Photo of Charlotte Armitage, YAFTA

Charlotte Armitage

Charlotte Armitage has been nominated by Victoria Clapham who says “Charlotte is the Founder of The Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA).

YAFTA offers an exclusive, credible alternative to formal drama school training for those looking to work within the film and television industry. It was set up by Charlotte in 2013, born from her own frustration as an actor.

She sought quality acting classes, taught by professionals within the industry. Unfortunately, she found these few and far between, except for formal acting schools, predominately based in London.”

Who has she helped?

“When she started out, Charlotte had been declared bankrupt and had become a single parent. Undeterred, YAFTA was launched and quickly gained a strong reputation with clients and people within the industry.

Within only a few years, it became apparent that on-screen diversity was lacking and there was also a lack of support and representation for actors with disabilities. Charlotte, who also owns YAFTA Talent Agency, represents actors with and without disabilities.

She is working hard to change the on-screen representation of diversity and also wants to give Northern-based actors just as much opportunity to succeed in the acting industry as those based in the South.

YAFTA works with various different community groups; schools with students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and also students who are in the criminal justice system. These students are trained up in the skill of acting and helped to gain mainstream acting work.

The YAFTA academy and YAFTA talent agency are based in Leeds and offer classes for teenagers and adults. The company also operates classes across Yorkshire (classes take place in 5 key locations) for those who have a passion and desire to work in the acting industry. Courses are inclusive and cater for diverse groups, including those with learning and physical disabilities.

YAFTA has placed two actors in high profile roles in leading UK TV programmes. Liam Bairstow who has Down Syndrome is the first actor with the condition to secure a regular role in Coronation Street (working in Roy’s café); and James Moore, who has cerebral palsy, has just been nominated for an NTA as his role as Ryan Stocks in Emmerdale.

Charlotte is also working closely with industry professionals, casting agents and the BBC to inform industry guidelines for working with actors with learning disabilities.

Additionally, YAFTA has successfully helped many Northern-based actors secure roles in TV shows including; BBC Casualty, Doctors, Love, Lies & Records, From Darkness, BBC3’s Coconut, ITV’s Emmerdale, Coronation Street, In the Club, Happy Valley and C4’s Hollyoaks. We’ve proven that location isn’t a barrier to success in the acting industry.”

What’s worked?

“Over the past three years, the business has grown significantly. Having started as a very small business, running two evening classes in Leeds, the academy now runs courses which are unique in the industry.

Its diploma programmes include Acting for Screen, Acting for Screen Youth Diploma, Film & TV Production, Screenwriting, as well as workshops with industry professionals.

Seeing our actors with learning disabilities make their mark in groundbreaking roles is truly inspirational and fantastic for others looking to break into the industry.

We are breaking down barriers and people are starting to pay attention and listen. These aren’t token roles. They are carefully considered, key roles with complex characters, which is brilliant.

YAFTA prides itself on honesty and integrity. It’s at the heart of the brand. It’s this approach that has helped to build the confidence that our students and professionals alike have in the organisation as a high quality educational establishment in the Film & TV industry.”

What have you learned? Any challenges?

“To follow our instincts and be confident in our choices. That bringing experience from other industries can help to make positive and innovative changes.

To be proud of who we are. Being Northern is what has made us successful, if we have tried to follow suit and do this in London, we wouldn’t have had the success that we have had.

Many people think that you have to be in London to be an actor, or that people with disabilities can’t work onscreen in mainstream roles. We have proven that this is not the case. We’re proud to be changing opinions and attitudes and to bring opportunities to those who felt that they might not have had the chance.”

What’s next?

“Charlotte continues to work closely with key contacts within the industry to further awareness and opportunities for those with learning disabilities. This includes developing industry guidelines.

We’re also keen to engage people from other minority backgrounds because there is a lack of actors from diverse backgrounds on screen, and involved in the arts in general.

YAFTA would love to offer a scholarship for our Youth Diploma to someone from an ethnic minority background with the potential and desire to work in the acting industry. We will open up this opportunity to colleges/six form students in areas with a high representation of those from under-represented groups.

Charlotte has also started a Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology this year at Teesside University. It expands on her experience of sitting on the Board of Trustees for two NHS-funded mental health charities in Leeds. One deals specifically with black, minority and ethnic groups and the other is a crisis service.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help?

“Charlotte is keen to help minority groups make their mark in the acting industry including black and ethnic minority communities; expanding on our work with people with learning and physical disabilities. Alongside this, we would love to engage with people working with mental health in the arts.

YAFTA is in a position to help people needing advice about breaking into the acting industry or film & TV industry, particularly school pupils considering their post-16 education options. Any connections that could lead to speaking opportunities within the education sector would be beneficial.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!

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