Deanna Rodger, one of the Lyric's new Young Artistic Associates

In West London, a group of young theatre lovers have been given the opportunity to pursue a career in the arts. Funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Lyric Hammersmith has appointed four young people as Young Artistic Associates, with another three roles available next year. The scheme provides full-time paid work for trainees who could not otherwise afford to work in theatre. Under-represented groups are targeted, such as women working in backstage roles and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

This year, Elliott Daley will work on the Lyric’s schemes for young people, Jenny McNally within production, whilst Deanna Rodger and Nathan Bryon share the performance post. The four trainees have been given support from a number of theatre luminaries such as Olivier-award winning lighting designer Paule Constable, Soho Theatre’s Artistic Director Steve Marmion and Tony Gouveia, Associate Director of Immediate Theatre. These and others will act in mentor roles throughout the Young Artistic Associates scheme.

I spoke to performance poet Deanna Rodger about how she got involved in the scheme and her hopes for the future. As Deanna has professional commitments outside the Lyric, she has been offered the opportunity to job share the Performance role with colleague Nathan Bryon. Deanna’s involvement with the Lyric started in 2007 when she met fellow poet Dean Atta. They quickly both became involved in Lyric Lounge, a regular showcase for new poets and singers. Together they created the popular Poetry and Pimms event, a garden party held in the Lyric’s rooftop garden, and Come Rhyme with Me, a poetry evening presented as a dining experience. As part of the scheme, Deanna was thrown into the deep end with three weeks of solid rehearsal for the Lyric’s annual pantomime, and is now working on new play Mogadishu. Deanna’s mentors include Roger Robinson, who she describes as “a fantastic, fantastic poet – master of the spoken word”. She also works closely with playwright Simon Stephens, and with Ferdy Roberts, Artistic Director of Filter Theatre, who are both “absolutely brilliant.” Perhaps surprisingly for a performance poet, Deanna admits: “I’ve always lacked confidence, Lyric has been really supportive”

After her time as a Young Artistic Associate, she hopes to gain formal acting training with the Young People’s Theatre Company, as well as pursue more production roles.

And five, ten years down the line? “I want to be a respected actress known internationally – but as a multi-talented writer and performer. I want to publish my poetry and get it into school anthologies!” With the enviable support Deanna is given, this ambition seems entirely feasible. One thing is for certain – the Young Artistic Associates will surely go on to do great things, and are names to watch out for in years to come.