people theatre

East End Stage

Bringing down the Curtain

By Kelly Beswick

Known in show business as the triple threat, singing, dancing and acting have taken Sam Francis all over the world, choreographing on big arena tours and entertaining on cruise liners. But it was back home to her beloved East London she came when she decided to open a performing arts academy and ten years on, she ain’t going nowhere

Waiting in the wings, watching her ‘young people’ perform in the latest production, Sam Francis is overcome with emotion. “I’m watching them excelling, really nailing it,” Sam recalls fondly. “There’s this absolute confidence, that air on stage of believing in who they are, and the next thing I know there’s tears rolling down my cheeks and I’m thinking ‘oh my gosh’.”

It is precisely these moments that make being one of the founders and directors of performing arts academy, X7eaven, so rewarding (the other co-founder is her partner Jackson Edwards, previously a vocal manager for the likes of Bon Jovi). “When you run an organisation like this, most of the time it’s an uphill struggle, especially when it comes to funding. It relies on you doing lots of voluntary hours,” Sam explains. “So for me, the rewards are not financial, it’s seeing the young people that we work with flourish.”

While some of her students do go on to have careers on the stage and screen, for Sam, while that’s lovely, it’s not the entire point of what she does. “There’s one thing I can guarantee for all our young people, even those that don’t go into the performing arts, and that’s when they leave, they will leave with confidence. They have that inner belief and know how to sell them selves. After all, that’s what life is all about.”

Hackney born and bred, Sam was living the life of an itinerant performer, when she decided enough was enough. “I felt I’d gone as far as I could go and the time had come to pass on my knowledge and support others who maybe didn’t have the support I had as a youngster,” says Sam. “Neither myself or Jackson come from affluent families. Our backgrounds are ones where you have to work really hard for what you want, to be extremely focused and supported along the way. We felt that if we could help local young people like we’d been helped, then we’d be doing something worthwhile.”

Thus X7eaven was born, initially occupying space in Bakers Arms before moving to its current location in Leytonstone. “I love being back East, it’s where I belong,” says Sam. “And to know that we’re helping young people from the area is what fires us up and keeps us going.”
And with that, she’s off to teach a street dance class. For Sam there really is no business like show business.

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