Shining a light on Josh’s passion for improving school theatre

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A teenager who played a pivotal role in revamping the theatrical lighting in his Linslade school is in a competition that hails the ‘giving to others’ of Bedfordshire’s younger generation.

Josh Mitchell, 16, always had a keen interest in theatre design. Despite living in Dunstable he applied to go to Cedars Upper because of its theatre.

Over the last two years he has redesigned and updated the lighting rig for the school theatre, allowing staff and students to enjoy better and brighter lighting for school productions and events. The project is still ongoing as he hopes the lighting will be maintained by like-minded youngster after he leaves school.

Now he been nominated for the Atlas Young People of the Year awards or ‘YOPEYs’ – Oscars for young people who ‘give to others’.

The annual contest has over £1,000 to be won by Bedfordshire young people who ‘give to others’.

There will be at least two Beds Young People of the Year. A senior YOPEY, aged 17-25, winning £500, and a junior YOPEY, aged 10-16, winning £300. Either prize can be won by an individual or group and the winners have to invest most of their winnings in their good cause but can keep £100 to treat themselves. There will also be several £100 runners-up prizes.

Josh, of Guilded Acre, Dunstable, was nominated by his form teacher, Ashley Calloway. She said: “Josh is passionate about lighting and has been involved in lighting all the school musicals and fashion shows. He has undertaken a revamp project to improve the lighting of the school which hadn’t been updated in years.

“To fund the project, he wrote letters to the PTA, and held meetings with the school head and the site team to see what needed to be done and how the project would be sustained once he left school.

“It is Josh’s forward-thinking and successful planning that I admire so much. The project must have taken many hours of his time but he just keeps giving.”

Josh realised the school lighting needed updating after he helped with a few productions. In fact it was the possibilities for the school theatre which attracted him to apply for a place at Cedars. 

He explained: “What attracted me to the school was their school theatre. Even though I live in Dunstable, when we went to look at Cedars Upper, I felt that it was more inspiring for me and the theatre had potential.

“At the end of year 10 I realised the lighting rig was not what it could be and the equipment needed to be replaced or upgraded to cater for all the different school productions.

“I couldn’t get any funding from the school headteacher so had to go higher up to the school PTA. They agreed with my plans and kindly offered me a budget of £350. I met with the finance department and allocated the funding to what was needed and then ordered the equipment. 

“I then had the bigger task of organising and setting up the rig. I came in during school holidays as well to see my project become a reality.

“I’m happy to say the better lighting has made a great difference to the school community, and I am determined that many students in the future will continue to benefit from it.”

Outside of school Josh helped to run the lighting for the Aylesbury Mayor’s Carol Service at St Mary’s Church in the town, and the Totternhoe Farm Fest, a pub beer and music weekend at The Old Farm Inn in Dunstable in aid of Prostrate Cancer UK. Later this year he will be doing the sound for a concert in Milton Keynes too.

Josh has also completed volunteer work with Oxfam for a year. After spending three months with the charity’s shop in Leighton Buzzard High Street for his Duke of Edinburgh award, he stayed on for another nine because he enjoyed the volunteering so much.

YOPEY started in Bedfordshire in 2006 and has expanded to many other counties. Its founder, former national newspaper journalist Tony Gearing, said: “There are many young people in Bedfordshire doing wonderful things for others. It’s just that they live in the shadow of a well-publicised anti-social minority. 

“We need to give young people the respect they deserve and set up the best as positive role models for others to copy rather than focusing on the small number who appear in the press for negative reasons.”

About this entry, Tony said: “Josh has found a unique way of giving to others. With his experience in production lighting, he has enabled his school to benefit from his work for years to come.”

As well as Atlas Converting, which is based in Wolseley Road, Kempston, this year’s Beds YOPEY is sponsored by the county’s fire & rescue service and recruitment company Guidant Group.

The Bedfordshire awards will be presented at St John’s College, Cambridge, this autumn when a joint ceremony with Cambridgeshire young people will be held. But there will be separate winners for each county.

> Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate logon to or write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries close on July 31.