Tuesday, 23 September 2014


It's been a while since we shared news on here; it's been a bit of a whirlwind summer! The Helen O'Grady Drama Academy, UK and Europe is celebrating 20 years of operation this year! The first Academies launched in Croydon and St. Helens/Warrington in September 1994. Both these schools are going strong, along with many more which have started up along the way

So much has happened in the time these Academies have been operating. Tens of thousands of children have attended classes, experiencing and benefiting from the amazing self-development programme we offer. 

The classes are full of exciting activities for children. During the autumn and spring terms, they include warm-ups, speech training, mimes to music, whole class improvisations and short scripts. The curriculum is constantly revised and updated to keep it fresh but the aims and objectives remain exactly the same as when Helen O’Grady started the first classes in Perth, Australia in 1979. Every week is different and every child is involved.

A special anniversary Seminar was hosted by Head Office on the beautiful island of Guernsey. Time was spent distributing awards to many Principals who have been with the Academy for up to 20 years.
Long serving Principals with their hand painted awards. 
As usual, at the Summer Seminar, Nigel Le Page presented his National Director's Award and the Head Office team chose this year's Franchisee of the Year.

North Leicestershire Principal, Beth Daniel, receives her award, from the HO team, for Franchisee of the Year, 2014
Neil O'Gorman, SE London, accepts the National Director's Award

Following a very successful Seminar, Head Office hosted a reception at the stunning Castle Cornet on the seafront at St. Peter Port (below), followed by a gala dinner with entertainment at one of Guernsey's top hotels.

Founder of the Academy, Helen O'Grady, was unable to attend the celebrations due to her husband's ill health but sent a congratulatory message including these words:

"For thirty years I was Executive Director of the International Academy Network. I first opened the Academy in Perth, with 100 students, in 1979. Taking it across Australia and, eventually, to the world, required great dedication, persistence, energy and, above all, a genuine love for children and their well being. Sometimes, when the task seemed so immense, I would re-read a favourite quote from George Bernard Shaw:

"Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I've got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

I urge you to envisage that splendid torch and pledge to keep a strong hold on it as you guide your students towards a hopeful and fulfilling future!"

And so, all Principals are back in their offices and back in class, passing on amazing skills to even more children. If you want your child to experience that "hopeful and fulfilling future" visit our website www.helenogrady.co.uk to find a class near you.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


This morning, on BBC Breakfast, https://www.facebook.com/bbcbreakfast there was an article on sport and competitiveness in school. This is from their page:

"A new survey has found only 14% of kids think winning is the most important part of sport, while the majority of them think their parents care more about winning than they do!
So, should school sport be all about being the best, or is it the taking part that counts?"

I think everyone agrees, some competition is a healthy thing, and, as so many viewers wrote on the Breakfast page, you have to learn to lose in life to survive. 

But sometimes, the pressure of competition may spoil a child's enjoyment of their activity, whether it is sport, an academic subject or a leisure activity. Feeling the answers always have to be right stops some children from offering the answers in the first place. Always seeing the 'best' children answering questions or getting top marks and being praised for it can destroy a child's confidence. Maybe only a little bit at a time but a significant amount during a school year.

Here at the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy there are no 'stars' or, rather, every child is a star. We are at the beginning of our production term when Principals and teachers are casting their plays and starting rehearsals. In these year end plays, every child has an active role. Even if they have no individual lines to say on their own, all children will take part in ad-lib sections, join in 'all' lines, and belt out show songs with gusto! Not to mention acting and re-acting to whatever is happening on stage. Every single one of them is a big part of something positive and successful.

Our teachers are trained to involve every child, all the time. Each little actor will receive an award after their shows, either to mark the term's work or to celebrate an anniversary with the Academy. Some young adults are up to an award for the 16th year attending classes. 

The cast of 'Circus Capers' with their achievement awards.
As youngsters, they return year after year not only because they are having so much fun but also because their parents see a difference in their confidence. They are becoming that child who will raise his/her hand in class, and not worry if the answer they give isn't technically correct. They are volunteering to read aloud in assembly and acting as a mentor to shyer children in their class. As young adults they may choose to pursue their love of drama and Helen O'Grady classes will give them an excellent grounding for this but, equally, they will have a good grounding in whatever they choose to do in life.

All this from attending drama classes where they are constantly valued and encouraged. Where there are no wrong answers and they will gain as much praise from their peers as they do from their teachers. As productions get under way we wish all our Principals, teachers and students good luck with rehearsals and we look forward to hearing the success stories during the term, as well as after the shows.

Please do share any stories on the blog with us, if you have already seen Helen O'Grady productions.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


After a very exciting few weeks in Toronto, Canada, Grady Bear is finally back on UK soil. He enjoyed the flight and caused lots of smiles as he was travelling.

He had great fun in classes with lots of lovely Canadian children, enjoying the classes almost as much as they did. He loved all the stretching and curling - especially after spending the long flight curled up in the overhead luggage rack!

He liked watching the Lazy Worms and the Birds, and he thought he may like some of those worms for dinner!

But he grew just a little bit tired of the cold and spent a lot of time watching the snow settle from his cosy apartment.

So, when it was time to leave, he very quickly packed and waited for his ride to the airport.

He will miss all the lovely children and their parents but he is happy to be back in the office in Somerset. Just a bit exhausted!

Jetlag has taken its toll and it may be a few days before he is back in routine. And will it ever stop raining in England???

Friday, 25 October 2013


Training Supervisor, Becky Goodfield, is currently working with Sercin Duran, new Franchisee in Istanbul. Sercin trained in Bristol in July and is, this week, launching her first classes. What an interesting city Istanbul is! Class was over at sunset last night and there was a stunning view from the studio.

Our self-development classes are designed to build:
  • Confidence
  • Self-esteem
  • Skill in verbal communication
  • English language skills
  • Social skills
  • Listening skills
Yesterday's class was an 'Open House' with children and parents throwing themselves into the lesson with great enthusiasm, even though they didn't quite understand everything we were saying!
Becky explains very carefully about ad-libbing - a new phrase in the children's vocabulary.
The whole lesson was very exciting - the audience joined in with warm up activities and speech work.

Mums, dads and children warming up!
As well as developing the children's confidence, the Helen O'Grady system is a very efficient tool for encouraging English as a foreign language. Each week the students - who already range from 5 to 11 years - will add a handful of new phrases to their vocabulary. Yesterday phrases included:
  • How exciting!
  • I'm very tired.
  • My name is....
  • What a beautiful day!
  • I feel so much better now.
and they also joined in with several conversations in Turkish as well as in English.

New Principal, Sercin, is fluent in both Turkish and English, so will be her own interpreter in future classes! 
Children playing tricks at the end of the class. Seated l to r - Training Supervisor, Becky Goodield, Training Manager, Margaret Darley and Istanbul Franchisee, Sercin Duran.
Classes start this weekend in Cihangir, Etiler, and Tarabya. Tel: 90 0212 332 10 02
Email: info@helenogradyistanbul .com

Have you had any experience of teaching - or learning - English as a foreign language? Please comment to share your experiences.

Friday, 6 September 2013


Malta Principal, Alan Montanaro, a former recipient of the Helen O'Grady National Director's Award, has recently returned from a life changing summer teaching drama classes, based on the Helen O'Grady Programme to children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Alan, pictured third from right below on the SS Great Britain at a dinner following the summer Seminar in Bristol in July, share his experiences on his Facebook page through a daily blog.
Visit: https://www.facebook.com/dramaoutreachproject for full details

The 'Times Of Malta' were right behind the cause and published the blog each day. Following is part of  an article published before the mammoth trip.

"Alan Montanaro is a synonymous in Malta with drama; he’s beloved of what must now be a good generation or two for his eponymous dames in Malta’s festive season pantomimes.  In the past decade or so, Alan has grown his love of drama and performance to run a successful private drama school, as the Malta branch of Helen O’Grady Academy.  You’d think he and his team would have enough on their plate, working flat out all academic year and running summer schools to take the month of August off, rest a little and prepare for the next year. But, that’s not how Alan and a group of close friends and colleagues are spending this summer.  Alan, together with Chiara Hyzler, has set up an NGO - ’Drama Outreach Project‘, or ‘DO’ – which seeks to bring a unique developmental programme using drama and music to teach English and self development to children in underprivileged communities. This summer, the NGO’s first live project sees Alan and a group of eight head to Phnom Penh to run the programme in an orphanage and a drop-in day centre for street children. It’s pioneering work and yet he is determined to make a difference beyond Malta with the skills he and the team have developed here.

We caught up with Alan at home a couple of weeks ago to find out how the project came to be, why Cambodia, and why now. Here’s what Alan told us…
“I turned 50 a year or so back and it was a sort of turning point also in what I wanted to focus on in life, and where my new ambitions lie.  Gaby [Alan's wife] and I have always wanted to go overseas and volunteer in a meaningful way. ‘Voluntourism’ is now a word that’s entered people’s vocab, and it best describes our DO Cambodia project. “The actual work on the ground will be a version of our Fun Factory summer schools here in Malta. We’ll be working with the children to create props and then use them in drama, so they ease themselves into this rather unfamiliar environment in a very hands-on way and get to know us as they do so.

 “Cambodia may seem a distant choice as our first DO Project; it’s not a country that’s been focused on by any Malta-based charity or NGO as far as we know. I have always wanted to learn more about this part of Asia; a region that was in the news as I grew up, but felt outside our sphere of knowledge all the same. The aftermath of the Pol Pot regime has a very long reach; in those years of atrocity under his rule, an entire educated generation was all but wiped out so you have a country still affected by the repercussions of the genocide, yet one with energy and a thirst to be part of an international community.

“The children we are going to be working are in two centres; one an orphanage; the other a day centre run by an NGO which takes in children who may have parents but who are sent out to work on the streets. These children find comfort, food, shelter and friends and some education at this centre – ‘Le Restaurant des Enfants‘ – which acts as second home for them, providing them with some stability and safe haven as it were.  Its Facebook page gives you the background on how it operates.
“Of course, it will be unknown territory for us. Until we arrive, we won’t know exactly what we’ll face and we’ll need to be very adaptable and go with the flow. These are children who won’t have much English, if any, but who probably come across English-speaking tourists on the streets. We hope to get them to develop self-confidence through drama and learn a little more English on the way; skills that will help their daily survival now and hopefully inspire them to continue their education, as best they can.

Our key aim is to ensure a legacy and develop a structure on the ground to ensure the DO project summer ’13 is carried on locally. Helen O’Grady does operate across the world and has looked closely at our work in Malta developing English skills through drama, which is something it’s keen to develop.  But, the Drama Outreach Project is very much a product of our work in Malta and our personal aims as a group to do voluntary work overseas.

Read the full blog at https://www.facebook.com/dramaoutreachproject

This was part of Alan's closing contribution to the blog:

The day started on a surprisingly upbeat note as we prepared a poster with caricatures that didn’t really look anything like us, pocketed our sparklers, blew up balloons on our tuk-tuks (almost causing a massive traffic pile-up in the process as a couple inevitably flew away) and headed off to LRDE for the farewell party we were throwing... but Mr Chiu and his amazing team, in true Cambodian fashion, beat us to it.
We arrived blowing whistles, waving balloons like idiots and generally making a lot of noise to find all the children sitting down in neat rows in absolute silence. We were quickly asked to sit down and, as on our first day, were treated to a show of traditional Khmer dances by the children we have been working with. They were absolutely BRILLIANT!
After the show it was party time and while everybody danced and ate from their bag of goodies, we took as many pictures as possible. We don't want to forget the friends we've made and if we do find support for the children we want to be able to show the sponsors who they are, what their story is, etc.....................

Meet the boys. That deckchair is wedged between a boundary wall and a swimming pool. It's their "home".

..........................As we prepared to say our goodbyes, once again, Cambodia slapped us in the face with its inherent contradictions: there is sadness and there is happiness, there is poverty and there is love, there is misery...and most importantly there is hope. And it is this intense sense of hope that fills you up from within, drives and motivates you to help, and makes you fall in love with this beautiful South East Asian country.
I am honestly afraid that on my return home, I might sock the first person who complains about their petty day-to-day problems. They have no idea how good they have it."

Spare ten minutes to read the full blog - there is so much to be done - if you would like to help, contact DO Outreach through their Facebook page: 

On behalf of the children - thank you.