Daughter of famed theatrical family sets up foundation to give others the opportunities that she enjoyed
The 23-year-old actress is the youngest daughter of multi-Bafta winning husband and wife duo John Godber and Jane Thornton.
Rather than beating a path to London, she came home to East Yorkshire after graduating from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Art. She is now on a mission to help local young people break into an industry, which is notoriously hard to get into at the best of times, but harder still due to the pandemic.
Today she is launching a new foundation that offers young people from East Yorkshire mentorship, exclusive masterclasses, workshops – and a unique credit on their professional CV.
“Coming from a theatrical background, I have been very lucky with opportunities,” she said. “I’ve had my dad, mum and sister, who runs a theatre company, and when I was growing up, I was able to go to rehearsals and speak to professional actors and directors. It made me realise how much of an advantage those opportunities gave me for stepping into a professional industry myself.
“The arts are a difficult industry to break into at the best of times, and are now even harder post-Covid.”
Each year, The Godber Foundation will award up to 10 students the opportunity to take part in the foundation’s programme alongside their degree-level training in the Arts.
Martha says it will mainly be about offering the kind of experiences she had, but there will also be a small amount of funding for students faced with unseen costs – anything from the purchase of an all-black uniform to actors’ headshot photographs.
She said: “When you are studying a drama subject, you can’t always get a job because you are in rehearsals or class all the time and it’s hard to fund that if you don’t come from a middle-class background. It’s even harder for working class people to get to drama school, never mind all the costs when they get there. But this is primarily about experiences and unique opportunities.”
She admits that Hull is an “off the map place”, but she has now put her own roots firmly down in the area – just as her father did 25 years ago. She says doing a production with her mum at Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull called Ocho in 2017 about men from the city who fought in the Spanish Civil War was an inspiration.
“That planted a seed of getting to know those students and seeing their talent and potential,” she said. “The creative industry in general is extremely elitist. We see Eddie Redmayne who’s gone to Eton who is now a film star. That’s not always the right message to send to people who are not from those backgrounds.
“This is saying everybody and anybody can do this. The point of this is to get students who may not know anyone in the industry and put them in contact with those who do.”
Online applications open today for drama students originally from Hull or East Yorkshire. Full information and guidelines are available on the John Godber Company website and social media.
Godber drama on the seaside
John Godber’s B&B drama – performed by the playwright, his wife Jane Thornton and daughter Martha – will be the centrepiece of the autumn season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, starting on October 28-31.
Sunny Side Up is set in a fictional seaside town rather like Scarborough, and explores, says Godber, the role of seaside towns, “some of which have been left behind”.
“As somebody who for 21 years went nowhere but Blackpool I clearly get the importance of seaside holiday resorts and they’ve had a resurgence during and after Covid,” said the playwright.