Actor and author Arabella Weir visits Sydenham School

19 January 2015

Arabella Weir with students from Sydenham SchoolComedienne, actor and author Arabella Weir shares ‘warts and all’ picture of acting profession with south London students

South East London school students had an opportunity last week to quiz Arabella Weir of ‘The Fast Show’, ‘Skins’ and ‘Drifters’ fame about her career. The comedienne, actor and author who coined one of the most famous catch phrases of the 90s: ‘does my bum look big in this?’ visited Sydenham School where she spoke to hundreds of pupils aged from 11-18.

Arabella Weir speaking to students at Sydenham SchoolMs Weir’s visit was the latest in a series of events for students of the Dartmouth Road school enabling them to meet women who have achieved prominence in the performing arts and media. She began with a plea for hard work, explaining how she had been a rebel and underachiever during her school years and that her lack of application in adolescence had made everything she attempted later on in life much harder.

She was also at pains to point out how rigorous and dedicated anyone seriously contemplating an acting career needs to be and the importance of having other strings to one’s bow given the inevitable periods, particularly at the start of a career, when work is unlikely to be plentiful. “At any given time only two percent of trained actors are in acting jobs”, she emphasised. “It is not a meritocracy: however talented a performer is, it is usually factors beyond their control that will decide whether they are cast or not.” She explained how it took over 20 years before she hit the big time.

Arabella Weir speaking to students at Sydenham SchoolOn a more positive note she told her audience: “However, in some ways the world is really your oyster, given that, as never before, there are chances, thanks to digital technologies and social media, for young people to make and showcase routines and short-films and blog about their lives. These are also the means of getting yourself in training as performers or filmmakers or writers, especially if you have some original or unusual take on the world thanks to your own authentic experiences.”

She added: “In the end, no one is ever any good at something they hate doing and so it is essential to keep asking yourself what you enjoy and use that as the basis of any career choices .”

“I liked her”, commented Cree Mason (15) from Forest Hill. “She was surprisingly open about the difficulties in her life and she has certainly helped me understand how tough it can be trying to make it as an actress. We have a lot of visitors to the school focused specifically on our academic subjects, so it is good to hear from someone inspiring from the world of the creative arts beyond school.”

Arabella Weir speaking to students at Sydenham SchoolWelcoming Ms Weir’s visit to Sydenham School head teacher Carolyn Unsted said: “The Speakers For Schools initiative is designed to give young people exposure to women who have attained some power and prominence in their chosen professions. Arabella Weir certainly met those criteria, though she’s to be thanked for debunking myths about acting being an inevitable route to glamour, fame and fortune.”