Hollywood star James McAvoy has donated thousands of pounds to a youth theatre group in Edinburgh to make classes accessible to all during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Glasgow born X-Men, Last King of Scotland and IT actor pledged £10,000 to the Edinburgh Youth Theatre.
Social distancing rules meant its classes for three to 18-year-olds were no longer possible, so the weekly classes, usually held at the school in Bellfiled, Portobello, have had to be produced in an online format.
Despite the success of the online classes, EYT said its income was “severely reduced” as many parents could not commit to paying for classes – even though the company stood by its Pay What You Can Scheme to ensure they were accessible for everyone.
McAvoy made a “substantial donation” to the Pay What You Can Scheme, which means EYT can now offer The James McAvoy Bursary as the main branch of the scheme.
Any potential or current student facing financial hardship will be able to access the bursary scheme to reduce their fees to an amount manageable for their family.
The 41-year-old, who also starred in TV’s Shameless, has known EYT’s artistic director Shauna Macdonald since they were teenagers and attended Paisley Youth Theatre together.
He said: “Youth theatre was the spark that ignited a passion for drama in me, and as well as being the place I met Shauna it helped build in me a confidence that many children from low-income household lack.
“So many aspects of the performance industry and arts education already feel like the preserve of the privileged so I believe it is vital that enriching learning opportunities like Edinburgh Youth Theatre should be accessible to all.”
EYT said some of McAvoy’s donation was absorbed during its response to the pandemic when it produced online activities during lockdown, while the rest of the cash will be used for the bursary scheme that will run over two years.
The organisation said the donation will allow many young people in Scotland to access its online eight-week term this autumn, until Bellfield opens in October, called Take – ACTION!
It will include EYT’s first weekly film class as well as master classes with actors including Jack Lowden and Kate Dickie, director Philip John, several writers and international casting director Simone Pereira-Hind.
Macdonald said: “The James McAvoy Bursary means that many more young people in Edinburgh and beyond will have the chance to nurture their creative voice and be given a safe space to express themselves.
“I am passionate that drama can change people’s lives for the better.
“This bursary will allow EYT to positively affect so many more young people, helping them to not only excel in the arts but also to explore their sense of themselves and their world through using drama.”