Star's performing arts academy closes

A PERFORMING arts academy set up in a Suffolk town by Birds of a Feather star Pauline Quirke has shut up shop less than a year after opening.

Laurence Cawley

A PERFORMING arts academy set up in a Suffolk town by Birds of a Feather star Pauline Quirke has shut up shop less than a year after opening.

The Pauline Quirke Academy in Bury St Edmunds was set up in May last year and was run from St Benedict's Catholic School.

Within weeks it had 50 children aged from six to 17 signed up to learn a range of performance skills including acting, music and comedy.


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The academy in Bury has been forced to close after the principal was unable to continue in post because of personal problems.

Steve Sheen, Ms Quirke's husband and co-founder of the academies, said they had tried hard to keep the academy going and said alternative arrangements had been offered so that children could carry on with the learning.

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“Unfortunately the principal had to give the academy up due to personal problems, we tried to keep it open by running it under our Cambridge principal but this proved impossible so we were sadly left with no alternative but to close,” he said.

Mr Sheen said all children involved in the Bury academy had been offered places at the Pauline Quirke Academy in Cambridge as an alternative.

Although efforts had been made to find an alternative principal who could run the Bury academy full time, their bid proved fruitless, Mr Sheen said.

When she visited the Bury academy last year, Ms Quirke, best known for her role as Sharon in the BBC sit-com Birds of a Feather, said: “After 40 years in the business I hope I've got a few pearls of wisdom I can pass on to the children.

“I've been told the children who are coming to the academies are having fun. And that is exactly what we are trying to achieve. The children here are not competing with each other - we are trying to show them the fun side of the performing arts.

“What I want to do now is to make sure we are achieving what we set out to do - that the children enjoy it and that we are getting it right.”

She set up the academy scheme in September 2007 with her husband from their home office in Buckinghamshire. She currently has 11 academies in England, one in Northern Ireland and one in Mallorca.

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