Actress, Kate Ajike offers young London gangsters free performing arts lessons

Kate AjikeGang members from across the Capital are being offered the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to escape a life of crime…and appear on the Big Screen thanks to Kidulthood actress Kate Ajike.

From today, troubled teens will be offered free lessons in singing and performance arts as part of a new charitable initiative. They will receive 10 hour-long sessions with trained professionals where they can hone their dancing, singing and acting skills. The most promising students will be promoted to the UK’s TV and film industry, and to theatre producers in the West End.

No qualifications are needed, but students must show a “willingness to learn and a passion for acting”. The pioneering scheme – the first of its kind in the world – launches at Battersea-based performance arts centre, The Kate Academy, next month. Its owner Kate Ajike hopes to help youngsters escape a life of “violence, crime and despair” by introducing them to the “beautiful arts”.

Speaking yesterday Ajike, the star of BBC drama Kidulthood, said: “This scheme is about helping some of the most vulnerable members of our society. I am not for a moment condoning their behaviour, but I do understand how incredibly desperate many of these young people are.

“The vast majority do not have a way out of a life of crime, despite a genuine desire to do something with their lives.”

Ajike, a philanthropist who launched Kate Academy in 2007, added: “It is my hope that we can help a small proportion of these people – the diamonds in the rough, so to speak – and catapult them into a good, honest life in the arts.”

The scheme is open to all youngsters in London aged between 16 and 25 – including those responsible for the August riots – but only five places will be available each year. Ajike said she hopes to help up to 500 gang members in the next few years, adding: “This is a last-chance saloon – the once-in-a-lifetime chance for gang members to escape a life of violence, drugs and street crime.”

To apply to The Kate Academy visit www.kateacademy.org.uk/apply