Alumni shares ‘virtual’ advice with aspiring Media and Performance students – University of Bedfordshire

A successful actor who previously studied at the University of Bedfordshire and ran her own theatre company has hosted a series of webinars during lockdown, to help inspire final year students who are planning their first step into the acting and performance world.

Ann Akin, who graduated from the School of Media and Performance (MAP) in 2007, was asked to lead these Industry Networking Platform talks to share her invaluable career experience and development – from acting and working with casting agents, to producing, running and directing a company, to writing for the stage – in order to help encourage Bedfordshire’s soon-to-be graduates to stay positive and productive in the wake of Covid19.

The pandemic has had a worrying impact on the UK’s arts industry, however Ann was eager to remind students that it’s still a great time to explore different avenues and seek out opportunities through networking online and via social media.

Hosting events like this during lockdown have helped to keep student moral high and lecturers have found that they open up a window for students to ask insightful questions and give them the opportunity to engage with their peers, ultimately breaking up periods of isolation.

Rachel Clark, Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator of Media Performance for Film, TV & Theatre, said: “Alumni are received exceptionally well by our students. Hearing from a former student about their success after their degree provides a different perspective from their lecturers. The students identify with alumni guests because they have followed the same degree path.

“Ann is a great advocate for the University of Bedfordshire and she has been coming back to visit us for a number of years to run workshops with the students. As she is currently in a number of TV series on BBC IPlayer, it makes the journey more real for our students who can engage with Ann in the webinars and then tune in and watch her acting on screen. It makes the whole journey of going to university and venturing out into the working world complete.

“Ann has achieved so much and the wealth of information that she has to offer is of great value to the students – we shall continue to invite her back to share her story and advice with us and our future students.”

After directing a successful theatre company, Harts, for ten years and publishing award-winning play, Conversations with Love, in 2012, Ann decided to focus on her own acting career. Some of her best known roles include the BBC’s Strike series (2018/2020), ITV’s Law & Order UK (2013) and Amazon’s Electric Dreams (2017).

During lockdown, Ann has also appeared in a number of television productions across the BBC, including The Salisbury Poisonings, Trigonometry and the critically-acclaimed comedy-drama, I May Destroy You, written by Ann’s friend and co-actor Michaela Coel.

Discussing the recent MAP webinars, Ann said: “I enjoy taking part in events and workshops like this because I think it’s so important for students to have engagement with someone who is actually in the industry in which they aspire to be a part of.

“My number one piece of advice that I would give someone looking to pursue a career in the acting or media performance world is to have unwavering belief in yourself even when it may feel like everything and everyone around you doesn’t.

Also, it’s important to find your people or person – that person who can keep you anchored when you are losing your way or going off course, and who will tell you the truth when you are doubting or losing faith in yourself.”

Reflecting on the webinar with Ann Akin, third year MAP student, Tia Shepard, said:

“It’s great that we’re able to remotely connect with guests from the industry. I definitely gained some insightful information which I’ve taken on board to help with starting up my career. Having meetings like this during lockdown have been so important to our learning and have helped us to regain confidence, positivity and motivation during the uncertainty of the pandemic.”

The School of Media and Performance will be hosting a virtual graduate degree show on 17th July to highlight the work of their final year students. Staff, peers, alumni and friends of MAP will be invited to attend and an online Graduate Platform will be launched, showcasing student profiles and portfolios – follow @UOBMAP on Instagram for further information.

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