Youth theatre group finds home for its 'talent hub' at Northampton shopping centre

Leigh Wolmarans
Leigh Wolmarans

A Northampton shopping centre will be home to a youth theatre group whose members have performed with Royal Shakespeare Company actors.

The Silhouette Youth Theatre (SYT) will open at Weston Favell this autumn, offering a range of classes including performing arts classes, dance classes, music classes and a host of other opportunities.

14 children from the SYT were chosen to perform in Romeo and Juliet in Stratford-upon-Avon

14 children from the SYT were chosen to perform in Romeo and Juliet in Stratford-upon-Avon

The group has emerged from the Lings Performing Arts Academy and the Lings Creative Hub - and is led by founder Leigh Wolmarans.

"We are committed and passionate about giving young people, who would not usually get the opportunity, the chance to engage with the performing arts and by doing so to raise their aspirations and confidence so that they can be more successful in life," said Leigh.

"We want to empower young people and communities to know that they can use the performing arts to have a voice and that this voice is not diminished based on where you live, how much money you have, your race, religion or background."

SYT member Amelia suggested the name of the theatre company because "you can't tell someone's age, gender or race when looking at a silhouette so it makes us all the same".

Leigh's group has experienced a lot of success of late with four of its young people accepted to the RSC youth theatre, 14 children performing in Romeo and Juliet in Stratford-upon-Avon, and a further 20 youngsters set to take the main stage in Shakespeare's birth town in a production of Macbeth.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Leigh.

"The fact that they can stand on the main stage at the RSC with the main actors, with thousands of people watching them and hold their own is exceptional."

The move to Weston Favell is well-suited to SYT because, as Leigh explains, a lot of the youngsters' parents work there or live nearby, and most of the theatre company's members spend their spare time there.

"We decided to go in the community," said Leigh, who was born in Zimbabwe.

"If we constantly say it's about community then we have to embrace it.

He added: "We have called it a family because it's more than just performing arts.

"It's finding your voice, finding your confidence and believing in what we can do.

"I'm seeing young people more nervous, more worried and more scared than I've ever seen them.

"I think they need a holistic education. They need to dance as much as they need sing, do sport, do maths, English and science."

Earlier this year plans to make Northampton City of Culture in 2025 were approved by the borough council.

With this in mind, Leigh wants the town to embrace the idea and also look to its next generation of residents to help make a lasting cultural impact.

"We have to change the way we view our town," he said.

"We have to start looking at it positively.

"The big thing for me is our young people - they are amazing and that's not just me saying that it's the Royal Shakespeare Company who think that.

"If we want to start looking at being a city of culture then we have to look at the exceptional people in the town."