Where we’ve been

Riverside Performing Arts was first set up in 1996 under the title of Riverside School of Performing Arts (RSPA) by our founding director Caroline Wilkes. Based in Riverside Church, Birmingham, RSPA was the first church-based Performing Arts School in the UK to offer a one year full time training course to Christians aged 18-30, its aim being to use the performing arts to communicate the Gospel message and serve the community. The course offers expert drama training along with the opportunity to develop in areas such as singing and dance, and works widely within the local community through student performances and community arts projects. Since its foundation Riverside Performing Arts has performed for and worked with well over 500,000 people in the UK and abroad, and in 20 years has seen over 115 young people trained and equipped to use the arts in outreach and community work.

Raw Nerve Theatre Company was founded out of RPSA in 2007, in order that our graduated students along with other trained actors could continue to share the Christian faith and serve the community through the performing arts. Working with schools and community projects, the goal of the theatre company was to address relevant issues from a Christian perspective, supporting the young people in helping them to reach their potential.

In 2012,  we rebranded bringing both the course and the theatre company under the umbrella name of Riverside Performing Arts. The RPA theatre company offers a second year internship to those from the RPA course who wish to continue developing their experience in community theatre. Our ethos remains the same: To use the performing arts to serve communities, communicate the Christian faith and to help people develop their potential.

What we believe

Mission statement: to use the performing arts to serve communities, communicate the Christian faith and to help people develop their potential.

Riverside Performing Arts puts Christ at the centre. We believe submission to God is the key to holiness, integrity and humility in our lives, and we value prayer as a vital foundation to our company. Following Christ’s example we seek to serve others in all aspects of our lives, blessing local communities and equipping individuals to reach their God given potential. We are part of the Great Commission and believe in sensitively communicating the Gospel to others in accessible, diverse, creative, challenging, imaginative and thought-provoking ways. We believe in a creative God and seek to reflect His nature by using the Performing Arts to inspire, raise issues, process ideas and engage people in discussion.

At Riverside Performing Arts we believe in professionalism, excellence, and doing the best we can with what God has provided us with. We value the greater productivity and creativity that a team can bring and believe teamwork is the best way to develop a person’s gifting and character. We seek to develop and encourage each person’s unique potential, and believe in helping individuals to discover and grow in their God given gifts. We encourage putting learning into practice, and we are continually listening to God in order to evaluate and improve what we do, as individuals and as an organisation.

Who we are


Sarah read Drama and English at King Alfred’s University, Winchester, specialising in Community Theatre, before training with Riverside Performing Arts. She has led seminars, performed and spoken at numerous local and national youth and outreach events, most recently leading youth seminars at Spring Harvest and directed many of the company’s shows. Her other experience includes teaching and directing drama with Pioneer Ministries in Ontario, Canada, as well as working as a Children’s Community Outreach Worker for Riverside Church. She is the Artistic Director for Riverside Performing Arts.

naomi Naomi Woodruff is our Drama Tutor. She delivers the training, develops 3 shows with the drama team and directs shows for the theatre company. Naomi trained at Riverside Performing Arts in 2006-2007, remaining with the company as an intern and a Community Arts Worker. Naomi then joined Chester based theatre company ‘Mr & Mrs’ and toured UK schools and prisons with Riding Lights’ ‘Roughshod’ theatre company. She has spoken at Spring Harvest and New Wine youth events and run youth camps. Naomi has a degree in Visual Theatre from Edge Hill University.

Thomas Frith RPA theatre company director

Tom Frith is our Theatre Company Director. He graduated from RPA in 2003, gained a first class degree in Acting and an MA in Performance Practice before setting up ‘Mr & Mrs Theatre’ with his wife Sarah (also an RPA graduate from 2003). He has acted for stage and screen and directed projects for Storyhouse and Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. For the last 3 years he has been the Creative Lead at Saltmine Theatre Company, overseeing all creative projects and teams.

After over 20 years working as a media producer, Helen brings those skills for producing quality promotional and publicity material to RPA and pursues her passion for theatre. She oversees all our digital and print publicity for the theatre company, the gap year and RPA productions. She networks with organisations and individuals, liaises with schools and applicants, builds and runs teams of people and books tours. She also gets involved with teaching and mentoring.

“RPA are life bringers. I love how they bring our students out of themselves and encourage them to give things a go, where they wouldn’t normally try. RPA are unique and our relationship with them is precious.”

– Drama Teacher, Swanshurst School, Birmingham

“Your leaders provided a wonderful experience for all our children. The message came home in an effective way.”

– Teacher, Triple Crown PRU

“RPA has increased my confidence so much. It has grown me in both my talents and my knowledge of God! I have learnt to trust God with everything. For all of this I am so thankful.”

– Katie Woods, RPA graduate 2012-2013

“An exciting and vibrant performance that carried important messages for young people today, that will help them to become socially conscious adults tomorrow.”

– Head Teacher, Alvechurch Middle School

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