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Celebrated actress launches drama group in Castle Vale

A new club has arrived for young people in Castle Vale hosted by award-winning actress Nichola Burley.

With an aim to build confidence, self-awareness and emotional awareness through drama therapy, the workshop equips children and teenagers aged 10-16 with skills to take forward in life. Funded by Children in Need for the next three years, the workshops are designed to be fun and high-energy to separate them from a school environment; this in turn helps young people figure skills out without building anxiety by exacting set goals within defined timescales.

Nichola brings years of experience to the club having portrayed leading roles in popular TV series such as Shameless and Downtown Abbey. She has been acting in TV and films for 18 years and owns a drama school and acting agency geared to help actors to get roles in TV and films, with previous students securing work for Netflix, BBC, CBeebies and more.

Now excited to take on this unique community project, Nichola reveals:

Our aim is to use drama to help children see themselves more positively. The idea of drama can sometimes be intimidating or even slightly dated; once you break those barriers children can benefit from it hugely. Catering for children from different backgrounds and with varying needs, we believe that the best form of self-expression is being creative, and we support this without the pressure of exams or tests.

There doesn’t have to be a lot of pressure like standing up in school and speaking by yourself. We always work to incorporate fun, new activities that make kids think and work with film/TV scripts that they will recognise.

Each weekly class is catered differently to include a variety of techniques; from applying prosthetics & make up, scriptwriting, developing accents, and acting on camera – the motivation of each session is to have fun.

One insightful lesson even works on children’s perceptions using mirrors. The children describe what they see in their reflections, then lead an open discussion with the group to come away with an understanding that everyone sees both positives and negatives when looking at themselves. By showing that everybody is different this allows young minds to challenge the concept of what ‘normal’ is for both themselves and others.

Nichola continued:

To ensure we offer the best course for our students, we work closely with a team of psychologists who help us to assess the development of the programme. For us to improve what we do, we use bespoke scoring sheets that are completely optional for the children or parents to fill in. This allows us to chart the students’ mood, how they view themselves and others, their relationships and positive influences in their life.”

As a result, we had a girl who initially scored her self-esteem as a 3 and upon leaving she changed this to a 9 – and that was in one session! We were able to then push forward and ask what she liked and what she felt worked well in the class. It was so beautiful, in the first session she just turned around and said “for once I just felt like I can be me.

Attendance on The Vale has seen an uptake, however there are a number of placements still open to anyone interested. Children from all backgrounds are welcome to join and there is always flexibility in case students need any one to one time or a break from the group.

The group meets on Wednesdays from 5pm – 7pm at The Sanctuary in Castle Vale and interested parties can find out more by contacting Nichola on 07950196977 or