Spotlight on Jesse Paul

Jesse leads on all of the Royal Conservatoire’s fair access programme, including its award-winning Transitions programme. We catch up with her on what makes Fair Access distinctive at RCS.

What does Fair Access mean to you?

Fair access is about enabling people who wouldn’t get the chance to experience all the new different things that the performing arts offers whether that’s because of social, educational, geographical, cultural, physical or financial barriers.

For an institution like RCS, which develops and nurtures the world’s very best talented performers, fair access policies which start early in young people’s educational journey helps to recognise potential and help those pupils rise to conservatoire-level ability.

Fair access policies and practices are important because they remove the apartheid of privilege which can be so challenging for many.

Tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on this year.

We ran a pilot project with MCR Pathways last summer, which took the form of a cross-disciplinary, week-long summer school. This was a new partnership for RCS and the young people had never been to a conservatoire before. The summer school was truly transformational and one year later, two of the participants have been accepted onto the Transitions widening access programme at RCS to further develop their skills, and two students reached the final recall stage of the BA Acting auditions – a massive achievement given that they were competing with more than 1500 other applicants. This pilot project was obviously immensely successful, but for me, what was special was how much each of the participants learnt about themselves during the course.

Can you tell us about some of the achievements of the young people on RCS fair access programmes this year?

We’ve had lots of positive destinations to report this year – including Timmy Chiwalla who took part in both the Transitions and the Widening Access to the Creative Industries (WACI) programmes through RCS, and has just been accepted onto the BA Acting programme. Hope Sim and Abbie Menzies also both came through the WACI programme and are now in first year studying Bachelor of Education (Music) and Filmmaking.

We are lucky enough to also be able to follow our students and celebrate their successes along the way. Chris Mickey was a Transitions students and started on the BMus degree at RCS last year playing the flute. Now in his second year of study, he has started depping for third year positions, such is his talent. Also, Adam Lee (first year clarinettist) won a major competition this year – and he’s only in first year! He came to RCS through the Transitions programme and it’s a pleasure to see him doing so well.

What is it that makes RCS such a distinctive environment for young people to learn?

Honestly, it’s the time that each student gets across all programmes. RCS is quite unlike anywhere else and there’s a real family feel around the building. Every student gets so much time with their tutors and mentors, and this expertise helps them gain employment when they graduate – you only need to look at the employability rates of RCS graduates to see the proof of this.

What’s been your favourite moment of the past year?

Watching students grow on their journeys towards positive destinations and the many ways that both staff and students develop in new, surprising ways.

RCS is quite unlike anywhere else and there’s a real family feel around the building.

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