Supporting needy acting and singing students
One early morning in February 1998, we heard that our daughter Sophie, aged nineteen, had been involved in a fatal accident. She had been driving on a rather muddy stretch of road, skidded and lost control, and drove straight into the path of an oncoming lorry. In the ensuing days we as a family decided to found a charity in Sophie’s name to give financial support to needy students of acting and of singing.
This was because Sophie had been a talented singer and actor herself, and had investigated applying to drama schools. Indeed she was auditioned by The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and narrowly failed to be offered a place. We discovered what an expensive undertaking it would be.
Several members of our family became trustees, together with a local friend and solicitor. By a wonderful coincidence Judi Dench had been filming locally and we sent her a message asking her to consider being the Patron of what became known as “Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund”. Wonderfully she agreed to do so.
In the months and years that followed many friends and people who had known and loved Sophie made most generous donations to the Fund. It was decided that just two students would be selected for funding, students at GSMD, one studying singing and one acting. With the help of GSMD two students were chosen because of their urgent need for extra financial help towards completing their courses. They were acting student Erin Hurme and opera student David Clegg.
As the years progressed and funds accrued the numbers of students helped each year has grown and grown. More and more drama schools and conservatoires have been involved, both in the UK and abroad. The usual grant offered is £1000, but smaller sums are awarded to students undertaking short holiday courses. Some hundreds of students have received grants from SSLF since the charity was founded.
Many fund-raising events have been held. The charity published a book of Sophie’s own writings entitled “Sophie’s Log – thoughts and feelings in poetry and prose”. Thanks to some expert publicity given by kind people and some excellent reviews many thousands of people bought copies. The feedback was very touching, the content struck a chord with readers of all ages. Sales of the book boosted our funds considerably.
Some schools have used Sophie’s Log with their students, encouraging them to write about their own thoughts and feelings in the same way as Sophie.
A few years later the trustees commissioned a playwright, Bryan Willis, to write a short play based on Sophie’s Log. This play simply entitled “Sophie” had a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2002 and was adapted as a radio play a year later for a broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Students of drama undertaking the LAMDA exams use an anthology of suitable scenes. We were asked if a scene from the play could be included. As a result many people who were drawn to perform this scene asked to purchase a copy of the full script.
In recent years we have adapted a small barn attached to our own house into a performance space which we call “Sophie’s Barn”. We host groups wanting to stay in our home and use our facilities to rehearse their chosen programmes of music or drama, and to perform to an invited audience. Our audiences make donations to Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund in a retiring collection. This has proved a very successful fund-raising system, and gives great pleasure to all involved.
Over the years the trustee board has changed, most of the family members have stood down, but the new people taking over are totally committed to the future of SSLF. It pleases us particularly that two of these trustees received funding from SSLF when they were students themselves, singer Jane Maudsley and actor Celia Wright. Very recently the opera singer Sir Thomas Allen agreed to be a Patron alongside Dame Judi Dench.
We feel most blessed that Sophie’s legacy lives on, and are deeply grateful to the very many people who have helped us along the way, and continue to do so.
Cherry and Stephen Large
Quote from Dame Judi Dench
I was very honoured when first asked to be a Patron of Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund, and immensely proud of their success and the help that they have been able to give to aspiring actors.
Please add your support to this very worthwhile charity.
Quote from Sir Thomas Allen
There are several concerns for artists, largely to do with making what one hopes will be a valuable contribution to a community of people.
I have a son, two stepchildren and six granddaughters. All of them are special treasures in my life and I cherish them all.
The thought of loss would be unbearable, and yet in the midst of tragedy, individuals and families find the strength to continue.
It does us all good to be close to that quality of humanity, and I’m privileged to be asked to play my part.