Who's next...

Actor who relaunched the Doctor launches acting school at Playhouse BY KATIE BALDWIN FORMER timelord Christopher Eccleston beamed his way into Leeds.

The man, who played Doctor Who in the last series of the revived BBC show, was in the city for the launch of the First Floor project – helping youngsters develop their acting skills.

First Floor, which is being developed by West Yorkshire Playhouse, will provide a permanent arts facility for young people to take part in activities, including drama workshops, storytelling and dance.

The star of numerous TV programmes and films including Shallow Grave, is patron of the scheme.

"I am very excited to be here to see the beginnings of what is going to be a very valuable project," he said.

"I know how much myself and others from my background would have benefited from a much earlier exposure to the arts because as a 20-year-old halfway through drama school training in London, I struggled with seeing myself as belonging in the arts."

He said the hope was that First Floor would encourage less privileged young people to see themselves as valuable individuals.

"We are working to shout about First Floor to as many people as we can," he added.

A huge loft-style space above the Wardrobe jazz club in St Peter's Square will be transformed into the centre, due to open in September 2007.

Deborah Howe, from Project at West Yorkshire Youth Association, carried out the feasibility study. She said: "It's something that we have needed in Leeds for a long time and the sooner we get it, the better."

Playhouse arts development director Sam Perkins said during school hours, First Floor would be used for young people not in usual full-time education, such as those on alternative programmes or involved with the Youth Offending Team.

After school, there will be accredited courses and drop-in sessions.

Now, she said, the priority was getting together the 600,000 needed to start First Floor.

"To make it happen there's a certain amount of funding required, she said.

The Playhouse is currently looking for funding including sponsorship and donations.

katie.baldwin@ypn.co.uk

Graham Pearce of KPMG

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