September 2, 2022

Nostalgia Series: Erin Hankin’s Theatretrain Story in Ilford

We’re back with more great Theatretrain stories! Today, Erin Hankin shares her story from being a student at Theatretrain Ilford to becoming centre director at Theatretrain Waltham Forest. Over to you Erin!

I started Theatretrain when I was 11 years old and attended Ilford Theatretrain, which was the very first centre ever opened. On my first day I wore baggy combats and had braids in my hair and stood out like a sore thumb! Instead of laughing or excluding myself, I had never felt such a lovely sense of welcome and excitement. My new Theatretrain (TT) mates thought I was cool (I wasn’t) and I thought they were just fab! The next week I was in full TT uniform and so proud to feel part of the family. I’m still part of the family 25 years later! 

When I first started, I was probably strongest at drama but my favourite subject was dance. I found it really hard to remember routines and didn’t know how to use my voice without straining but grew in confidence and enjoyed classes every week! And then of course, came the chance to perform on stage! I loved all the performances but a couple of  favourites were ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Bash the Bard’. I was also fortunate enough to take part in many of the international trips too, they were life changing. 

Some of my top experiences included the Edered Festival held in Estonia, where we met and created performances with students of the same from various countries in Europe. However my absolute favourite was performing a show called ‘Trees in Brixen Italy’. It was a beautiful physical theatre devised piece about the circle of life. It was a site specific piece set outside and performed amongst lit up trees with powerful instrumental music on a lovely summer’s evening. As the theatrical journey pursued, the evening sunset drew into the evening sky synchronising perfectly with the story’s journey! It was such a magical festival to be a part of and inspired my love of contemporary dance, contact improvisation and physical theatre! 

I have so many incredible memories but, beyond the amazing performances, some of my happiest were the exchanges we took part in with other theatre students from Brixen Italy. Workshops by day and sleep overs with our besties by night, we loved it! 

When I reflect on my time at Theatretrain, I can tell you that my singing and dance teachers were huge influences for me at the time. I thought they were amazing and they helped me grow in confidence and strengthen my performing arts skills. At the time I was at a Theatretrain, Kevin Dowsett was the centre Director and gave me so many incredible opportunities and platforms to learn and perform. He continues to be such a source of inspiration and through my love of Theatretrain and exposure to the arts I went on to study performing arts at uni, did a year at Laban and complete a masters thereafter in choreography!  

Theatretrain helped me form lifelong friendships, gave me a sense of community in the shared love of performing arts and developed life long skills in communication and being able to express myself. 

Erin’s advice to any students thinking of enrolling with Theatretrain

Come along and try it. You’ll never meet a more wonderful company to help nurture your love of the arts! 

For me opening a TT centre was a natural progression from being a student, and then teaching at various centres for many years. Gem and I had the opportunity to take over first Basildon and then Waltham Forest centres. As soon as the centres became available we absolutely knew it was the next step in our Theatretrain journey. Today as a centre director now myself, I feel a huge sense of reward to be able to give some of these opportunities to our students and be a part of their performing arts journey!

Amazing story, thanks Erin! You can read more Theatretrain stories from our nostalgia series or email to to get involved and share your story!

Theatretrain, a nationwide provider of weekend theatre schools for young people aged 4-18, specialises in weekly classes in acting, singing, and dancing. An emphasis is placed on learning valuable life skills such as confidence, empathy, courage, and resilience. If you know a child who loves to dance, act and sing or could do with a little confidence boost why not visit to find out what our performing arts classes can offer your child at one of our 80 locations across the UK.

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