Just Add Milk talk about this year’s Luke Westlake Scholarship and the support the company offer fellow performers within the industry

An initiative continuing on from their work of supporting fellow performers within the industry, Just Add Milk (JAM) recently announced the recipient of this year’s Luke Westlake Scholarship -a reward offering additional support to a 2nd year drama or university student in the pursuit of their performance career. Alongside the scholarship, JAM also produce their own work addressing social issues, previous work witnessing them team up with charities CALM and Muscular Dystrophy UK. JAM tell us more about the crucial work they do.

Hi JAM, you’re the founders of the Luke Westlake Scholarship, a reward artistically and financially supporting a 2nd year Drama or University student. What inspired the initiative?

The idea came about from Kyle, who originally wanted to cover the cost of actors’ headshots – as this is a very expensive part of an actor’s career. We all trained as actors and knew how difficult it was graduating from drama school; we agreed that it’s ridiculous to pay upwards of £30k on training and then have to fork out £3000 more on things like headshots, showreels and Spotlight. We sat down and had a meeting in Picturehouse Central one afternoon and an hour later we emerged with the idea of creating a package for a working-class actor who had just graduated. After refining the idea further, we decided to call it the JAM Scholarship and started approaching donors. The rest is history!

The awards are supported by Spotlight, The Stage and Nick Hern Books. What does it mean to receive this support?

It means even more this year, in light of the pandemic. When we started approaching donors again this year, we thought a lot of companies were going to say no because of the financial strain on our industry. However, the opposite happened. Donors were incredibly generous and we were able to go one step further and make ourselves known to three massive companies – Spotlight, The Stage and Nick Hern Books. After these were all confirmed, along with everything else, we were absolutely blown away. Everything in the scholarship is essentially the lifeblood of any actor, so it means an incredible amount to us.

Ayomide Adegun was recently announced as this year’s winner. What inspired the panel about Ayomide’s story?

Ayo has used acting as a tool to reform his life. Not only is he an extremely talented actor, he comes from a working-class background and engages in youth-work in his local borough. He’s incredibly humble and mature for his age and has a clear sense of who he his and where he comes from. Across the board, the attributes he displayed to us through his application and shortlisting process made him stand out and he was either 1st or 2nd choice on almost every panel member’s list.

What was the response like in regards to applicants and what was the judging criteria?

We were overwhelmed with applications this year: 187 applicants from 27 different institutions from England, Wales and Scotland. This was more than triple the amount we had last year and we are delighted that the scholarship is getting noticed.

As well as being focused for working-class actors, applicants also need to demonstrate their acting ability, but more importantly show that they have scope to listen and learn. The shortlisted candidates were asked to learn brand new sides, provided by Casting Director Faye Timby, and film a self-tape. The panel selected their top 6 based on all the actors’ original applications, and new tapes​, ​through a points system. All this said, we remind ourselves that we are certainly not looking for the best actor and it is a fine balance between talent and who actually needs this scholarship.

In addition to the Luke Westlake Scholarship, JAM offer workshops and resources to performers. What can be expected from these?

Our workshops are hosted by Casting Directors and Agents. Typically, an actor that takes part in one of our workshops will receive a slot and spend roughly 15 minutes with the Casting Director or Agent. They pre-prepare sides given to them by the host and deliver the monologue or duologue during their slot. The host then offers feedback and it’s a chance to connect actors with high-level industry professionals at an incredibly affordable rate.

We also provide free workshop spaces for actors from low-income backgrounds and actors who genuinely need financial support. We believe that no actor should miss out on opportunities and regularly give away free places to support actors who need it the most.

Finally, our producing arm of the company gives unheard voices a platform. We’ve worked with several writers to create shows about minority voices and raise awareness about topics such as men’s mental health and muscular dystrophy. Through this, we’ve partnered with some incredible companies such as CALM and MDUK and we’re keen to continue to use theatre to help change people’s lives for the better.

As both theatre makers and supporters of fellow performers, how has the pandemic impacted your work?

Strangely, it’s allowed us to grow sevenfold. We’re a much smarter company because of the pandemic and have grown in stature since March. The growth has allowed us to connect with creatives we wouldn’t have dared approach before and as a result have found ourselves in a place to commit to some very big and exciting projects.

What are your hopes for JAM moving forward?

We hope to complete our application to become a charity by the New Year and keep improving the services we offer to actors. We’ve heard there may be a brand new show in 2022…

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

This year’s Luke Westlake Scholarship award ceremony took place on Sunday 13th December 2020, to find out more about the awards, visit here…

To find out more about Just Add Milk (JAM), visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop