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Prestigious award for theatre group

PUBLISHED: 17:09 01 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:04 08 July 2010

A theatre company based in a tiny Norfolk village is now to be ranked alongside London's Old Vic Theatre, National Theatre and Royal Opera House after winning a prestigious industry award.

A theatre company based in a tiny Norfolk village is now to be ranked alongside London's Old Vic Theatre, National Theatre and Royal Opera House after winning a prestigious industry award.

Westacre Arts Foundation, based in the village of West Acre has been awarded the Clarion Award for performing arts, a prize previously won by major performing arts institutions and the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio and Al Gore.

The organisation, based just north of Swaffham, has been producing highly acclaimed plays, musical events, educational courses and exhibitions at its popular River Studios and Summer Theatre for the past 20 years.

And on Friday night it was its main protagonists Issy Huckle, administrative director, and Andy Naylor, turn to take the limelight in the glitzy event held at the National Film Theatre at the British Film Institute on London's Southbank.

Speaking just after receiving the award, Issy Huckle said she was amazed and delighted they had won it.

“It's absolutely tremendous, it means an awful lot of recognition from local authorities, councils and funding bodies,” she said.

“Recognition of the work we do with young people, our bursary awards scheme and the fact we are doing a lot of experimental work in a very rural community.”

She said they never forgot that none of what they do was possible without their hundreds of supports and volunteer helpers who give their time.

The pair had been part of a touring theatre and before that Mr Naylor was a drama teacher and Issy a full time mum of three.

When they started up Westacre studios it was a small venture, she said.

“It all started in a very small way,” she said. “Four nights per week for a summer season. But it has built up to four months.”

Their work means young people can learn drama through bursaries and that there is a live theatre venue in the heart of the Norfolk countryside for four months over the summer.

Their programme ranges from classical drama to the latest in experimental theatre and it has become popular with people who will come from London to see their work.

The Clarion Awards are run by the International Visual Communication Association (IVCA), which was founded more than 60 years ago has the likes of Kevin Spacey, Lord Attenborough, Sir Ridley Scott and Jeremy Irons amongst its fellows.

Others at the event last night included David Lamb, the director of the New Vic Theatre.

“There are cameras around and it's very interesting,” said Issy Huckle. “We take it all in our stride at Westacre.”

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