Grace Francis, who graduated from London Met in 2011 with a Performing Arts BA (now Theatre and Performance Practice BA) is the founder of DramEd – a successful creative education and events company with a fast-growing network of performers who teach creatively in schools and nurseries.
Grace has a background as an actress, performing in theatres ranging from the Battersea Arts Centre to the National Theatre, and has been featured on Channel 4 and the BBC. She's on a mission to shake up outdated areas of education, whilst making the arts more accessible through the skills and talents of performers.
It sounds like your work keeps you busy! What makes your workshops particularly special?
Our educators are extremely talented performers who literally go from the stage to the classroom and make learning fun and memorable through their abilities as singers, dancers and actors. They'll sing maths songs and act scenes from history as if they're going for an Oscar! We have had our workshops and classes delivered by movement directors, part-time theatre producers and creative parents with talents the world should know about – such as R&B artist Kyra Vidal, who has been featured on BBC1 Xtra for example. Having talent like this bringing learning to life for children feels like a massive achievement!
What’s a typical day for you?
I wake up and get my children ready for school. On most days I deliver one of my classes in the morning and for the rest of the day I create content and generate sales for my business. I also work on taking it to the next stage of its development – which is creating value for our licensees. I collect my children from school at 3.15pm and spend time with them as well as doing all the parent chores up until their bedtime. I then return to my work, creating content and planning the most effective actions for the next day. I always try to end my evening with some mindfulness and yoga.
Do you have a favourite DramEd story?
I have a very large cupboard full of books which is like a small children’s library – I’m not sure I can choose a favourite… We have a maths program called DramEd Number Fun™ which explores concepts in maths with preschoolers. How Big is a Million? by Anna Milbourne is a lovely educational story that we use.
What were the main challenges in setting up your own business?
Trusting myself and my ideas, raising the money to invest in starting it up, managing our finances and hiring a team. Learning how to run a successful business took a long time and I’m sure I will always be learning something. I didn’t know anything about running a business when I first started.
What led you to study at London Met?
A college teacher of mine studied there and said she really liked it, so I applied. By the time I reached university I already had a four-year-old son so my hands were full!
What were the facilities like here?
I have been back to see it since I left and it looks really nice, so much has changed. When I was there it had everything I needed: drama studios, classrooms, dance studios – they were good. I just loved the drama studios, they bring back such fond memories.
What did you like best about your course?
The teachers, I learnt so much from them and they were so supportive.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend?
Everything is at your fingertips in London, I love a trip up to Waterloo to visit The Southbank Centre, there is always lots going on there and of course I love the theatres.
Did you find it easy to make friends at London Met and have you kept in touch?
Yes I did, my friendships made at London Met were the best. I got married last year and a few of my friends and my teachers came to my wedding. One of my friends who I met at London Met was my maid of honour. My sons were her page boys and I am her daughter’s godmother!
If you could choose one word to describe your experience here, what would it be?
Valuable. One of the biggest things I believe you can take from university is your network – and that is extremely valuable.
What are your next career steps?
Through delivering DramEd’s educational preschool programs, teaching literacy, maths and dance-fitness through performing arts, I have secured enough contracts with enough nurseries to allow me to develop an online platform that supports performers who enjoy working with children.
I believe this not only creates an exciting dynamic for children's education, but it also allows creatives to nurture their singing or acting careers as well as benefiting from a stable and flexible lifestyle career.
We are expanding our classes and our teachers into more areas and have plans to cross borders and have teachers in other countries too!