Sky Academy Arts Scholarship winner remoulding Kenan & Kel for the stage

Yinka Ayinde

Yinka Ayinde - Credit: Archant

Sky Academy Arts Scholarship winner Yinka Ayinde speaks to Zoe Paskett about bringing Kenan & Kel back to cater to overlooked audiences

Breaking into the arts industry is notoriously tough. Nepotism aside, big breaks are rare and for many it takes years of hard graft with little reward to achieve some level of influence.

As tuition fees are being relentlessly increased over time, more and more young people are missing out on opportunities to enter into their desired fields.

“There are vast numbers of amazingly creative people that are out there with the potential to create the future classics but who can’t afford to,” says Yinka Ayinde.

“Funding can mean the difference between pursuing your talent and your dream and giving up because you’re not sure how much longer you can cope.”

Yinka has recently been announced as one of the winners of the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship.

The scholarship supports five emerging artists in the UK and Ireland every year by providing mentoring and financial support to allow winners to continue to pursue their craft.

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Yinka, a 25-year-old creative producer who grew up in the Wendling Estate in Kentish Town, is remoulding cult classic TV show Kenan & Kel into a three-episode stage production.

Each episode will have a two week run with three weeks of rehearsal in between.

“I want to create the ultimate environment for nineties nostalgia before and after the show. It will be an extremely fun night out with theatre at the heart of it.”

Yinka entered the entertainment world as a radio presenter and producer while studying at the University of Bedford.

Attracting a large audience, he and his co-host began to present variety events, music nights and game shows.

Yinka cites the emergence of Afrobeats music in 2012 into mainstream UK popular culture as his push into the arts.

“This was really exciting for me and many others because it was what I grew up with.

“Not only did we understand this sudden popular culture, we were that culture.”

He wanted to make a contribution to the movement, noticing that “there was nothing that represented the modern day sound, dance and popularity of African culture”, and created Oliva Tweest: An Afrobeats Musical as a result.

“I stepped into this industry with blissful ignorance which actually played in my favour.

“I had the confidence to just call up a West End venue and ask to hire it out for a night.

“I put on ‘Oliva Tweest at The Lyric Theatre in the West End and had a sold out show on a marketing budget of £90!”

Yinka targets audiences that, like himself, aren’t adequately represented.

75 per cent of his audiences are under 30 and 80 per cent are of BAME backgrounds.

“I don’t believe they are catered for and when they are it’s never the main show, it’s never for a run in one of the top theatres and it would usually be an amateur production.

“Theatres don’t reach out to them effectively or make it attractive for them to feel invited.”

The past few years have been hard, but Yinka believes that he has what it takes to make it in the world of theatre.

“Ever since I started out it has been an upward struggle,” he says.

“I applied for the scholarship three years ago and never even made the long list.

“But I feel now was the right time as I’ve gained more experience, become more credible in my work and grown as an artist.”

The other winners are classical sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun, theatre director Caitlin McLeod, filmmaker Sarah Grant and visual artist Gearoid O’Dea.