Chalk Talk: A night that showed creativity in our schools at its very best

I went to a West End theatre on Sunday night – not something I would normally mention in this column, but it was rather a special occasion.

The whole theatre – Her Majesty's, Haymarket, just off London's Piccadilly Circus – had been taken over for the evening by the Havering College of Further and Higher Education for a special performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

It was packed to the rafters, and the atmosphere was akin to a Justin Bieber concert (all right, I haven't been to one but I did see The Beatles in the 1960s so I can imagine, although I should perhaps point out that this production started on time) and it was a wonderful advertisement for all that is good about creativity and drama in the state sector.

Apparently, the college has been producing these types of shows on the London stage for the past seven years – last year it staged a special tribute to the Olympics at the London Palladium.

One of the college's strengths is its performing arts (it has about 700 students and also runs degree-level courses) and it numbers amongst its ex-students former X Factor finalist and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here winner Stacey Solomon – who still keeps in touch with her roots.

It was not just the college's efforts that were on show here, though – it had also involved several local schools, including primary and special schools, in the evening's entertainment. A night to remember for children as young as six, then. And also for the two leads – Adam Wheeler as Joseph and TJ Bain as the narrator – both of whom had strong enough voices to grace a professional production at the theatre. Throw in a wonderful Elvis Presley pastiche from Dean Lee Vegas as Pharaoh and you had the ingredients for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

It's just a shame that they have been doing it for seven years and not many people on the national scene seem to have noticed. That, though, says more about us than it does about them.

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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