The talented actor, writer and founder of Vision Centre for Actors, Corey Weekes, is all about giving back and boosting the chances of underprivileged youngsters
Corey Weekes is a writer and actor who trained at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts on a DADA scholarship. He’s worked in TV – Coronation Street and Doctors among others – as well as the West End and is about to open Rapsody at Coventry Belgrade theatre as writer and artistic director. Coming from a background of financial hardship that could have hampered Corey’s dreams, he was lucky to have had a chance meeting with an experienced actor who offered to mentor and coach him for free. Recognising that not all budding actors are as fortunate, Corey decided he wanted to help change things for young kids like him and give them a foothold in an industry that is notoriously tough to crack without connections and/or money. Like many actors, Corey hasn’t had an acting job since the pandemic began and has thrown himself into helping talented youngsters get ahead.
Corey launched the Vision Centre for Actors last year, initially offering acting lessons at a hugely reduced rate (£5 per lesson) which still proved a struggle for some. Now, thanks to a partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome and youth community interest group Bouncing Statistics – and with funding from the National Lottery and Arts Council England – Corey is offering a programme of free tuition, workshops and mentorship to talented 16 to 30-year-olds suffering from financial hardship.
Corey explains his motivation: “When I initially wanted to get into acting, I had all the passion and drive to learn but unfortunately none of the money to afford the classes on offer in Birmingham. I was lucky enough to be blessed with mentorship of a great teacher in Philip Hedley, but I couldn’t help wondering how many young people give up on their dreams because they aren’t so fortunate. I started Vision to provide hope to young people from humble beginnings that they can make their dreams materialise.”
Vision will take a cohort of 32 actors over the next year with auditions being held at the beginning of this month. They’ll enjoy access to free workshops with drama schools thanks to links with organisations like ALRA, LAMDA and RCSSD, there’ll be talks and workshops with industry professionals like casting directors and agents and they’ll leave Vision with show reels and headshots.
As well as honing acting skills and boosting opportunities, Corey is keen to prioritise well-being and good mental health, so there’ll be a big focus on that too with coaching from Bouncing Statistics. He is keen to make sure students understand the reality of the industry and are resilient. He says: “There’s down time when you’re an actor and we need to give youngsters the foundations to survive and find fulfilment in other ways too.”
The funding for Vision was crucial and a lengthy process. Corey brought a bid writer on board as the application was 68 pages which meant a lot of late nights and stress and thankfully it was successfully. He said: “This was only made possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery Arts Council England and we are so grateful. New research has found that only 27 per cent of actors come from a working-class background. It’s time young people from underprivileged backgrounds can truly be able to follow their dreams. Financial strain should not make anyone’s aspirations feel unreachable and that’s what we look to change here at Vision.”