Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Walthamstow arts college opens new £21m building

The school boasts award-winning singer Emeli Sandé as a patron

Hero for Walthamstow arts college opens new £21m building
A performance at the opening of the new building (credit: Big Creative Academy)
By Victoria Munro 03 December 2021

A Walthamstow arts school which boasts singer Emeli Sandé as a patron has opened a new £21million building.

Big Creative Academy in Clifton Avenue is a free sixth form college specialising in the creative arts, ranging from music and theatre to fashion, make-up and fitness.

Its new upgrade, which opened last week and includes a 200-seat theatre, outdoor performance areas and technical studios, was almost entirely funded by the Department of Education. 

Principal Sacha Corcoran MBE told the Echo one of the school’s founding goals is to help young people traditionally shut out of the arts world to succeed. 

Principal Sacha Corcoran MBE (credit: Big Creative Academy)

She said: “There is a lack of opportunity for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who can’t access more elite institutions. We wanted to reach those young people, who may be at risk of dropping out of school, and keep them in education, supporting their life chances and chance at higher education.

“Our previous site was a much smaller building that only had room for 200 students - our new building now holds 500, all aged 16 to 19. We very much see this building as a legacy for the borough of culture, making sure the arts remain a priority.”

Emeli Sandé - an award-winning singer who performed at the 2012 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies - was recently confirmed as the school’s patron, offering her knowledge, expertise and industry connections to students. 

Sacha said: “Emeli is very passionate about young people, in particular female producers, so this was a natural fit. For her, it’s about providing access for untapped talent.”

The new building in Clifton Avenue (credit: Big Creative Academy)

She added that the school was also “very lucky” to have received a £150,000 donation towards its theatre from William Morris Big Local, who now have an office in the academy and run a youth club there in the evenings.

One of the highlights of the new facility for her, however, is the sensory garden space, which her office overlooks. 

She explained: “Many of our students don’t have gardens and live in quite cramped housing so this affords them time and space to reflect. It’s a lovely space.”

Approximately a quarter of current students are from the borough, while the bulk come from all across London to enroll. The school will also offer a drop-in career advice service for anyone to attend, whether a student or not, set up with the help of Waltham Forest Council.

Prospective students interested in enrolling can find out more about the school and its courses here.