When Richard and Natasha Angol moved to Luton nine years ago in search of inexpensive housing, they didn’t expect to fall in love with the town.
But to their surprise and delight, they were enchanted by what they describe as a “mini London.”
Natasha, 40, says: “It’s so exciting and culturally diverse, it was exactly what we wanted.”
They quickly put down roots and in 2008 opened Act Around, a performing arts school for aspiring young actors, singers and dancers.
It was a dream come true for the pair, who work with young people leaving care.
It enabled them to incorporate their interest in drama with social care support, life skills character development and an alternative education centre.
Social worker Richard, 36, trained as an actor and has appeared in a number of films and television series, including The Bill. As a child, Natasha hankered after lessons her parents couldn’t afford.
Now the mother-of-five is witnessing a new generation enjoying the opportunities she was denied.
She is also totally committed to the youngsters in their care.
“We put them up in flats for six months and teach them to support themselves,” she says. “Many come from troubled backgrounds and have no life skills. We found role play works really well with them. It’s very rewarding.
“We spent months finding suitable premises but in November 2011 we stumbled across a three-storey building
in Bute Street that was big enough for a resource centre and to fulfil our service needs.
“It was awful - there were no internal walls or carpets. But there was space for a drama studio, dance floor and conference room.
“We’ve self-funded everything. It’s been a struggle and we’ve still got a long way to go. But we’re both so determined, eager and passonate to create a space in Luton that will be a safe and comfortable environment for young people to come to.
“It’s been a combination of good luck, hard work and all the beautiful people who’ve helped along the way.
“It’s wonderful to see students of all ages doing so well and gaining confidence, including one young boy with autism.
“Some of the kids were singing Frozen the other day. It was really from their hearts and it made me melt inside.
“I hope just one of them will make it to the top and fulfil their dreams – and ours.”