Teenagers in silent march to save classes at Hampstead arts college Wac Arts

Weekend courses at Wac Arts have been saved. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Weekend courses at Wac Arts have been saved. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Dozens of teenagers were unusually quiet as they marched to Hampstead on Sunday as part of a performing art college’s fundraising drive to save weekend courses.

About 50 students from Wac Arts college marched silently from their base at Old Hampstead Town Hall in Haverstock Hill to the Hampstead Christmas Festival in the village to raise awareness of the charity’s need for funds.

The charity, which provides affordable training in the arts for young people seven days a week, will have to close its weekend programme of classes for 650 five to 25-year-olds in January if it does not find £15,000 in 21 days.

Celia Greenwood, the college’s CEO, said: “[The march] was a performance event. You can imagine quite how difficult it was for a huge number of teenagers to be silent for half an hour, but they did it to raise awareness and to engage with the local community.

“We are different in that we don’t focus on the most vulnerable young people, but that doesn’t recognise the fact that without positive activities they will become those young people who stand on street corners and descend into trouble.”

The appeal for funds, dubbed the Longevity Project, comes after the college lost all of its Arts Council funding two years ago.

The performing arts centre has struggled to plug the £100,000 shortfall since, forcing the charity to change its financial strategy as it can no longer rely on public funding.

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Wac Arts is now calling on philanthropists, charities and its vast alumni network, which includes pop singer Ms Dynamite, Hotel Rwanda actress Sophie Okenedo and Secrets&Lies star Marianne Jean Baptiste, to donate to the cause.

Even if the 35-year-old college reaches its target of £15,000, it will only be running a skeleton programme of weekend classes for youngsters from the new year.

“The team that set up the [fundraising drive] felt it was achievable,” Ms Greenwood said.

“We would really need £30,000 to run it this term, but we think we can raise enough to get people engaged and to keep the connection going.

“We are hoping that it will give us a breather as at the moment we are so busy fundraising and putting in bids to foundations and trusts.”

The £15,000 target will buy the college enough time to keep its weekend classes going for about nine months, while staff at the charity find the necessary funds to support the programme from next September.

To donate, visit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2007251050/wac-arts-longevity-project.