Originally called the Central Junior Television Workshop, the Television Workshop is an organisation offering performing arts training to students aged seven to twenty-one. Known for its emphasis on improvisation, it teaches performance skills across multiple mediums; TV, theatre, film and radio. The BAFTA-winning Television Workshop was founded in 1983, originally based in Nottingham. Since 2012 the original workshop has co-existed with a Salford based workshop.
The organisation operates a bursary system, which is a key reason for its reputation as a reliable pool of working-class acting talent. It has strong industry links and a focus on practical career-focused training. Summing up what they offer students, the Television Workshop says of itself: ‘A Workshopper will be easily identified by their raw, edgy honest and professional approach in their attitude to work, and their dedication to developing themselves as well as their drama skills.’
The Television Workshop’s Patrons
The Television Workshop’s patrons are alumni Samantha Morton (Minority Report, The Walking Dead), director Shane Meadows (This Is England) and in Salford, Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave, Doctor Who).
Potentially the organisation’s best known alumni, Vicky McClure has starred in BBC’s Line of Duty and of course the This Is England films & TV series. Vicky is Nottingham born and bread auditioning for the Television Workshop aged 11. She was initially unsuccessful, but was recalled a week later when another pupil dropped out.
She began working with Nottingham based director Shane Meadows in 1999. At just fifteen, she was the youngest person to audition for A Room for Romeo Brass, securing the role of Ladine. In her late teens Vicky went through a period of uncertainty, unsure whether to pursue acting as a career. She worked various retail jobs eventually going part-time aged nineteen. This gave her the time to attend auditions in London. She successfully landed a series of TV walk-on parts before bumping into Shane Meadows in the pub. He invited her to play Lol in his upcoming film This Is England, a role which would see her win multiple awards.
Vicky has spoken to Radio Times about her time at the Television Workshop. She has suggested that similar opportunities should be available in all cities.
Jack O’Connell was born to an English mother and Irish father in Derby. Jack got his big break in the TV series Skins. He also appears in This Is England alongside Vicky McClure, in a role written especially for him. His early career habit of attending interviews hungover bought him a reputation as a party boy. He credits director Angelina Jolie for changing his outlook when they worked together on Unbroken.
In and out of court for much of his childhood, Jack’s juvenile record initially held up his Hollywood dreams. Angelina Jolie did a ring-around of people he’d previously worked with to check up on his bad boy reputation. At The Television Workshop he developed a friendship with fellow student Michael Socha, with whom he would attend London auditions. His Dad would obtain discount train tickets for the pair from work, but sometimes they were forced to sleep rough.
You may recognise Michael Socha from the moving video to this recent Elderbrook & Rudimental track. Fueled by the frustration of missing out on a school play role, Michael successfully auditioned for the role of Bugsy Malone at a local drama club. He was just twelve years old at the time and two years later he would begin studying at the Television Workshop. Whilst his mum was at work Michael would travel to London for auditions alone from the age of sixteen.
Like many other Television Workshop alumni, Michael has worked with director Shane Meadows. He appeared in his film This Is England, reprising his role for the TV series. He has also performed opposite Robert Carlyle in BAFTA Scotland winning film Summer.
Discovered by Television Centre patron Samantha Morton. Molly Windsor’s first professional acting role was in Channel 4 drama The Unloved, which was written by Morton. Just twelve at the time, she starred alongside fellow Television Centre alumni Lauren Socha. In 2017 she was named as BAFTA Breakthrough Brit. She also won the BAFTA TV Best Actress Award for her role as Holly in BBC true crime series Three Girls.
Making her professional debut in an episode of Peak Practice aged ten, Aisling also appeared in This Is England. The daughter of Irish parents, she grew up in Nottingham and began studying at the Television Workshop aged nine. She continued to appear in TV dramas including The Fastest Man in Britain starring Timothy Spall and Bobby Ball. In 2008 she was named a star of tomorrow by Screen International magazine. She received critical acclaim for her role in BBC drama Dive, with The Observer predicting that she will be a ‘phenomenon’. She is arguably best known for her role as Agnes in Mr Selfridge.
Best known for his roles in Skins and Game of Thrones, Liverpool-born Joe Dempsie is a Television Workshop alumni. He grew up in Nottingham starting at the Television Workshop aged thirteen. He credits the workshop with giving him an ease in his own skin both in front of the camera, and personally. Joe started out with TV series walk-on parts, in common with many of his peers. His credits include The Damned United starring Michael Sheen and Blitz alongside Jason Statham. Joe provided some light relief from the intense drama of This Is England ’86 and ’90 with his comedic character, Higgy.