Katie Slavin2

Alumnus of the year, Katie, receives standing ovation following inspirational speech

A University of Cumbria graduate received a standing ovation for her speech after being awarded a prestigious accolade.

Katie Slavin-Trower, 27, was inaugurated as ‘alumnus of the year 2018’ at the university’s graduation ceremonies this week, for her work setting up theatre school, ‘Shining Stars ASN’, for children and adults with additional support needs.

Katie founded the school after she graduated from the university with a BA (Hons) in Drama, Performance and Technical Theatre in her home town of Coatbridge, near Glasgow.

She felt compelled to set up the school because she suffered from a bad stammer when she was younger and found that drama helped her to overcome the challenges it presented.

“Drama helped me so much when I was younger and so setting up the theatre school was the only way I was able to give back and help others who need a little extra push in life,” said Katie.

Katie was so determined that she exhausted her wedding nest egg to fund her dream: “I used the money for my wedding to fund Shining Stars. My wedding was still a lovely day but not as big as it was supposed to be. Last year, I secured funding from the Big Lottery Fund, from the kindness of strangers and businesses, which has helped a lot. We’re still working hard to fundraise to get us where we need to be”, she said.

When she started out she only ran one class a week with five children. Now after three years she’s increased her classes four-fold and helps over 100 children and adults with workshops in drama, musical theatre, dance, drama therapy, a Makaton choir, and arts therapy. She also runs workshops every other Saturday in Carlisle for the Cumbrian Downs Syndrome Association.

At the graduation ceremony on Wednesday 18 July, Katie received her award and gave a short speech, which was so powerful and so moving that she received a spontaneous standing ovation from the audience.

On receiving the award, Katie said: “I’m blown away. I didn’t do Shining Stars to get awards. My kids smiling are award enough but this honour is, just, wow.”

Katie credited senior lecturer in drama at the University of Cumbria, James Issitt for believing in her and instilling the confidence in her to achieve, “from my very first audition, James put all his belief in me and for that I will be forever grateful”. 

In return James said on Twitter that he was, “so proud of Katie”, and it was a “well-deserved honour”.

The ‘alumnus of the year’ is a new award that recognises exceptional successes of the university’s alumni. Katie is only the second recipient of the award. Last year’s winners and the inaugural winners of the award were Ian and Louise Gilbertson of Cloudscape Studios Ltd, Carlisle.