FOR two decades, amateur performers have been given a stepping stone to stardom, thanks to a Dumfries trust.
And, as it celebrates 20 years of success, two national rising stars have praised the Wardlaw Trust for its support in helping almost 100 young hopefuls to secure a bright future in the performing arts.
Dumfries dancer Michael Porter (pictured left) and young opera star Nicky Spence were both fledgling performers when they won a Wardlaw Trust award to help them develop their skills.
Michael, now performing in London, says the Wardlaw Trust allowed him to “follow his dreams”.
He has most recently starred in a Priscilla corporate event in London and was cast as dance captain in a pantomime production of Jack and the Beanstalk at Mansfield Palace Theatre.
Michael said: “Coming from a not so financially equipped background I was unable to attend the London schools.
“Back when I was a child there wasn’t really any musical theatre schools other than the theatre royal and operatic society.
“The trust has helped me immensely in completing my training.
“It has helped make me the performer I am today and got me to where I am now.
“It’s great that a trust is there to help the youngsters of Dumfries in allowing them to live and follow their dreams, making financial worries much more manageable.”
The trust founded by Ian Wardlaw has helped dozens of people over the years.
Between 80 and 90 young adults from Langholm, Lockerbie, Moffat, Annan, Stranraer, Kirkcudbright, Castle Douglas, Dalbeattie, Sanquhar, Thornhill and Dumfries have benefited from the cash.
Michael added: “Now I have moved down to London I can put myself out there more and make sure I get known.
“I owe a lot to many people for helping me live and follow my dream.
“I never had the honour of meeting Ian Wardlaw but I know that he was one inspirational man who has changed so many young performers’ lives.”
One of the brightest performance artist’s to come out of the region is Nicky Spence, a young tenor from Thornhill, who has swiftly climbed the ladder to national stardom.
Nicky also began his journey with support from the Wardlaw Trust and is currently playing in Billy Budd in London before flying out to The Metropolitan Opera in New York in autumn to make his international debut.
He said: “The Wardlaw trust acted as a vital springboard for my passions in the arts a youngster.
“I am indebted to them for their boundless support for my career which would not have been possible without them.”
Wardlaw Trust awards have been made for a diverse range of courses including stage building, lighting and sound, technical skills, screen acting, musical theatre, acting and directing.
All have been funded by performances of plays and concerts, Suitcase Theatre drama competitions, and Burns competitions.
Linda Wardlaw said: “Our two very worthy winners this year are Kirsten Gair, age 15, and 16-year-old Tessa Parker.
“Both girls are from Dalbeattie High School and need support to attend Scottish Youth Theatre’s three-week course in Glasgow this July.
“We wish them the very best of good luck!”
Linda added: “Many of our recipients have gone into the professional field and into teaching.
“Some are treading the boards in London and heading for international fame!”