By Andy Hirst

A community-based performing arts group is helping youngsters to act, dance and sing.

Huddersfield-based Reach Performing Arts has made it affordable for the children to pursue their dreams and some of the youngsters have been in stage productions as well as on TV adverts and a CBBC programme.

It was set up six years ago by Natalie Pinnock-Hamilton after she realised there was a need for affordable performing arts in the community.

Natalie, who received an MBE for services to the community in 2000, managed to get funding help from Awards For All and community-minded businesses such as Armitage Bridge based One17 Architects and Interior Designers which means it now only costs members £25 a month which just about covers the group’s costs.

The youngsters start with Reach when they are six and can stay until they are 18. The group meets at Scandalous Studio on St John’s Road, Huddersfield, each Friday from 5pm to 7.15pm.

Natalie, of Fartown, said: “We are a very diverse groups of youngsters from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. The three main areas taught are drama, dance and singing but we have had beat boxers running sessions as well as African drummers and dancers.”

Reach takes part in Huddersfield, Holmfirth and Mirfield carnivals and its members are also involved in events at the Lawrence Batley Theatre such as the Jump and Shout and the Strictly Pennine dance festivals.

In 2019 they were involved in the LBT production of Henry V and this year’s production of Macbeth. Reach has also staged its own productions such as Alice and Bugsy.

Each Reach session is made up of dance, drama/musical theatre and vocal training which helps to give the youngsters the skills and confidence to attend auditions for stage, screen and TV roles.

The dance teacher is Suzie Calvert who began her dancing career when she was just three at the Audrey Spencer School of Dance in Huddersfield and has gone on to choreograph several shows, was a member of Woodhouse Operatic society and part of a street dance group known as Fiasko Soldiers.

She opened her own street dance school, Rhythmix, nine years ago and is also a registered Zumba instructor.

The singing teacher is Emma Hitchins who graduated with a degree in performing arts from Hull University and performs as part of a vintage singing duo called The Rum and Cola Girls. She also fronts a 1980s cover band called Philadelphia PA.

One of the students at Reach is 13-year-old Stephanie Caton from Lockwood.

Her mum, Margaret, said: “Stephanie has been going to Reach for a number of years and it’s made her a really outgoing and confident person, giving her opportunities she wouldn’t otherwise have. She loves the acting and dancing side to Reach and she’s really developing those skills now.”

Stephanie is now rehearsing in a quirky version of Macbeth being staged at the LBT from October 7. She is also an anti-bulling ambassador at her school, Newsome Academy, and has appeared in a photographic exhibition called Being Inbetween, a series ofpowerful photographic portraits of girls aged between 10 and 12 exploring the complex transition between childhood and young adulthood. They were taken by photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn and staged at the Impressions Gallery in Bradford. All are now published in a book, also called Being Inbetween.

Margaret added: “Reach is a small community group which is always looking for more members, especially boys.”

John Fletcher is landlord at The Sportsman pub next to where Reach is based and his 10-year-old daughter, Aisha, loves doing performing arts there.

He said: “There are a range of ages at Reach so Aisha gets a wide range of influences from outside her normal peer group. She’s had lots of opportunities with Reach from taking part in carnivals to appearing on stage at the LBT in a production of Henry V. She loves taking part in these community projects.”

Natalie’s son, 33-year-old Rohan Pinnock-Hamilton, is a successful singer and dancer who works with the youngsters anytime he’s back home in Huddersfield.

He secured a scholarship with the Urdang performing arts academy in London and since then has been in the Mary Poppins tour, the River Dance world tour including in the USA, musical Hairspray in the West End, Hair in Europe and the West End and Scottsboro Boys which was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Rohan has also done a number of TV appearances such as comedy sitcom My Parents Are Aliens and Children’s Ward. He is now rehearsing for the Bob Marley musical, Get Up Stand Up and, besides being Bunny Wailer understudy, he is also the dance captain.

To contact Reach Performing Arts go to the website or phone 07786 651831.

* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.