BUDDING stars got a taste of fame when Sunderland’s Jesus Ben Forster returned home to open a new performing arts suite.
The West End actor and singer attended the opening of the centre at Thornhill School Business and Enterprise College.
Ben, 31, a pupil at the school from 1992 to 1997, cut the ribbon to officially open the suite.
The redeveloped building opened to students in January and has two teaching rooms, recording studios and a dance suite.
“It was scary coming back with all the kids walking through the corridor, I felt like I was back at school,” said Ben, who is due to start the second tour of Jesus Christ Superstar in Australia.
“It’s a celebration for Thornhill today, and speaks volumes to the kids knowing they can come here to practice their skills.
“Fifteen-years-ago when I was here I was practicing in a corridor.”
Ben, of Millfield, was joined by mum June, 56, dad Ted, 57, and nephews Oliver, 10, charlie, eight, Alfie, seven, and Tommy, six.
They were entertained by students including 13-year-old Rhiane Finley, of Pallion, who performed On My Own, from Les Misérables.
“I was a little bit nervous performing in front on Ben,” she said.
“Knowing he has been on the West End and I want to perform on the West End.
“Knowing he used to come to this school it makes me think that our chances of doing stuff like that are good.
“The facilities are good, and having a dance studio is really good.”
Deputy mayor and mayoress, Councillor Robert and Juliana Heron attended, as well as Councillor Pat Smith, who is responsible for children’s services.
Coun Smith said: “Thornhill has always done their own thing and had talented pupils, and it’s great to see the technology in place now to help them.
“It is amazing to see the former pupils back and inspiring students. It shows the connection with the school.”
Executive head teacher of Thornhill, John Hollworth, said: “The suite will be used by all students for at least three years, then about 60 pupils at a time studying GCSEs and BTEC at key stage four.
“The uptake in performing arts is increasing. It’s a proud moment and I’m pleased Ben has taken the time to come and open it.”