students,hence we focus on developing key life skills, such as communication, confidence and creativity, and helping individuals blossom and realise their potential. These are the building blocks that will allow them to thrive when they go for job interviews or are required to give public presentations later on in life.’
Stagecoach classes are held at William Hogarth School on Fridays and Saturdays, with the teaching divided by age: Early Stages (4-6 year-olds), Main Stages (6-18). ‘Some people assume that we concentrate on theatre and musicals,’ explains Sally. ’That’s not true – we also teach skills in TV and film, pop and all styles of dance.
‘Class sizes are always small to ensure quality and inclusivity (currently, they are more restricted to ensure a safe environment) and our teachers are fully qualified – often they are past students. In addition, there’s a full programme of holiday workshops, two-week discounted trials are available and, in “ordinary” times, we perform an annual show and organise regular theatre trips to the West End.
‘Everyone is allowed to develop at their own pace and reassured that it’s perfectly OK to make mistakes,’ says Sally. ‘While some students come to us to nurture a strong talent and wish for a career in the “business”, for most it’s because they want to learn, have fun and make new friends. LAMDA exams are open to all our students and we are accredited with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, which mirrors our ethos of building resilience.
‘Nothing is more rewarding than seeing someone who has been silent suddenly find the self-confidence to stand up and speak – that’s just wonderful.’
Stagecoach Performing Arts Chiswick
William Hogarth School,
Duke Road, W4 2JR
020 8398 4709