Highbury actress Kathy Burke throws weight behind Hackney theatre charity

Actresses Kathy Burke (left), Maggie Norris (right) and Jason Rock at the Big Theatre Company fudrai

Actresses Kathy Burke (left), Maggie Norris (right) and Jason Rock at the Big Theatre Company fudraising launch. Picture: Chris Wood. - Credit: Archant

Actress Kathy Burke spoke this week about how theatre changed her life after she lost her mother – as she threw her weight behind a drama charity working with vulnerable young people.

Harry Enfield and Chums star Ms Burke, 48, told how the stage had a hugely positive impact when she was growing up as a foster child in Essex Road, Islington, following the death of her mother when she was two.

She was speaking to the Gazette at a star-studded fundraiser for the Hackney-based charity The Big House Theatre Company (TBHTC), which works with many youngsters who have faced similar struggles.

Ms Burke, who lives in Highbury, said: “I was fostered for a bit by friends of the family. I was pretty lucky that I didn’t end up in a care home, but that was down to the community.

“Having something like the TBHTC matters a great deal.

“Having something to do and somewhere to go is really important for life – it’s not just about learning to act.”

TBHTC, based in Amhurst Terrace, Hackney, aims to prevent care leavers – who form a significant part of the prison population – from going to jail.

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The fundraiser was held at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon Road, Farringdon, and was also attended by Dalston-based TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli and former Coronation Street actress Maggie Norris, who lives in Highbury and set up the charity.

Ms Burke paid tribute to her acting mentor, the famous drama teacher Anna Scher, who schooled countless stars at her community theatre school in Islington.

She said: “Going to Anna Scher’s changed my life. It’s just the feeling that there’s another life to lead.

“TBHTC is a brilliant idea and it’s similar to what Anna’s did for me. It’s focused on kids who did not have much.


“With Anna’s, it was not just about teaching you to act, it got you to understand other people, taught you common sense and how to listen. I hope this can take off across other boroughs in London and the country.”

TBHTC offers literacy courses, life coaching, IT skills and other courses in addition to theatre work.

Founder Ms Norris said: “There is very little support for care leavers.

“Forty per cent of the under 21 prison population and 27 per cent of the adult prison population are care leavers.

“I thought I needed to start up a company which is a preventative measure to stop people going to prison and give them the support they need.”

Participant Jason Rock, 25, who lives in a hostel in Hackney, said: “As a care leaver I know what theatre work at the TBHTC can do.

“It gives you confidence and helps you build a strong outer shell in the wider world. It’s something I did not get when I left care.”