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Inspiring young talent


P&O Cruises embarks on a new sponsorship programme to inspire and nurture new talent

Two Wilkes Academy students on board Britannia

Wilkes Academy students Joel Ekperisin and Charlotte Payne

The entertainment on board P&O cruises ships is second to none. From dazzling West End style shows to comedy, live music and much, much more, we want to give our guests something to look forward to at every moment of their holiday.


And because giving you the best entertainment at sea is important to us, we’ve joined forces with actor and television presenter Jonathan Wilkes and Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts in Swindon to nurture and inspire young talent.


Sponsoring emerging talent

As part of our new sponsorship programme for emerging talent, each year we’re awarding scholarships to two Wilkes Academy students. Those students then also have the opportunity to come on board our ships to gain some valuable work experience in the industry.


‘We’ve always been interested in young, up-and-coming talent to work on our cruise ships, in particular in our production shows. We went to the Wilkes Academy last year and the talent that’s coming through from that particular Academy is phenomenal,’ says P&O Cruises Head of Entertainment, Paul Wright, in our video about the partnership.


‘It is imperative that we show today’s young talent the breadth of opportunities that are ahead of them,’ says Paul. ‘The theatres on our ships are state of the art, allowing us to create contemporary, world-class shows and recruit the best young talent. We employ over 200 performers and each one spends two months rehearsing in our Southampton studios before taking the shows on board.’

Stars of the future

The first two Wilkes Academy students to benefit from P&O Cruises sponsorship are 21-year-old Joel Ekperisin and 16-year-old Charlotte Payne.


Joel began dancing at the age of 10 after moving to London from Nigeria. With street dancing his first passion, he then joined Pineapple Studios and gained experience in commercials, pantomime and music videos. First year Wilkes student Charlotte Payne began dancing at the age of two at Swindon Academy of Dance. She twice represented Team England in the Dance World Cup in Portugal and Romania and then worked with the BBC on dance show Glee Club


‘We hope that by sponsoring two students each year and giving them insight and experience both on shore and at sea we can also give them a springboard to their future,’ says Paul. ‘I am proud that we are investing in tomorrow’s theatrical stars in this way.’


The work experience gained on board a P&O Cruises ship is extremely valuable within the industry. ‘Cruise ships provide an unrivalled training ground for young talent,’ says Wilkes Academy principal Jonathan Wilkes. ‘With a number of different shows each week they practice their range of disciplines and so become a true all rounder. This makes them so much more versatile, which can only aid their future career. The performances on P&O Cruises ships are worthy of the West End or Broadway and are supported by the most high-tech staging and kit to produce truly spectacular shows. We are very fortunate to have this association.’


Find out more about the entertainment on board our ships >