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Inspired Series: meeting the principal

Dancing at Dive

We’re delighted to interview Brit School’s Principal Stuart Worden for Inspired Series.  Stuart speaks passionately about the capital’s leading performing arts school responsible for setting artists such as Amy Winehouse, Adele and Jessie J on the path to global stardom.

What is it about the BRIT school culture that produces such talent?

We’ve tried to create something where young people can express themselves and be the person they want to be; be the artist they want to be.  If we want to create young people with talent, we’ve got to be able to know what they believe in, and we’ve got to encourage them to believe in something… and when they believe in something, amazing stuff can happen.  Our school is free; no one pays to go there. It’s a state school; anyone can come.

How important is the space to creating a strong creative environment and what kind of spaces lend themselves particularly well?

Space is essential.  It helps us think, inspires us to be creative, protects us from judgement and restrictions.  Space creates space to explore, to relax, to experiment and be adventurous.  The spaces that work best are safe and flexible for various art forms and paradoxically restricted by the art form. A TV studio needs to have TV equipment in it, a theatre has to have theatre equipment, but multi-disciplinary spaces will always be needed where film makers can work with dancers and illustrators can work with musicians.  The key word for us at The BRIT School is comfort.  We believe that making young artists comfortable is the foundation for making great art.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I am particularly proud of the way The BRIT School has embraced community work. Thousands of primary school children, young people from pupil referral units, victims of rape and sexual harassment, marginalised elderly groups, young people with severe physical disabilities have over the last 25 years all participated in BRIT School creative projects.  There will be over 100,000 people in our 25 years who have benefited from our community work.  Some of our most notable alumni including Loyle Carner, Jessie J and Katie Melua often discuss the community work as the highlight of their time at The BRIT School.  For me, personally doing a project in a local hospice for eight years was life changing, showing the power of the arts to deal with death and dying.  I also am very proud of the work we have done with local nursery schools with literacy and art projects which has annually culminated in our Little People’s Day and which sees hundreds of two to five year olds visiting the school to participate in artistic activities.

What inspires you the most about your job?

I am continually in awe of the young people here.  They are exciting, ambitious, brave and fun.  What inspires me about the School in particular is that it is free.  Because the school isn’t hindered by fees it means that everyone is welcome here and it is that mix of background, experience, gender, sexuality, race and religion which makes for exciting possibilities.  Great art is always a response to difference and change and the complexities of the work. The BRIT School embraces this and consequently I am inspired by that rich mix and the bravery of youth.

What makes Croydon such as great environment for young people in the creative arts? 

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, Croydon is diverse and exciting.  If you look at the recent weeks celebration of Croydon you can see the potential of this town to bring an exciting creative future.  The Stormzy gig at Boxpark , the Mozart players, the graffiti celebrated by Rise Gallery and the excitement generated by TMRW and the Tech City initiative show the wide range of Croydon’s creative present and future.  Croydon is also supported by a large immigrant population which brings new ideas, culture and art.

Tim Cook recently visited the BRIT school. Tell us about his visit and his effect on the kids?

Tim visited the School because he wanted to experience a creative arts institution.  We have been the pioneers of using digital technology with the performing arts in education for a long time. Our graphic designers work with our musicians, our film makers work with our actors and our dancers collaborate with lighting specialists.  Tim and all at Apple understand the importance of a creative society.  They understand the significance of creativity to the economy, the well-being of individuals and how it can support a healthy community.  They are excited by what we do here and wanted to know the secrets of our success and they also want to be part of our future.  We are excited to be working with them. The students were excited to share their work with Tim and for one of the world’s leading organisations to recognise their creativity and potential.  All the kids who met him were walking half a foot taller afterwards as he was so supportive of what they were doing.

The following week we went on to perform four gigs at the Apple Store in Regent Street combining our music students and interactive digital design illustrators.  The organisations will go on to do some great things together.


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