STUDENTS from two performing arts schools in Basingstoke are among hundreds of artists making a return to the iconic west end venue – the Shaftesbury Theatre in London.

Artists from Stagecoach Performing Arts in Basingstoke and Basingstoke West will join students from 13 other schools for the event today (Sunday, March 27).

For some students, this will be the first time in two years that they have been able to perform at such a big event – an opportunity to show off their skills in dancing and singing, as well as what giving children a sense of community and belonging can do for their mental health.

With many postponements taking place in 2020, some of the students were able to return to performing live in front of family and friends at three showcases held at the Shaftesbury in 2021. This year, even more schools and students have the opportunity to unite and take to the world famous stage this spring.

Following on from Children’s Mental Health Week last month, the students have the chance to build on their creativity, courage and skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Stagecoach Basingstoke and Basingstoke West, alongside various Stagecoach Performing Arts schools, have travelled many miles to London to perform over the weekend, and have been rehearsing for what will make another spectacular showcase.

These include a total of 315 students from across the country, including, Wokingham, Bath, Halifax, Ashford, Reading Caversham, Saffron Walden, Whitstable and Faversham, Thanet, Sutton, and Chigwell, Banbury, Headington and Oxford Summertown.

Rachel Barker, principal of Stagecoach Basingstoke West, said: “We're really excited to be hitting the West End Stage again, especially after the previous booking of the event was rescheduled due to Covid.

“For the majority of our students, it will be their first time performing in London, and everyone is buzzing for the event. Basingstoke West is performing an upbeat 70s medley, in homage to the popular musical 'Saturday Night Fever'.

“Students from Basingstoke are performing a newly devised piece based around the anniversary of VE Day coinciding with Covid lockdowns. We are very proud of our students and how hard they have worked despite continued Covid restrictions impacting our rehearsal process.”

A spokesperson for the Stagecoach Performing Arts said the schools recently reported a seven percent rise in student enrollments since 2020, and it prides itself on building Creative Courage For Life among students which is more important than ever as children’s mental health, confidence and development have been impacted by the lockdown.

“Performing arts’ powerful impact on improving children’s mental health, along with the need for social interaction, a creative outlet and a happy and positive environment where children can be themselves and make friends, have been key contributors to this spike in enquiries and enrolments.

“Stagecoach aims to make a difference in its students’ lives by teaching Creative Courage for Life and many children have gone on to study and work in Performing Arts from blockbuster films to countless roles in local theatre productions. Early Stages classes are available for children aged four to six and Main Stages classes take place for six to 18-year-olds every weekend during term time.”

Stagecoach Performing Arts Basingstoke and Basingstoke West are part of a network of more than 2000 extra-curricular Performing Arts Schools worldwide.