Larne man hoping to make it big in London calls for community’s support

A fundraising event is set to take place in Larne’s Olderfleet Bar tomorrow (Thursday) in a bid to help collect money to support a local man with aspirations of becoming a trained actor.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 10:22 am

Conor Kemp (26) has gained a place at London drama school, The Bridge Theatre Training Company in Camden, but with fees of almost £7,500 per year, the cost of living in London and no Government funding, Conor, who worked as a lifeguard at Larne Leisure Centre, will need the backing of the community to help support his studies.

Conor, who is autistic, hopes to begin a career as a professional actor, auditioning for projects in film, television and on stage after completing his two-year course.

The fundraising drive has been organised by Conor’s friend Ruby Campbell.

Conor Kemp.

Speaking to the Times, Ruby said: “Conor has been a close family friend since childhood. When he told me of his plans to apply for drama school, I wanted to do all I could to help him on that journey, having been through that process already myself.

“I attended the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London and I’m now a professional actor, so I knew what kind of challenges Conor was facing.

“Conor’s autism does present some unique challenges, particularly in overcoming people’s pre-conceived ideas of his abilities, but I’ve never seen anyone more hardworking and determined to reach their goals.

“The entertainment industry claims it wants to represent more diversity on our stages and screens, but unless actors like Conor have access to industry level training, that will remain an empty promise. I’m so excited for Conor – he is a shining example of what can happen if you never give up on your dream.”

Commenting on his career to date, Conor explained: “I first became properly interested in performing when I was 17 and I was 24 when I decided I wanted to pursue it as a career.

“I’ve performed with a group called Uplift Performing Arts in Carrickfergus where I’ve done a mix of acting, singing and dancing productions. Over lockdown I played The Mad Hatter in an online production of Alice in Wonderland.”

Detailing the impact of being autistic in the industry, Conor, who attended Corran Integrated Primary School in Larne and Ulidia Integrated College in Carrickfergus, said: “I believe that autistic students do get the same support as others, but also they shouldn’t be put in a box because they have a lot more to offer than meets the eye. I believe they should be encouraged when exploring their creativity. I believe that The Bridge provides that support.”

Ruby added: “In my experience of drama school training, not enough is done to ensure students of different abilities have the same access to training opportunities.

“Hopefully things are beginning to change in this area, but we can definitely do a better job of supporting people with autism.”

Thanking everyone who has supported his journey, Conor said: “To those who have supported me financially you are helping me achieve something I thought might not be possible.

“To my friends and family who have supported me emotionally couldn’t have done it without you.

“We’d also like to say a huge thank you to all the local businesses who have supported through donating raffle prizes, and to the amazing team at the Olderfleet for allowing us to host our fundraiser there.”

Tomorrow night’s event will feature live music, a pub quiz and a raffle. Those attending are asked to make a suggested donation of £5.

An online fundraising page has also been set up to support Conor. Over £650 has been donated so far.

If you would like to donate, click here

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