Summer is extra good

Young actors from Activate drama school who have had parts in the TV drama Paradise being shot at Lambton Castle. Left to right; Macy Dodsworth, 6, Martha Willis, 6, Issy Walters, 8, Charlotte Woods, 9, Reece Robson, 11, and Lewis Robson aged 13.
Young actors from Activate drama school who have had parts in the TV drama Paradise being shot at Lambton Castle. Left to right; Macy Dodsworth, 6, Martha Willis, 6, Issy Walters, 8, Charlotte Woods, 9, Reece Robson, 11, and Lewis Robson aged 13.
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A DRAMA school is helping youngsters on the road to stardom.

Part of Activate’s efforts have centred on helping television programme-makers fill their sets with young faces as they bring stories to life.

Among the credits of its children are Inspector George Gently, which has just begin its fourth series on BBC1, Vera, for ITV, and Song for Marion, which has been chosen to close the Toronto Film Festival, which starts next week.

Members of the school, which runs sessions in Fulwell, Ryhope and at Southmoor School, also became stars when James Pallister became Little Ant and Dylan McKenna-Redshaw appeared as Little Dec as part of the Geordie presenters Saturday Night Takeaway entertainment show.

The latest project has seen its students appear in The Paradise, a period drama filmed on the Lambton Estate, near Bournmoor, throughout the summer to be 
aired on BBC1 in the New Year.

It focuses on the story of the first department store to be set up in the North East, with a street scene built on to the side of the castle, which itself has been transformed in to the store.

She also helped arrange for newborn twins to feature in its scenes.

The school’s boss Lesley McDonough says while the experience of working on a film set and being on television is a good opportunity for the children, the classes it runs have also helped boost their confidence,

She launched the club 12 years ago after first taking up a place on an art course, before going on to study a drama degree after her own children helped spark her interest in the trade.

Her eldest son Patrick, now 32, has also acted as a chaperone on the set of The Paradise, and her daughter Eve Scott, 30, who is a drama teacher at Southmoor School, both appeared as extras in Byker Grove.

Lesley, from Tunstall, is also mum to Dominic, 23, who works for the Conservative Party in Aberdeen, said: “The children love it.

“When we’ve been filming The Paradise during the summer, they’ve been nervous when they’ve done their 
first scene, and when they 
went into the shop and looked around, they didn’t have to be prompted to look amazed because it is so fantastic.

“Some of them have done work before, but for some, it’s their first experience.

“We run through with them what is expected and they do themselves proud.

“But what we find is that it gives them such a confidence boost and we see them grow.”

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham