Scarborough’s student drama festival still going strong

It is customary for returning festivals to announce each year that they are back either ‘bigger’ or ‘better’ or indeed both.

It is telling that the woman who runs the National Student Drama Festival invokes neither of these, but quietly and firmly states the facts about the annual festival returning next week to Scarborough.

The facts are that, in a big week for the arts, the drama festival considers itself lucky. A couple of years ago it faced a crisis when the Arts Council cut its funding and said the future of the seaside drama festival was under scrutiny. This week’s Arts Council cuts brought good news – the festival is to receive an increase of five per cent.

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“I don’t think we’ve necessarily got better at what we do, we’ve just got better over the last few years at telling people what we do,” says Holly Kendrick, artistic director of NSDF.

What the festival does is genuinely quite remarkable. Over a period of 12 months Kendrick and associated artists travel around the country watching student drama shows, selecting a dozen to spend the week at Scarborough where they perform at a variety of venues around the town.

Do not be fooled by the “student” tag. The work I saw last year at the NSDF was among the strongest drama I saw all year. It really is that good.

“This year Khalid Abdalla is back at the festival. Since he appeared here as a student in 2003 he has starred in The Kite Runner and Green Zone with Matt Damon.” adds Holly. “To have someone go from performing here to starring in Hollywood movies in the space of a few years shows the quality we have.”

NSDF, Apr 9 to 15. www.nsdf.org.uk