Irwin Mitchell | Focus on Education | My schools story: Ian Kelsey

Ian Kelsey is a well-known actor who has starred in Emmerdale, Blue Murder and Doctors. He has also had leading roles in theatre productions of Chicago, Shawshank Redemption and Legally Blonde. We catch up with Ian to ask him about his education and ambitions as a young, aspiring actor at theatre school.

What schools did you attend and what lessons did you enjoy most?

At Lowfields Secondary Modern in Acomb, a district of York, I loved anything practical, including woodwork, metal work and chemistry. History was also a big favourite learning about the industrial revolution.

A little later in life I found myself at Tech college, where I completed my three year apprenticeship as a vehicle builder at BREL building trains where I learned how to fabricate metal into different forms and rivet, braze or weld them into place.

My last educational experience was Guildford School of Acting where I loved everything that involved a large “jazz hand” and led me into my love of acting.

What were your aspirations as a child?

I can’t remember having specific career aspirations – I was enjoying my childhood too much and in no rush to grow up. Did you have any inspirational teachers and what impact did they have on you? It was the English teacher at Lowfields who spotted the first twitching of a jazz hand and cast me as Widow Twanky in the school pantomime. I was given free reign and at one point during the show I can remember having the teachers in stitches, so I guess that’s where the seed to my eventual career choice was sewn.

Funnily enough, it was the very same English teacher that called me a ‘cretin’ because I used to have, and still do, a deep fear of reading, especially out loud.

Ian Kelsey

(Ian as Andy Dufresne in the stage production of The Shawshank Redemption)

What job did your teachers think you would be best suited for?

I was never asked what I wanted to do in later life - career advice seemed to be non-existent. I wish someone told me “the world is your oyster”. Children today have far more guidance available to them, which I envy.

When I’m watching TV with my six year old and there’s a person picking oranges for Waitrose I say to him “now that’s a job”! You may need a degree in chemistry to get there, but you can do whatever you want to do in life. In my early career I built trains for six years and then moved to joinery work for a couple of years. This experience working on the trains on shifts has helped me to cope with working long hours in front of the camera. I enjoy keeping the energy up on set and bantering with the crew.

I only started drama school because I developed an allergy to cedar wood and was told that I would have to wear a mask or change my career. I thought that only people from London went to drama school and only applied when someone I knew from my local amateur theatre got in!

What is your role/job now?

I am an actor having played parts in Emmerdale, Blue Murder and Doctors. I’m currently taking some time out of the spot light to spend time with my young family and consider my next step in the acting world.

Ian Kelsey
@iankelseyactor