"Lockdown has taught me a lot in terms of just how much we rely on the creative arts for our wellbeing and happiness."
This week is the start of a new chapter for a singer from Hackney whose livelihood was under threat thanks to Covid-19, but who in the last 6 weeks has reinvented herself to create a new business that has seen her help kids across the UK thrive in lockdown, and is now providing jobs for others from the theatre industry.
Kerri Layton, 35, an extremely talented international blues and jazz singer who has travelled the world performing and has been described by industry magazine, The Stage as “A Million Dollars At Any Years Prices” is also an experienced youth worker and qualified drama teacher - a path she pursued before being signed to the same agency as Lady Gaga which saw her playing at sell out events, singing for celebs and royalty alike.
When her business and livelihood Dixiebird Records came under threat with all gigs cancelled and all revenue removed she achieved the ultimate pivot, considering how she could tap into her wider skills to support children and parents stuck at home, bringing some joy and fun, and developing creativity along the way. She launched Vintage Performing Arts Academy, through which she ran an online 6 week course, calling upon her expansive network of artists (many of whom also lost their jobs and income overnight) to support her new venture to ensure that during lockdown (and beyond) children and young people everywhere had access to a creative outlet. Activities included hosting a rap project with teenage girls in a care home to holding online drama games and lessons, culminating in bringing children from ages 6 to 16 together to perform in an online variety show.
Seeing how the Academy built confidence, nurtured creativity, addressed anxiety and provided a new community, which helped with the challenges of everyday lockdown life, Kerri was determined to build upon her success and has just launched an Online Summer School, in a bid to support more children, and parents through a difficult summer holidays.
Kerri is also proud to be ‘doing her bit’ for the industry, having recruited an additional 6 team members, creating jobs for those in the entertainment industry whose livelihoods have also been struck. Excited to bring her passion and theatrical know-how to living rooms across the country with the help of showbiz pros who are the best in the industry, Kerri said: “Lockdown has taught me a lot in terms of just how much we rely on the creative arts for our wellbeing and happiness. Seeing parents worried that their children had become stressed with home schooling and frustrated by the lack of social contact and families struggling to know what to do in isolation for creativity and creative release made me realise that it was my responsibility as someone from the arts, to share my skills to help.”
Having performed for well-known clients such as; Bollinger, Alexandra Palace, Savoy, The Royal British Legion, Kerri is at the top of her game, and she has brought in to support her West End stars who have danced for the Brit Awards, featured on The Greatest Showman, The X Factor and many West -End stage productions, they will be teaching a dance routine from the hit musical ‘Hamilton’ and they are also joined by BBC 'The Voice’s' Kiki Deville, who is teaching singing lessons on the summer school programme.
The 6-week Summer School is all set to kick off on Monday 27th July.
Kerri added: “I am so excited to be putting this out into the world - not only to help the kids but to support parents too as well as sharing part of our diverse arts scene here in the UK on a global scale.
“With many parents having celebrated the end of home-schooling the reality of having to continue to keep the kids occupied whilst also still trying to manage work and life without the release of their summer holiday means that the next 6 weeks are looking daunting. Kids will get the chance to expand their learning and knowledge of the performing arts, whilst having loads of fun - so zero guilt needed from parents! Our amazing teachers and well-known performers have created an environment that is relaxed, friendly and easy going, and their infectious energy and genuine love for performing is coupled with their expert connection to the world of theatre. There is also a chance for kids to connect and hang out online with new friends from across the world via these amazing super interactive sessions.”
The online summer school can be block booked or you can pick and choose individual sessions. To view the full timetable or to book please visit: https://www.kerrikreates.com/dramaclub
Kerri says of where her desire for the arts came from:“ I was a shy army child, who struggled with my identity and didn’t have many friends, moving regularly from town to town during my childhood - I would escape by making mini-theatre shows up in my room and performing them on park benches, or for anyone who would watch. It helped me overcome my shyness and I later found a deep love for communicating and connecting with the world through singing and performing and knew that I loved using my talents to raise spirits ad create community – something we all needed at the start of lockdown, this is why I initially launched the Vintage Performing Arts Academy and why I am so passionate about my Summer School too.”
She added: “I truly believe in the power of bringing people together to have a really positive shared experience using the arts, music and drama as a vehicle to create deep transformations in communities, families and individuals.”