INSPIRED by Hollywood star, Dame Helen Mirren, one of Newport’s budding actors is campaigning to raise awareness that drama schools are not just for rich kids.

Tom Stocks has lived in Newport for the last four years and starred in two Riverfront pantomimes, as the lead in Robin Hood and Beast in last Christmas’ Beauty and the Beast.

The 21-year-old, who landed one of 25 places at a drama school after competing with more than 3,000 applicants, has been forced to defer due to a lack of funding.

Tom came from Manchester to study for a degree in Performing Arts at the University of South Wales. He graduated in summer 2013 and was offered a place on the MA course at the East 15 drama school in London to start in September.

With tuition fees at £12,000 and no scholarships available, he deferred his place for a year.

“I had my university debts and I just couldn’t do it. It was the hardest decision of my life. I didn’t want to take the risk of this being my dream and having to drop out for financial issues.

Tom is living between London and Newport, working as a chef in the week and is in Newport rehearsing on weekends. He is part of 4 Theatre Productions, working on Dracula for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival.

After Tom deferred, he started a small campaign, writing to trusts and big companies about his drama school battle. This took a new lease of life after Dame Helen Mirren’s comments at this year’s BAFTAs. She began her career at the National Youth Theatre, a charity offering free training and said acting now is a preserve for rich kids.

He boosted his profile through social media and the response has been overwhelming. But Tom said what started as a personal campaign has grown.

“It was naive to think it was just about me.

“There is so much raw talent which is not being given a chance. We want our voices heard and I’d like to speak for them.”

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