Woodford Green disabled teenager’s passionate plea to save drama centre

A DISABLED teenager who said Redbridge Drama Centre had given her a place to be herself made a passionate plea to councillors to bin cuts.

Speaking at last night’s cabinet meeting in Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, Woodford Green 16-year-old Molly Polden said she was lonely and had few friends before joining Redbridge Drama Centre, based in Churchfields, South Woodford.

The centre is under threat after cabinet members put forward a proposal to cut �25,000 in 2011/12, �186,000 in 2012/13 and �292,000 the year after as part of budget cuts.

“Other drama institutes have always been audition based and because of my disability and limitations I have always felt sidelines or a burden,” Molly said.

“The same cannot be said for the Redbridge Drama Centre. In my first year I was given a lead role. Any awkwardness I felt about my condition was practically dismissed by my peers and teachers. I felt like a normal member of the group for the first time.

“It is impossible for it to continue running if these cuts go ahead.

“You won’t just be closing down the drama centre, you’ll be closing down the heart and soul of our community and taking away a big part of our lives.”

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Molly, who described the group as “a family” was one of several members of the centre in who spoke at the meeting, cheered by a crowd of supporters in the public gallery.

Narina Oliver said it had helped her find friends when she moved to Redbridge, Ellen Richardson said it helped her overcome her stutter and Niamh Hughes said she had come out of her shell.

Cabinet member for education, Cllr Alan Weinberg said he agreed with 99 per cent of what he had heard, but disagreed the centre would have to close.

“I do believe the drama centre will continue to run successfully because of its ability to adapt in these difficult times,” he said.

Centre supporters put forward a petition of 2,782 signatures against the proposal. This will ensure a debate about the issue during the budget-setting full council meeting on March 3.

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