How Stephanie’s idea helped a million children
The story of Stagecoach Performing Arts
Stephanie Manuel was a divorced single mother when in 1988 she conceived the premise for Stagecoach Performing Arts. Always having a passion for the stage and so taking her children to drama and dance classes, she had the idea of weekly sessions for children that would incorporate the three disciplines of acting, dancing and singing, one hour of each, one after the other in one session. Finding the financial support to set it up, she opened her first class in Richmond. The concept mushroomed and soon friends opened more schools and eventually the classes spread all over Britain and even overseas. The development of the business, which evolved into a franchise operation, was a remarkable achievement by Stephanie and her team, but it was the children and young people who benefitted the most. Even if the classes did not lead to a performing career, which they often did, the students learned poise and self-confidence that they might otherwise have lacked, to carry forward into any walk of life.
Peter Marshall began his career as a radio and TV news reporter, then editor, with the BBC. He moved into management with Visnews, a BBC “offspring” providing international TV news to broadcasters around the word. While there, he was a pioneer in the use of satellites for global TV news transmission in the 1980’s and he moved to Washington DC to join the inter-Governmental organisation INTELSAT, then the only international satellite operating organization, to create a broadcast services division. Three years later, as the satellite industry was being deregulated around the world, he became President of Keystone Communications, a US-based private sector satellite services company.
While at Visnews, he served as Chairman of the RTS (Royal Television Society); and in the USA he became President of the SSPI (Society of Satellite Professionals International) and was elected to the Society’s “Hall of Fame”.
On his retirement, he returned to the UK and in the years that followed he has been author, co-author or editor of several books including Communications Satellites – Global Change Agents, Launching into Commercial Space, License to Orbit and The Oracle of Colombo – a biography of Arthur C. Clarke. Other books unrelated to the space industry have included A Wayward Spirit by Peter J. Harris, Megacrunch – Survival Strategies for the 21st Century and he is currently working on The Voice, the Face – a biography of the broadcaster Martin Muncaster.
“It was my four grandchildren who inspired me to explore the story of Stagecoach. Over a period of nearly twenty years, at least one of them – sometimes it was three – was always a student at the Saturday classes in Walton-on-Thames. When visiting my family nearby, I would take or collect them and sense the atmosphere and enjoyment as they and their friends arrived and departed… When I learned recently about the way in which the Stagecoach concept had mushroomed, and then passed into new ownership for £6 million, I was intrigued. And the more I researched the subject, the more I realised that it was a story worth sharing and memorialising in this book.” – from The World is Their Stage, prologue.
Peter says it was his journalistic instincts which drew him to the story of Stagecoach Performing Arts and the more he researched the subject, the better it became!
And The World is Their Stage is the end result.