Rising Stars Stories

Below are several stories from families that we have helped with our rising stars bursary.

Alexander Harford as Lockhart

Alexander as Gilbert Worthy in the Academy's production of "Lockhart".

An actor's life for me

In June 2017 Alexander Harford successfully completed a 3-year BA Honours Degree Course at Mount View Academy of Theatre Arts in Wood Green, London, which was partly funded by a POOBI bursary.

Alexander started the course in September 2014. He was one of only 36 budding actors to be selected by the Academy from some 6,000 applicants. "It has been the most intense three years of my life. I now have an agent and I am looking for acting work. In the meantime I have had to take a day job," Alexander told us.

Alexander Harford as Robby the Stockfish of Urintown

Alexander (centre) as Robby the Stockfish in the Academy's production of "Urintown".

"I will be forever grateful to POOBI for making it possible for me to pursue my chosen career. Not only have they helped me, they have supported my Mum and Dad through the time I spent at drama school. Without any of this the past three years would have been a very different story, so thank you," said Alexander.

Alexander's father, Michael Harford, has been a postman for the past 26 years at Stockport, Cheshire.


Matthew Bates

Aiming to be a professional classical dancer

Matthew Bates, aged 17, whose father, Steve, is a postman at Welton, Lincolnshire, has been having dancing lessons since he was six. His dancing teacher, Joanne Haylock, encouraged Matthew to audition for The Royal Ballet School Junior Associate programme when he was in Year 3. He was successful and every other Saturday he went to Covent Garden to train. In Year 6 he successfully auditioned to join The Royal Ballet School full time – one of only 12 boys accepted each year.

Matthew Bates

From age 11, Matthew went to live and train at The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge, Richmond Park. During his Year 11, alongside his GCSEs, he successfully auditioned to join The Royal Ballet Upper School against tough international competition and started training at Covent Garden. He has to pass annual assessments to maintain his place.

In January 2017 he was selected as the only male student to represent the school in Japan where he took part in demonstrations and workshops for a week.

Matthew's mother, Helen, told us "Without the support of the POOBI "Rising Stars" bursary and from a Music and Dance Scholarship, which is means tested, we could not have managed to pay for Matt's dance schooling. Matthew has secured his place for the next academic year at The Royal Ballet Upper School, but he will need to secure a further year if he is to make it as a professional classical dancer. His goal is to be a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet Company."


Elliot Robinson

Elliot Robinson.

A budding Yorkshire cricketer

Eleven-year-old Elliot Robinson is a budding Yorkshire cricketer, who is being helped with a POOBI "Rising Stars" bursary of £750, which he received in November 2016. He started playing cricket when he was just 5-years-old for the Cullingworth Cobras Under 9s side. He now plays for the Cobras Under 11s and Under 13s sides as well as the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket Association, Bradford & Calderdale District.

Elliot's father, David, who is a postman at Bradford Valley, is a keen cricketer, having played since he was ten years old and today still plays and runs two junior teams.

Elliot Robinson with the bat

Elliot with the bat.

David told us "Elliot was selected for the Yorkshire under 11s A team again this year and in his first match he took four wickets. He has had cricket training from me and the Cricket Asylum and Silver Pathways at Headingley, the home of Yorkshire Cricket Club, for the last two years. Elliot's ambition is to play for Yorkshire and progress to playing for England.

"A big thank you to POOBI for the "Rising Stars" bursary, The money we received to help Elliot's progress is a real help to the family and we really appreciate it."


Nesta Baxter - WAKO World Kickboxing Champion

Nesta with the Junior Team Winners trophy at the WAKO World Championships in Dublin 2016.

Nesta, the GB Kickboxing champion

Nesta Baxter, 17, whose father Nigel is a postman in Boston, Lincolnshire, is the reigning WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Associations) British National Champion in both styles of Kickboxing, Point Fighting and Continuous Kickboxing - and has been for the past five years. Overall, in the past five years, Nesta has claimed 10 WAKO British Champion titles.

POOBI awarded the first of three annual Rising Stars bursaries to Nesta in 2014. "The support of these bursary funds has been a big help in my Junior amateur international Kickboxing career", said Nesta.

"I started taking Kickboxing classes at the age of 4. I began competing when I was 8 and then properly competing at a National level at the age of 12. I started representing my country at the age of 13 in September 2014 when I was selected for the WAKO GB Team to compete in the WAKO Junior European Kickboxing Championships in Poland." she told us.

Nesta's biggest achievement to date was in September last year at the WAKO World Kickboxing Championship in Dublin, where she represented Team GB in the Team Event - consisting of 4 males and 2 females - and we won the World Title.

Nesta Baxter

Nesta competing and winning in the Athens Challenge Tournament 2017.

Currently Nesta has won 28 Gold medals internationally in Greece, Croatia, Czech Republic, Holland, Spain, Scotland and Ireland.

"I would like to say a very big thank you to POOBI for the three bursaries I have received, which have helped me so much to achieve my goals in my sport of Kickboxing, through your kindness I will be able to continue representing my country in the sport I love", said Nesta.

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