Stage star’s school at risk
Bid to save town’s youth theatre
THESE days, John OwenJones is a household name and frequent face on the West End’s stages.
But the performer’s long-standing love affair with the stage began a long time ago, in a small theatre group in the heart of Llanelli.
Today, however, Llanelli Youth Theatre, commonly known as LYT, is under threat and John OwenJones, along with the group’s impressive alumni of industry stars, are calling for help in order to save their second home.
The group is struggling to make ends meet because of cuts to arts funding. It wants to raise £5,000 so it can continue to stage productions, harness young talent and curate the next generation of young stars.
Founded in 1984, LYT was established by a band of youngsters with a passion for performing.
Jill Stevens, the group’s administrator and founding member, said: “We have been running the group for almost 35 years on a completely voluntary basis. But now, because of the lack of grant funding for the arts and the difficulty of fundraising these days, we need to raise £5,000 so we can carry on doing what we are doing.”
She added: “The view for establishing the group was an amateur setting with professional training and attitude. Its aim was to present quality drama, while at the same time involving young people.
“We started as a really small group and over the years it has gradually built and now thousands of students have been a part of it.
“We have had graduates from RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), Bird College and Drama Centre London,” added Jill.
“We have had students who have been series regulars on television shows, stars in West End productions and students who have moved over to the production side of things – producing and directing for the National Theatre and the BBC.”
And this seems to only scratch the surface with the theatre group known for producing quality talent. Its alumni includes Trimsaran-born actor Trystan Gravelle, who starred in ITV’s Mr Selfridge and BBC’s Baptiste, as well as National Theatre director Julia Thomas and West End School of Rock star Catherine Morris.
Jill added: “The majority of students don’t go into careers in the industry but learn invaluable skills that they can transfer through to their adult life.
“We are committed to building confidence, communication skills and working with others and we have had so many students who have walked through the doors shy and then left as a completely different person.”
Former LYT member and Mountview Arts graduate Owain Gunn said LYT had “no doubt” helped in him in his career.
However, he added: “But more than that, the friendships, confidence and respect I had there, will help me throughout my entire life.”
Members of Llanelli Youth Theatre in their production of Grease and (below) former member John Owen Jones, who is now a West End star.