Paapa Essiedu announced as Frantic Assembly’s Ignition Ambassador

An urgent fundraising campaign was launched at the end of 2020 to save Frantic Assembly’s Ignition programme. New data released today highlights the significance of this ground-breaking free, nationwide talent development programme for young people aged 16-24.

Frantic Assembly asks whose voices will be silenced and which doors permanently closed if young people’s access to the arts is restricted even more?

It is also announced today that actor Paapa Essiedu (Hamlet, RSC, I May Destroy You, BBC1) will be Ignition’s first ever ambassador. Paapa said “I am delighted to be Ignition’s ambassador. Ignition was such a formative period in my artistic development and one of the first spaces I had to explore creatively. I am so excited to help the next generation of Ignition graduates discover their own journeys.”

Ignition has touched the lives of over 6000 young people since it began in 2008. In 2019 alone it engaged nearly 900 young men from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and was about to roll out its first Ignition for women after a successful pilot.

Other well-known graduates of the programme include Karl Queensborough who is currently starring as the lead role in Hamilton (West End), BBC Young Dancer 2019 Max Revell and actor Joe Layton (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.DTatau, BBC Three). Many behind-the-scenes and non-acting careers are also borne out of Ignition with graduates working as directors, writers, producers, designers, teachers and technical staff.

For the past twelve years Ignition has sought out talent in unexpected places; from sports groups to youth centres, connecting with hundreds of young people from areas of low artistic engagement. Of the 144 Ignition graduates to date – who have all completed a weeklong theatre-making residency with Frantic Assembly – the majority have gone on to have careers in the creative industries or take up further education.

Frantic Assembly recently surveyed its Ignition graduates and had the following responses:

  • 97% of graduates are currently working or in further education.
  • 90% said they strongly felt that Ignition had made a positive impact on their career choices.
  • 80% of graduates believed it had positively and significantly impacted their education choices.
  • 92% attributed Ignition to having made a significant impact on their well-being.

The survey received feedback from many graduates who felt that without access to the programme they would not have had the financial capability to pursue their chosen career.

One 2019 graduate wrote:

I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Ignition. There are more people like me who aren’t financially able to fund their career due to where they live and don’t have any experience. They [Frantic Assembly] make such an impact and open up so many branches to people in low arts funded communities.

One of the aims of Ignition is to support meaningful social mobility amongst its participants. The programme has played a key role in increasing young people’s individual levels of aspiration and attainment, as reflected in the words that this 2012 graduate shared with the survey:


“Ignition has given me the confidence to step into any room and feel like a professional, to open any door. Ignition has shown me that my potential is a lot greater than first believed. It has given me the desire to create opportunities for others and to raise the self-confidence of those around me. Ignition has taught me to always go forward and never back.”

Paapa Essiedu agrees:

The ethos, soul and generosity of spirit at the heart of Frantic Assembly was probably the most crucial building block for me as I started my career as an actor. At 18, I’d never done a play. Never seen a Shakespeare. Didn’t know what drama school was. Without doubt, [Ignition] gave me the confidence I needed to go on and have a go of it in the industry.

This sense of boosting young people’s self-esteem and educating them about the theatre industry is a key part of Ignition’s work. For example, graduate Kieton Saunders-Browne, who appeared in Frantic Assembly’s 2018 touring production The Unreturning told the survey:

I have worked professionally as an actor, writer and producer since finishing Ignition. I decided to apply for drama school and I am now at LAMDA on the BA Acting course.”

Each year Frantic brings together a diverse and dynamic group of participants, with a focus on ensuring access for those with social, financial, cultural and geographical barriers to the arts. Ignition seeks to unlock undiscovered creative potential and level up the future of British theatre. It is not simply a vocational training programme though. Participants forge deep bonds, receive boosts to their confidence and self-esteem, and develop a stronger work ethic through the experience.

The annual programme sees twelve young men and twelve young women selected through taster and trial workshops, who are then invited to London where they spend a week making their own shows with theatre professionals, performed to a public audience. Throughout this period the 24 participants are pushed creatively and physically to understand the process of devising and creating work from scratch. The process is intense, the experience transformational and the effect lasting.

The Frantic team work with nine regional partners to deliver more than 50 workshops across the country each year. The partner venues are Leeds Playhouse, The Core (Corby), The Sherman Theatre (Cardiff), Dance Base (Edinburgh), Lyric Theatre (Belfast), Theatre Royal Plymouth, Theatre Royal Norwich, Old Rep Theatre (Birmingham) and Liverpool Everyman. These venues lead on recruiting young people, provide expert knowledge on their local areas and continue their engagement with individuals who did not progress to the Intensive stage in order to provide a sustainable and long term arts offer. Frantic also continues to support Ignition graduates. Through the Re:Ignite programme the participants continue to receive training, career development and employment opportunities after the Intensive residency.

Donations can be made on the WE ARE IGNITION page on the Frantic Assembly website: or by text:

To donate £5 text IGNITION 5 to 70085

To donate £10 text IGNITION 10 to 70085

To donate £20 text IGNITION 20 to 70085

Texts are charged at the cost of your donation plus a standard message rate.

Anyone interested in making a major donation to support Ignition can contact Frantic Assembly executive director Kerry Whelan

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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