Honley Drama & Speech School
Opening TimesFri: 5pm – 7 pm
Sat: 9am – 12:30pm
Inspiring Young People
Natalie Johnstone has been inspiring young people to put their best foot forward and find their inner confidence since she was a child.
The drama school owner has lifted the curtain on Honley Drama & Speech School to showcase the creative hub where she nurtures her rising young stars.
Natalie first stepped on to the stage as a young dancer, but after being diagnosed with hyper-mobility, her parents sought alternative activities.
When they first walked into Koren Vanyj’s drama school in Honley, (established 1988), little did they know, that by 2009, their daughter would be calling it her own.
“I was 9-years-old when I started acting and by the age of 19 – and still a student at university – I took over the drama school,” said Natalie.
Finding an Inner Confidence
Natalie’s lifelong love for performing saw her find an inner confidence she never knew existed. She successfully progressed through the school, even helping in the younger classes from the age of 11.
“I always wanted to be on stage but, as a child, I used to get very nervous so I had to dare myself to do it,” she said.
“Performing, helping in the younger classes, and ultimately taking on the drama school really gave me the confidence I needed. It helped me to believe in myself.
“The more confident I became, the more I wanted to help other people find their voices and their inner confidence.”
First Class Qualifications
In addition to her first-class degree in Drama and Teaching (with QTS), Natalie also holds LAMDA qualifications (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) in a range of performing arts.
As well as running the drama school, Natalie is Head of Drama at Huddersfield Grammar School. She has also continued to teach the LAMDA syllabus and the drama school is a registered private centre for ‘speech’ students wanting to earn qualifications in acting, devising, musical theatre, public speaking, poetry and reading for performance.
“I remember the day so clearly. I had all the children doing their LAMDA exams and by the end of the day it was my turn,” said Natalie. “Despite taking on a business aged 19 and studying at university, I got a distinction and earned myself a gold medal.”
A Drama School That is Accessible to All
Natalie still remembers how daunting it could feel to walk into a new class.
“Ours is a no pressure environment,” she said. “If students want to remain behind the scenes, there is a role for everyone here.
“We don’t strive for perfection. In our drama workshop sessions, we explore different genres, performance styles, characters and staging skills but our main focus is for the children to just give it a go, as we know every little bit helps with social development.
“We are professional, educational and fun, we are friendly, inclusive and encouraging.”
Hands on Learning That is Always Fun
Younger children can enjoy imaginative roleplay and familiarise themselves with basic character skills and staging terminology. Name registers are taken in foreign languages. There is opportunity for show and tell, story time, and performing characters within stories. Children learn poetry and Shakespeare quotations.
Natalie said: “The aim is to gradually build the idea of being onstage, and to develop their characterisations through gestures and facial expressions.”
The junior and senior drama students are encouraged to improvise characters and devise scenes, which they then script and edit together for performance. As part of the process, they are invited to film and watch themselves act to help build stage presence and awareness.
Classes, for young people, aged 2 ½ to 18 years, include:
- Junior Speech, 7 years plus
Friday, 5pm – 6pm
- Senior Speech, 11 years plus
Friday, 6pm – 7pm
- Tots’ Drama, 2 ½ to 6 years
Saturday, 9am – 9:45am
- Junior Drama, 7 – 11 years
Saturday, 10am – 11am
- Senior Drama, 11 years plus
Saturday, 11am – 12:30pm
Natalie said: “As well as actors, some of my graduating students have become doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers. Our aim is to develop confidence and social skills that students can carry throughout their life.”