Meet Ann Akin, an actress, writer, choreographer, and director and who is about to produce a ground-breaking young writers festival in partnership with Lyric Hammersmith and provides drama workshops for actors.  Harts Theatre Company is a community interest company founded by Ann Akin that pushes the boundaries to shine a spotlight on youth talent in different areas of London. Harts teaches classes regular classes to many kids in many venues within London. The main aim of Harts is to teach young people to express themselves creatively and efficiently allowing us to nurture talent while encouraging and stimulating those who may be in need of additional confidence. Not your usual theatre company is it?

What made you realise that young people could be the biggest catalysts of social change?

Young people have such drive and passion; I think it’s so important to nurture their voices and fresh ideas. As much as I’m an adult now and my thoughts and behaviors have very much so been fashioned by my experiences, I am still at my core the same girl, young person, the young woman that I’ve always been. I’ve always been this passionate, hard working and this creative. Young people have more power and are bolder than society sometimes gives them credit for.

chairWhere did your love for young people stem from?

It comes from the way that young people make me feel. They make me feel excited and inspired and strong. They make me feel current and also more grounded and accomplished than I sometimes allow myself to think I am. They’re just so frikking cool!

How hectic can your days get?

My days are just so hectic, but I love it! I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t manage boredom too well. I have to be stimulated at all times, and I like to have a number of projects on the go. Just detailing my last 24 hours will give you an idea; I wake up at 5 am most days, and I work my 5-9 – It’s a habit that I latched onto in the early days of my business where I was still working a full-time job. I read a book on practices for startups or a start-up help book (something along those lines), and it mentioned working from 5-9. Before you have to go to your day job, these are the hours that you have to work, and that’s what I would do. I would write and edit my plays in these early hours. I would draft all my emails to press send at 9 am, in these early hours. It’s a habit that hasn’t left me. My 9-5 is usually filled with working at the office with my assistant, Holly or running to meetings or casting because I’m still a working actress and then I teach our drama classes four evenings a week.

What’s been one of your most thrillings on set moments?

Thrilling… well the most fun and satisfied, fulfilled, valued, empowered and loved that I’ve ever felt on set was every single day of filming the Javone Prince Show last year which aired on BBC2! I LOVED IT. Javone and the other cast (Jason Barnett, Samson Kay, and Akemnji Ndifornyen) are a dream, and I love them dearly… We’re all still very close. Phil Bowker (Director) and Jon MacQueen (Producer) are a dream. I have so much love for them all. Best job I’ve ever done.

“Young people have such drive and passion, and I think it’s so important to nurture young voices and young ideas.” 

Can anyone be an actor?

No! Being able to act is different from whether you have what it takes to BE an actor. Having talent is an aside to being an actor. Being an actor is hard; it’s sometimes full of rejection and lack of opportunity and sometimes lack of value. It’s a profession where you have to prove yourself time and time again, and when it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s bad, it’s hard. It’s a job where you sometimes have to remind yourself of the love and hold on to that with everything that you have. It doesn’t matter how talented you are and how hard you work it can not, will not and does not a bare reference to how successful you will be. So no – not everyone can withstand that and handle that.

But it’s a great and rewarding job.

I’m young and lack any ambition/career path, how can HARTS help me?

We’re a company that genuinely have young people at it’s Hart. We have a genuine love and passion for helping young people grow in confidence and love. We support ambition. Our mantra and aim is to make the arts accessible to the inaccessible. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how much money you have; you can achieve all of your dreams, and we will help young people in whatever way we can. We work tirelessly to provide opportunities for the young people that we engage with. We nurture our relationships with young people. We help to build confidence and drive. We have so many projects on the go mainly because we want to provide many pathways to stimulate drive and passion in young people. And we laugh A LOT! Being part of the Harts Theatre Movement is a lot of fun, that’s for sure!!

Tell us more about this exciting opportunity at the young writing festival?

*Shrieks in excitement* – I’m just so excited about the Young Harts Writing Festival. We wanted to bridge the gap between young people and the industry by providing mentoring and creative opportunities all in one project. The basic premise is that it begins as a writing competition for young people 10-25 who will submit a short story or play.

The competition runs from 18th January- 19th February and the chosen five plays are announced on the 26th February. The whole month of February submissions are open up for young actors who want to be involved in the festival and in March the chosen 5 writers are given a FREE writing masterclass with actor, Rikki Beadle-Blair, and then have a month to go away and finish/develop their plays, as well as so much more opportunities, courtesy of HARTS.

What do you hope 2016 will bring?

GOSH! There is so much in store for this year. Some we can and can’t yet speak about! We have a lot in the works in regards to our Mental health awareness workshops and new partnerships there. We will continue to campaign for mental health awareness to be on the National Curriculum. We have the Young Harts Writing Festival. We have an excellent summer program in the works. We have some new ideas that we are fleshing out. 2016 will be busy and fun and HARD WORK, but exciting.

Find out more about HARTS and the young writing festival competition here:

Subject – Ann Akin
Writer – @Hannah Ajala
Photographer – @Kofi Dwaah Jr