Published: 01/11/2023

Elaine pays it forward

Renowned Actress Elaine C Smith has announced the establishment of a ground-breaking award for aspiring female comedic performers at New College Lanarkshire.

The newly-founded prize, named the Elaine C Smith Award, aims to empower and support talented women  pursuing a career in the arts. The much-loved star, who is a Fellow of the college, has generously funded this initiative, as part of her commitment to helping the next generation of artistic talent. Staff and students were present  for the announcement at the Motherwell Campus, on the tenth anniversary of the birth of the College.

She said, ‘I've founded this award because I know that for women from a working-class background, making it in the arts can be a real struggle’.

She went on: “When I was young, there was nothing in Lanarkshire for someone like me, no youth theatre, no route out. The nearest drama school was in Glasgow, which felt very far away even though it was just 14 miles. And even now, showbusiness is precarious work, and the young people I meet working in TV and elsewhere often come from wealthier backgrounds because their parents can afford to support them. And that isn't right.

Art belongs to everyone, not just men, not just white people, not just middle-class people, everyone. So, I'm very proud to be a Fellow of New College Lanarkshire because their Performing Arts department does fantastic work opening routes into the arts for people who aren't from privileged backgrounds. And I wanted to found this award because when I was 17, if someone had said, here's 500 quid because we believe in you, we believe in your talent, it would have meant everything to me."

Christopher Moore, the Principal of New College Lanarkshire, expressed his enthusiasm and support for the award.

He stated, "As a Fellow of the College, Elaine takes an active interest in our students, and this generous sponsorship will provide opportunities for the next generation to follow their career aspirations in the Performing Arts. There is clear research evidence which shows that the arts are becoming increasingly dominated by those from privileged backgrounds.

We anticipate that this prize will help us address this balance. We are so grateful to Elaine for her generosity and support. Launching this award is a fitting way to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of New College Lanarkshire.

Since its establishment, our College has provided education to more than 80,000 people from Lanarkshire, and beyond. This award is one of many examples of how the College continues to improve the life chances of all of our students through the power of education."

The Elaine C Smith Student Award will be open to eligible female students at New College Lanarkshire's Performing Arts department for the next ten years, with a winner each year receiving £500.