School and the gang: arts group leader put forward for award

Platform YP
Pupils at Platform YP

THE FOUNDER of a Woosehill performing arts and dance school is thrilled to be nominated for a local business award.

Tracey Eley, who launched Platform YP in 2004, said being put forward for the best independent business category in the Little Ankle Biters Awards made her feel even more connected to the community.

“It’s so exciting just to think people took the time to nominate us,” she said. “It really does feel like a Platform family.”

She said being part of the community is one of the most important things for her students.

“At Christmas-time we usually perform at about 15 to 20 local events. We try to do as much as we can with local schools and perform at as many events as possible.

“It’s about belonging to something, the children need that sense of connection — and it’s lovely to see them form friendships outside of school.”

Platform YP
Platform YP members performing

During lockdown, Ms Eley moved the classes online, and this brought some unexpected perks.

“We’ve been able to host about 25 West End workshops,” she said. “We wouldn’t usually be able to afford that, but with no travel costs we can.

“It’s really inspiring for the children to think ‘Wow, that’s what I could do’”.

Katie, 12, who attends the group, said: “While in lockdown, Platform YP has really helped me to work harder and challenge myself as it is online. It has made lockdown more enjoyable for me because I have a passion that I can still carry on.”

Student Amelia, 13, said it was a “fantastic” way to retain normality in the pandemic and “forget about the bad things happening in the world”.

And Madison, 12, said the group is one of her “happy places”.

“We have been so lucky that we have been able to continue online,” she said. “I really love my Wednesday class as I still get to do improvisations in small groups with my class so it’s like being together. I feel really happy after my classes, I am really looking forward to when we can perform together after lockdown.”

The performing arts school has recently welcomed its first patron, Vinny Coyle, as it continues to grow.

Platform YP patron, Vinny Colye with a student
Platform YP patron, Vinny Colye with a student

Mr Coyle, who started at Platform YP, now has a back catalogue of West End performances, including Les Misérables and Miss Saigon. Originally from Ascot, Mr Coyle studied singing, acting and dancing at Platform YP for more than 10 years before undertaking a musical theatre degree at Arts Educational Schools, London.

Claire Revie, whose daughter joined Platform YP when she was five, said Ms Eley has worked “tirelessly” over lockdown to keep students motivated.

“Like all musical theatre and dance schools, they have not been able to have in person classes but this has not stopped them putting on shows online,” she said.

And when live performances return, Ms Eley hopes some of her stars will be back on the West End stage.

The group has a talent agency, with many students taking to the London stages. Some even performed in November, when the West End temporarily reopened.

And there are plans in place to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year.

“A few weeks ago, 25 of my students hosted a live YouTube concert to fundraise for
the Edinburgh trip,” Ms Eley said.

“They managed to raise £1,300 all in one night — they are just amazing.”

To help more students reach their performing abmitions, Ms Eley is launching a performing arts BTEC from September, run by Platform YP.

It will be the only place in the borough students can gain the qualification.

To vote for Platform YP in the Little Ankle Biters Awards, visit: berks.ankle-biters.co.uk/2021/02/02/best-independent-business-in-berkshire-finalists-voting

Voting closes on Sunday.

For more information about the performance school, visit: www.platformyp.co.uk

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