Talented students at the Hammond school of performing arts in Chester are getting a new high-tech learning centre from Cheshire Freemasons.
The school, currently celebrating its centenary, has received a grant of £25,000 from a £500,000 fund that the local Masons are donating to charities across Cheshire to celebrate the 300th year of Freemasonry. The money is being spent on providing the budding musicians and stage performers with computers and laptops that they need to support their academic success.
Julia Edwards, the Hammond’s Marketing Manager, said: “The new learning resource centre will play a vital role in ensuring that our students are properly prepared for their future in performance, helping them to achieve academic success in addition to their vocational training’
Since its beginnings as a dance class, under the direction of Irene Hammond, in the Ballroom at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester, the Hammond has provided a supportive and nurturing environment for talented young performers.
A registered charity, the school is recognised and funded as a centre of excellence by the Department for Education under the Music and Dance Scheme, and is one of only nine residential schools nationally within the scheme. The school also receives financial support through the Education Funding Agency’s Dance and Drama Award Scheme for some of its post-16 students.
Although an independent school, admission to the Hammond is based on both talent and potential, regardless of personal circumstances, with many students relying on financial support from state agencies in order to attend the school. Now the Hammond is extending even further into the field of higher education with a BA (Hons) Degree in Musical Theatre Performance, validated by The University of Chester.
Many former students of The Hammond have gone on to pursue stage careers in London’s West End and with professional ballet companies in the UK, and abroad such as Daniel Dolan from Widnes, who won a place with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and now at the age of 24, is a principle dancer with the Lithuania National Ballet Theatre.
The Provincial Grand Master of Cheshire Freemasons, accountant Stephen Blank from Altrincham, said: “Our gift comes from funds provided by more than 5,000 Freemasons from across Cheshire. They are ordinary family men who regularly donate out of their own pockets to worthy charitable causes such as the Hammond, which gives young people from less privileged backgrounds the chance to develop their talent in the performing arts and go on to make a successful stage career for themselves.
“However the new learning resource centre we are helping to fund will help ensure the students achieve the academic success they may need to have in reserve later in life.”