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Corrie star tells students it's their time to shine

Soap star Sam Retford left behind the cobbles of Coronation Street to visit a Shropshire specialist college this week.

Sam and performing arts student Anna
Sam and performing arts student Anna

Performing arts students at Derwen College, near Oswestry, were visited by actor Sam, who recently left the Weatherfield-based ITV soap in December following a dramatic storyline involving his character, Curtis.

He talked to students at the specialist further education college in Gobowen, to share his stories and acting tips with the performing arts students, who have a wide range of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Sam has also worked on popular television shows including Hollyoaks, Casualty, Ackley Bridge and Death in Paradise.

The talented 22-year-old has also worked in theatre, film and more recently turned his hand to directing and production as co-founder of Collective Media Company.

Sam chatting to the students at Derwen College

Sam is a strong advocate for more inclusivity and diversity in the acting industry, and encouraged students to work hard to find their place in the competitive performance world. His brother Max has cerebral palsy and autism, and is his biggest fan. Sam uses Makaton sign language to help communicate with Max and used Makaton with the Derwen College students.

The college's performing arts lead Jessie Vaughan said: "Sam was a charming speaker, who engaged students with an animated question and answer session where he shared anecdotes and tips. There was much laughter in response to some hilarious stories, and lots of inspirational advice."

He confessed to a disaster on his first day on the Hollyoaks set.

“On the very first day of filming, I was meant to throw a basketball at another boy. However, I’m not very good at sport, I missed the boy completely and the ball bounced across the set smashing some very expensive lighting.”

He earned plaudits playing opposite actor and presenter George Webster in short film entitled ‘SAM’. The film stars Sam and George – who has been in the news as the first children’s presenter with Down’s Syndrome on CBeebies. The film sees two teenage boys with very different lives, become friends and fall in love.

Sam encouraged the college’s performing arts students to forge their own path, and be heard in the world of film, television and theatre.

He said: “It’s a fantastic time to get into the industry. There are so many more opportunities, and some great companies and initiatives working to become a lot more inclusive. There are agents who specialise in working with actors with learning difficulties. We are also changing the way we work on set, to be more inclusive.

"All actors have needs and requirements which make their lives easier. Personally, I’m a slow reader, and find it difficult if lines are changed at the last minute. We need to tell people in the entertainment industry what would make our working day better. People aren’t mind readers and won’t know what we need unless we tell them. We all need to embrace our inner drama queen, and be more diva. It’s down to us to educate the industry, and change it for the better. "

Performing arts student Anna Redding said: “I enjoyed the experience so much. I was so happy and excited. I enjoyed having to get him from reception with Jessie. What I got out of the talk was to never give up on your dreams. Don’t be nervous be excited when performing with other actors. And I learnt all the differences about working in TV acting and stage acting. Sam was lovely and really funny, and so inspiring.”

Jessie added: “It was a pleasure for students and staff to meet such an experienced actor, and to learn so much from him. Sam was an inspirational guest who truly engaged our students.

“Anna, one of our wonderful performing arts students put me in contact with Sam and worked alongside me to arrange the talk. His charm, character and stories kept us all engaged, inspired and laughing for the entire afternoon.

“I was also very impressed with his Makaton signing. We can’t thank Sam enough for giving our aspiring performers a true insight of the industry and we hope to work with him again in the future.”

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