Leeds grandmother Pauline Tomlin one step closer to realising acting dream with YAFTA scholarship

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A Leeds grandmother, who is aspiring to be an actor, has been awarded an acting scholarship by the Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA).

Pauline Tomlin, 54, from Burley in Leeds, won the YAFTA You Can scholarship for a place on its Acting for Screen Diploma course after impressing the organisation’s managing director, Charlotte Armitage.

Pauline Tomlin was named winner of the scholarship.

Pauline Tomlin was named winner of the scholarship.

Ms Armitage said: “Pauline lit up the room with her passion and enthusiasm. She’s had an incredibly varied career but never lost that creative streak and it was a joy to see her perform at the audition.

“Our You Can scholarship is specifically aimed at encouraging those who are from under-represented groups to pursue their passion for a career in film and TV and we were overwhelmed with the response this year with so much talent on offer.

“YAFTA has always been committed to championing and supporting the need for a diverse and fairly represented industry, with talent and passion at the fore – regardless of age, race, disability, background or socio-economic status.”

A single mother of three, Ms Tomlin, inset, had previously retrained as a secondary school teacher at the age of 40, and recently spent three years teaching in Nigeria.

Charlotte Armitage, managing director of Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Charlotte Armitage, managing director of Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Having returned to her Leeds home last summer with the aim of finally pursuing her passion for acting, Ms Tomlin started looking at extra work before she saw the advert for the YAFTA scholarship.

She said: “Having grown up admiring the likes of Judy Garland, The Nicholas Brothers, Dorothy Dandridge and Betty White, I’d always loved performing and singing.

“Being an actor was the ultimate dream but not something I felt I could ever achieve. It really feels like now’s my time to pursue something I’ve always longed for, and I’m aiming big with a BAFTA and SAG awards in my sights.

“I’m completely overwhelmed and thankful to Charlotte and YAFTA for this opportunity and can’t wait to get started.”

The YAFTA Acting for Screen Diploma is a course taught by industry professionals from performing schools with alumni appearing in productions including BBC’s Baptiste, Holby City, Casualty, Last Tango in Halifax, CBBC, ITV’s Coronation Street and Emmerdale, along with Channel 4, Netflix and Amazon productions.

YAFTA also acts as a talent agency representing actors in the industry.

Last year, one of its talents, James Moore, was named Best Newcomer award at the National Television Awards (NTA). In winning, he became the first actor with a disability to win an NTA.

Mr Moore won the award for his role as Ryan Stocks on the soap Emmerdale.

Ms Armitage’s passion for disability representation comes from her own experiences growing up in Harrogate. Her older brother had fits as a baby that left him with brain injuries.

“The media, soaps, film and TV, has the power to influence the younger generations,” she says. “Normalising certain things in younger generations leads to acceptance. That will reduce prejudice,” Ms Armitage said.

She believes that more diverse roles need to be written into shows to improve representation on the screen.

Foundations

YAFTA was founded by Charlotte Armitage in 2013 after she turned her hand to acting to help her cope with a business venture that had gone wrong.

She realised that acting schools were limited in the North and came up with YAFTA.

In 2019, Ms Armitage, who is also a psychologist, launched a training workshop designed to teach those working in production about the psychological considerations needed at each part of the production cycle in order to ensure legal and ethical compliance with changing legislations.