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The Brit School

According to a report by Kevin Braddock in the Independent,

The sight of a teenage boy in a leotard flexing hamstrings against a coffee machine is not uncommon, nor is there anything exceptional about a trio of theatre students improvising a Shakespearean tableau adjacent to the sandwich bar. . .

"We used to worry about what was going on in the corridors," says Jacqui Pick, deputy head principal. "But here it's usually a rehearsal.”

Eight hundred and fifty pupils at the Brit School in London are learning dance, theatre, music, art, production, and the economics of the entertainment industry – “everything from agenting to copyright law.” They also learn the National Curriculum, and their GSCE results are good. They don’t all become performers or take jobs in theatre or music management. Some have gone on to careers as criminologists or scientists. At least a few have become passionate about history.

The first thing the teenage students learn when they arrive is that they will have to work hard. According to Braddock’s report, they also have to be versatile. “In one class they'll be doing some Brechtian theatre on the nature of Britishness, the next will be a choral workshop, and they will focus on speech. There's no time to get complacent." Actually, it’s often hard to get the students to go home.

School productions have earned box office receipts of £250,000 a year, and Brit School graduates include Katie Melua, Dane Bowers, The Kooks, and the 2006 Christmas Number One holder, Leona Lewis. This partly explains the School’s sponsorship by the Brit Trust, the “organisation that dishes out gongs to the starlets and rebels of the UK's booming music industry each February.” Treasury also supports the school, since it “has understood the importance of creativity to Britain's new economic destiny. The creative industries are among the fastest-growing in the British economy.”

What accounts for the British flair for performance? Perhaps it's wiser not to enquire too closely.