Theatre academy to expand due to popular demand

Dancing students at the MGA Academy of Performing Arts. Picture: comp

Dancing students at the MGA Academy of Performing Arts. Picture: comp

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A THEATRE academy has been inundated with applications from budding performers inspired by celebrity TV programmes.

The courses at Edinburgh’s MGA Academy of Performing Arts are so popular expansion plans have been lodged with the council.

And the ever-growing interest has been put down in part to the trend of high-profile television series such as Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor.

The institute had more applications in April than it did in the whole of last year – with entries for upcoming courses already in the “hundreds”.

Managing director Andrew Gowland, who founded MGA with Murray Grant in 2005 and opened its Balgreen Road campus in 2010, said: “I think there’s a lot of programmes on TV nowadays that have shown that the professional arts industry is a viable career path. There’s a big respect for performers now because people see how difficult it is.

“The programmes have also demonstrated that although some people have a natural ability, it’s invaluable to train. There’s a bigger understanding that you can’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘yes, I’m going to be a dancer’.

“The performing arts industry isn’t quite as flaky as you think it is. It’s a serious and viable way of earning a living. You can carve a fulfilling and lucrative career in the industry. Given the climate, no job is 100 per cent guaranteed, so people are more prepared to say, ‘you know what, I’m going to go and train’.

“We have seen our applications go up every year. We have more and more applications coming in every day.

“It’s extremely exciting for us. I had no idea four years ago when I signed the lease on that huge building, that we’d outgrow it.”

This September, the academy, which employs six full-time members of staff and up to 30 freelancers, will welcome around 90 students to each of its musical theatre, dance and acting three-year diplomas and shorter courses.It is waiting for accreditation from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for its new acting course.

“We are one of the only privately operated SQA centres that’s doing the full range of performing arts,” said Mr Gowland.

The academy’s reputation has been growing steadily – and has been linked to performers including Any Dream Will Do runner-up Keith Jack, 26, below. This week, it lodged a planning application with the city council to convert an office in Westfield Avenue into a performing arts academy studio to add to its facilities.

Mr Gowland said: “It’s been empty for about four years, it’s perfect, it’s just near us. It would have two big dance studios, singing studios, a classroom and staff room. It’s amazing, just the right size for us. It’s just five minutes from the current campus.”

He added: “Why go to London when it’s twice as expensive to live and work?”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com