Who's Who: All hail Hackney 'drama queen' Anna Fiorentini!
PUBLISHED: 11:30 30 August 2016 | UPDATED: 14:39 30 August 2016
EMMA BARTHOLOMEW catches up with Anna Fiorentini, whose drama pupils are about to celebrate 15 years at Hackney Empire with a gala.
"I set the school up for underprivileged children. There is so much elitism in the industry and so many people can’t afford the training."
Anna Fiorentini’s first memory of being on stage was aged six, playing the Ugly Duckling at Daubeney Primary School.
The 43-year-old always wanted to be an actress, inspired by her thespian Maltese father Al, who played Mohammed Al Fayed in the documentary movie Diana.
Anna is Hackney born and bred, growing up on the Repton Court tower block on the Clapton Estate, which was knocked down 24 years ago.
Perhaps because she did not come from an affluent background, she found it hard to break into the profession. Anna, who now lives in Homerton, couldn’t afford to go to drama school to get an Equity Card (actors’ guild membership), and had to raise £10,000 for postgraduate training at Mountview.
She started a drama club in St Paul’s Church hall, Chelmer Road, laying the foundations for her own drama school.
Fifteen years ago, after completing her acting training, she decided to expand the drama club and brought in top West End choreographers, singers and drama teachers to the Wally Foster community centre.
“I set the school up for underprivileged children,” she said.
“Basically it’s for everybody but I wanted it to be inclusive – there is so much elitism in the industry and so many people can’t afford the training.
“There was never any professional training in the area when I was growing up.
“There were clubs run by volunteers, but I had to travel over an hour for training on a Saturday to the Sylvia Young school in Marylebone.”
Now her empire has branches in Clapton Girls’ Academy – where she attended secondary school – Docklands and Highgate. Last year she set up another in Greenwich.
Her school offers scholarships to youngsters who cannot otherwise afford to go, and counts among its alumni success stories like Jermain Jackman, who went on to win BBC singing competition The Voice.
He is going to choreograph a routine for Anna’s former, now famous, students at a gala performance at the Hackney Empire on October 1 – to celebrate 15 years since the drama school’s inception.
To donate to the school’s 15th anniversary campaign to raise £30,000 to fund drama school fees for 100 youngsters, click here.