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Just Add Milk - The Luke Westlake Scholarship Interview

Award-winning theatre company Just Add Milk are all about making theatre accessible for actors of all backgrounds.

The company specialise in running affordable workshops and courses for actors with casting directors, directors and agents, they celebrate giving new writing and unheard voices a platform and support the next generation of working-class actors through The Luke Westlake Scholarship which has been running since 2019.

With applications for the 2022 Scholarship now open, I speak to Just Add Milk co-directors Kristian Wall and Liam McLaughlin about the company and the scholarship.

Q: What led to you to begin Just Add Milk and to start the Scholarship?
A: JAM’s soul mission is to make the industry more accessible. I come from a very different background to most people in theatre and have and still do find the industry inaccessible in some areas. I don’t want talent to be wasted because of lack of opportunity. JAM works really under four pillars - The Luke Westlake Scholarship, producing new writing at a commercial level, affordable workshops for actors & working in education to support creatives and actors-in-training.

We are trying to change pathways into the creative arts in all areas, working with institutions in order to educate young people about careers in the arts as well as knocking down barriers for actors who have trained and “can’t get in the door”. In terms of plays and new writing, few houses/companies are making stories that relate to people. When I go to the theatre, I want to be affected, not just entertained. 

I want to see something with heart, soul and the ability to change perspective and narrative. We have commissioned plays about men’s mental health (partnering with CALM), Muscular Dystrophy (partnering with Muscular Dystrophy UK) and food banks (partnering with the Trussell trust). These productions have focused on making a change, not just for the audience but for the local and wider communities. 

The scholarship was founded because we realised how working-class creatives are being priced out of the industry. After you’ve made it through drama school, most actors end up working unsociable hours trying to make ends meat. We want to give someone a foundation to build from. Nothing is a given but we aim to find someone who needs a leg up, a mentor and some guidance in order to unlock their own potential. We have got to places in our personal careers where we can offer this and it’s our duty to do that! It’s working, we’ve had such incredible success with past winners like Ayomide Adegun (2020 winner), who is currently shooting the The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Hunger Games). Knowing that these students are getting a kick start - means the absolute world to me. I’m a firm believer in giving back where you can and that no one should be defined by where they are from or their social economic background. 

In 2020, we re-named the scholarship after our late friend and fellow ArtsEd graduate Luke Westlake. We feel the scholarship empowers everything Luke was and stood for as an actor.

Q: Can you please tell me a little more about The Luke Westlake Scholarship?
A: The scholarship was established in 2019 when we realised that many actors were being priced out of their careers before they even graduated. After spending tens of thousands of pounds on training, actors must pay for subscriptions, plays, headshots, equipment for self-tapes and other necessities to support themselves - with those from working-class and low-income families losing out due to the financial demands of the industry.

The scholarship is named in memory of Luke Westlake, a friend of JAM and a talented actor who trained with them at ArtsEd (2014-17). A diligent, fierce, working-class actor, he represented everything the scholarship stands for, and JAM is grateful to be supported by his parents, Bridgette and Lee, in keeping the memory of Luke alive.

Luke Westlake.

Q: Where did your own theatre journeys begin and how did you guys navigate drama schools?
My personal theatre journey started in my late teens after a brief stint in modelling. I was lucky enough to be represented by Jackie Palmer Agency. This sparked excitement and passion in me and I went onto study a foundation at East 15 and then received a scholarship to study a BA Hons in Acting at ArtsEd. Whilst at drama school, I really took a shine to the opposite side of the industry. After graduating, I moved into Agenting and casting. This is where I really found my feet. I like to put the puzzle pieces together and feel that on this side I can really give a voice to people from underrepresented backgrounds.

After studying a BA in theatre at The University of Hull, I did an MA at ALRA and moved quickly into producing and marketing - working for Theatre503, Arcola Theatre and Park Theatre until last year. I worked for a year at the RSC before moving across the startup company Stagedoor, London’s biggest theatre app. Sadly ALRA closed earlier this year but used our privilege and experience to support actors who had their training taken away from them.

Q: The scholarship is open to working-class actors in their second year at drama school or university. How important was that to you both to make the people feel supported in their drama studies?

A: It’s our aim not only to make people feel supported during their studies but after as well. We really believe that when people engage with JAM, they become part of the family (#JAMFam). Our scholarship shortlist benefit from a host of free workshops with agents, casting directors & a well being chat with the wonderful team at Industry Minds. 

Nothing with JAM is a one-time thing, we are always here for anyone in the arts and thats transparent in all of the work we do. 

Q: The scholarship is dedicated to the late Luke Westlake. How important was it to you both to continue his legacy with this scholarship? 
A: Luke was and forever will be everything JAM and our scholarship stands for. It was important to us to honour him in the most meaningful way we can. It honestly means so much to us that we can work so closely with his parents Bridgette and Lee in order to help the stars of tomorrow, shine that little bit brighter. 

Q: There’s a whole raft of prizes available, how key has that been getting some wonderful partners on board?
A: This year some key partners have supported us again, including Spotlight, The Stage and Nick Hern Books. But we’ve had an influx of new partners that really give this year’s award a priceless value - including meetings with Becky Paris (Head of Casting at The Globe) and a mental health and wellbeing package. We try and improve the award every year by identifying areas we think the winner will benefit from - rather than just compiling a list of freebies. This is about their development and progression and we need that to continue way into their first years in the industry.

This year, we are delighted to welcome Foundry Personal Management as our headline sponsor. 

Q: How can people apply for the scholarship?
A: All information can be found here -

Applications for the 2022 Luke Westlake Scholarship are open until Monday 24th October. 

Kristian Wall, Melodei Karczewski, Kyle Rowe, Liam McLaughlin at the 2021 Ceremony.

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