29 April 2022

Melanie’s Birthday Fundraiser

I set up Meladrama 17 years ago. At the time I was a successful actor on TV and I was teaching at various other stage schools across the northwest and even at drama schools down south.

My mother thought I was crazy – she told me so many times “set up on your own”. I find it’s always best to take your mums advice – they are ALWAYS right and she definitely was with this. My mum even thought of our name one lunch time over a Chinese buffet!

“MEL@DRAMA – with an @” she screamed at me as I choked on my duck pancake – the rest is history.

Over the last 17 years we have fostered talent, created industry ready talented actors and our legacy is strong with a proven track record of not only providing excellent drama training but also helping our students build resilience and gain skills for life. Countless students are at top drama schools, working professionally in film, tv and stage, some have even opened their own schools. We were “fully inclusive’ from the start. It never even occurred to me that we’d be anything else. It makes me laugh when big name theatre companies and TV shows do all these ‘training’ events etc on how to be ‘inclusive’. It’s not that hard really – if you don’t have pre-conceived ideas of who’s capable of what and you spend 10 minutes thinking about access needs! I was brought up with a family member with Down Syndrome and a God Mother with learning difficulties – that was my ‘normal’ and it was so important that my classes reflected the true beauty (and difficulties) of life.

17 years ago my drama classes were £10. They are now £13. Safe to say I’m not in it for the money. Uniform (which isn’t compulsory) is £12.

I still live in the ‘real’ world. My son and I will never forget the Christmas we didn’t have enough money for a tree. I won’t forget the sleepless nights worrying about money – worrying about debt and wondering if I’d have enough to eat and put petrol in the car some weeks. I was late paying rent on a few occasions but Leo didn’t go without – I got paid on Christmas Eve so he got his tree! Yes – my mum would have helped me but I’m proud and I don’t ask for anything. Till now!

So although I’m always bleating on about how ‘affordable but professional and inclusive’ my classes are – I know that the reality of finding £13 a week is for some impossible.

To tackle this 4 years ago I set up Meladrama Community Interest Company. It took me a year or so to learn how to write good funding bids (if anyone wants to help me with this please do reach out – as I’m still awful at it). Before COVID hit I had two funded classes in Preston for children who’s families couldn’t afford drama classes. I was delighted and they were. Parents paid £3 – and if they couldn’t pay that it didn’t matter. Their children were getting the same opportunities as other families that weren’t in poverty. But then COVID hit. We hadn’t been open long enough to get any furlough or any help at all. Since then I have paid the accountant bill myself out of thin air. Thin air goes a long way when you really believe in something.

I see people fundraising for their birthdays on Facebook etc and I figured it would be a good way to launch the CIC again and secure some funds to use for match funding so we can re-open the community schools. They are so incredibly important to the children that use them – particularly now!

I’m proud to be a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence. I dread to think where I would be if my mum hadn’t seen my potential and found the money to send me to music and dance classes. I doubt I would be here. The classes I attended as a child gave me the strength to cope with life.

Childhood trauma takes a lifetime to overcome and at Meladrama we have helped so many children, teenagers and even adults come to terms and find the strength to deal with similar situations. We’ve made many referrals to child protection teams and helped children overcome extraordinary trauma during their time at Meladrama.

I love the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. I love a good proverb – but then I’ve always been a fan of the truth as well! I am passionate about raising strong children and keeping them safe – it’s so much better (and easier) than fixing broken adults and the effect they have on society. My classes don’t just teach kids to act or inspire kids to have a life on the stage or in tv and film – they give children and teenagers a voice. And we listen. Drama empowers them – and this is life changing for some.

It was life changing for me. I have a life thanks to kids performing arts classes. It’s only right and fair that ALL children and teens get the same, especially from my business.

So for my 46th birthday on Saturday 30th April – I’m kindly asking you to consider a small donation instead of flowers, wine, chocolates etc so the kids that need it most can come back to drama. We don’t need much. The £10 you would have spent on buying me and you a couple of beers funds a whole months drama club for a child. If you are loaded and fancy paying a terms rent in Ribbleton or Ingol that would be appreciated massively.

I set up a new community drama club 6 months ago in Bolton – I live here now and Meladrama Ltd are currently funding the room hire and I’m working for free. I’m happy to continue doing that but I would like to hire a bigger room …… you know. If you are proper loaded and you owe me a favour.

Thanks again – and it goes without saying that if you can’t afford it I do understand!

I will be in touch with all who donate / get in touch. I’m spending a much needed birthday weekend with my partner – but I will update on Wednesday with proof of all funds raised and let you know what the plan of action is. If by any chance anyone can offer help or advice – or has any contacts in local authority / housing associations / funding and can spare 30 minutes it would also be massively appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

Mel x