In recognition for her outstanding contributions to the performing arts and the community, a local theatre school’s Principal in Leighton Buzzard has secured two prestigious awards at the SME Bedfordshire Business Awards.
The awards celebrate the success of businesses in the local area, making these wins more special because the winner has only been open for two years and doesn’t come from a business background.
Samantha Wingfield-Jones is the franchisee of Razzamataz Leighton Buzzard and the winner of both Young Businessperson of the Year and Leighton Buzzard Business Award.
“I was shocked to be nominated let alone winning two awards especially as I don’t have a business background,” explains Samantha. “I’m passionate about what Razzamataz stands for and the benefits that performing arts gives to children and young people, so I believe that is what shines through.”
During the ceremony, the judges remarked on how impressed they were with the application and all the great things that Samantha and her team are doing in the community as Samantha explains: “As a school, we have always been very involved in community events and providing amazing opportunities for students and through this work, we have become quite well known for what our school stands for and how inclusive we are.”
Since the school’s launch less than two years ago, the students have performed at local carnivals, Christmas Light Switch On, themed markets and Picnic in the Park. “The singing, dancing and acting classes teach students about discipline and resilience and performing gives them the opportunity to build their confidence and develop their teamwork skills, as well of course as having lots of fun,” adds Samantha. “It gives them such a boost to hear the audience applause and has prepared them so well for our first large summer showcase.”
Samantha has had a successful career as a singer, dancer and actor, travelling the world performing on cruise ships, at Disney and on the West End stage as well as in TV and films. It was her wish to marry her long-term partner Frankie and start a family that propelled her to make a change as she explains: “Leaving the performing arts industry was a big decision because I really loved it. But we wanted to get married and start a family and I was looking for financial stability. When I heard about Razzamataz, it fit exactly into what I wanted because I can have the school holidays off and pick my own hours to work. It’s also still within the performing arts, which I’m so passionate about.”
Samantha’s decision has given her and Frankie the opportunity to make their dreams come true with their first child due in November. But it’s been far from plain sailing as Samantha adds: “As a same sex couple, we don’t get any financial help from the Government in terms of IVF, so the financial stability the comes from running Razzamataz has been very important. It’s a challenging process in so many ways, both mentally and physically. The clinic we selected was 1.5 hours’ drive away, which would not have been possible to attend if I were in a 9-5 type role. In terms of the practicalities, I had to take daily injections which I was able to do from the comfort of my own home, which really means a lot. Having a role that I love so much also massively helped me take my mind off what was going on and I could come into school each week and distract myself from any worries.”
A large part of this distraction was the school’s first ever summer showcase, performed to a sell-out audience. The youngest students performed at Cedars to 300 people and the main school at the Vyne Theatre where parents, family and friends couldn’t believe the transformation of the children. Many start out as being incredibly shy, but it only takes a couple of months for them to find their confidence.
There have been many highlights since the school launched, but one of the most special must be performing at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End as part of the Razzamataz gala. Samantha is delighted that the school will be returning in December to give more young people this incredible experience.
As for the future, Samantha is keen to keep on expanding and giving back to the community. “I’ve recently joined Leighton Buzzard Arts Committee as the vice chair, which means I can be even more involved in events, great for both the community and the students,” says Samantha. “Being part of the students’ journeys, watching them grow and develop their confidence is so rewarding. I really think it’s one of the best jobs you can have.”
Want to join our team?
Razzamataz Theatre Schools offer employment to some circa 600 people either as teachers, assistants, or part of the admin team. There are plenty of opportunities to grow with many people starting out as work experience placements and progressing to assistant Principals or Principal roles.
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