Chantelle grew up on a council estate in Poplar, East London. She discovered early in her childhood that there weren’t many activities for her in the neighbourhood, so she spent most of her days hanging on the streets with her friends. Her estate is just across the tracks from Canary Wharf, the wealthy financial district in Tower Hamlets. It is connected to Poplar by a footbridge, and she always wondered what it would be like to live and work there. How did the people in Canary Wharf area speak? How did they act? Why did they wear smart clothes?
Feeling that she wouldn’t know how to fit in there, she remained in the neighbourhood where she felt most comfortable, but still had the opportunity to escape in her imagination, especially at the after-school theatre club down the road at the Half Moon Theatre. There she fell in love with drama, and made plans to pursue a career as a drama educator. Chantelle wanted to change the world and help other children grow in confidence and perform on stage. She managed to gain two degrees in drama education, and then had the experience of a lifetime at the All Stars Project in New York City. Working there changed her whole perspective on the possibilities of performance: she discovered that it’s something people can use offstage too as a tool in their life. After witnessing the impact of All Stars on so many young people in the poor communities in New York, her desire to change the world seemed closer to reality.
She brought the All Stars model back to her neighbourhood in Poplar, and teamed up with Brian who had also worked for All Stars in New York. Together they envisioned using performance as a bridge that could connect young people from London’s poorest borough with new people and new experiences that would open up their lives. Starting near the very estate where Chantelle grew up, they did outreach in schools, community centres and on Saturdays at Chrisp Street Market and in schools. With the help of Sister Christine from St Matthias Church (a nun Chantelle knew from childhood) and other volunteers they managed to put on the first All Stars London Talent Show in 2014. The organization has grown from there: producing bigger shows each year, organising bridge-building trips that have connected young people to the world beyond Poplar and finally establishing All Stars London as an officially registered charity. All Stars London is in a fruitful position, with much potential to grow not only in Tower Hamlets, but in the whole of London.