Danielle Hope - a career in the arts is incredibly exciting and dangerous
PUBLISHED: 02:14 27 October 2015 | UPDATED: 02:14 27 October 2015
Former Knutsford schoolgirl Danielle Hope took the yellow brick road to stardom and is helping pupils at her old school follow in her footsteps. Words by Paul Mackenzie
It has been a busy year for Danielle Hope so she’s entitled to enjoy putting her feet up and relaxing this month. The former Knutsford High School pupil went from a five month tour with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to seven months on the road with The Sound of Music and also found time to bring out her debut album.
‘I’m looking forward to having a break. I’ll spend my first week off at home, then I’m off to New York. I love being in America. It’s not everyone’s idea of a relaxing place, but I feel totally relaxed there.’
Five years ago Danielle started her career at the very top when she won the BBC’s hunt for a Dorothy in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Over the Rainbow and she’s been busy ever since.
Now aged 23, Danielle made her final appearances as Maria von Trapp when the Sound of Music tour reached Liverpool a few weeks ago. She said: ‘You never know what’s around the corner in this business so it can be terrifying because you don’t know where the next pay cheque is coming from but I’m enjoying just going along with the adventure.
‘It’s a very strenuous thing to do, to go through the same motions eight times a week but live theatre is never all the same from one night to the next and when you’re working with a lot of children as we were, there’s never a dull day. That’s the beauty of live theatre.
‘It was five years ago that I won Dorothy and so I started right at the top. Normally people have a steady climb to work their way up to that level. For me, success is longevity and I think there is more pressure on me, if only from myself. I have always felt like nothing is enough but I am learning to let that go and to enjoy every step of the way.
‘I don’t class myself as one type of artist, I don’t just want to do musical theatre. There are always different avenues to explore – I’ve done the album and I wouldn’t say no to screen work.’
Danielle grew up north of the Mersey in Urmston and although she wanted to perform from an early age, it’s not in her genes. Her mum is a hospital receptionist and her dad owns a firm of building contractors. Danielle said: ‘All my family have regular jobs but they have been very supportive and very lovely, there’s not a big focus on my work, it’s just treated as another job.’
Although she grew up outside the catchment area, Danielle’s mum was impressed by Knutsford High School’s reputation and was determined she should attend. She was finally accepted after two appeals and that’s where she met one of her major influences. ‘There was a wonderful teacher called Helen Mayne, the head of performance and she’s still a very dear close friend,’ Danielle said.
‘She made everything possible. She educated me on everything and I’m very glad she’s still there – the pupils are very lucky to have her.’
Danielle is a frequent visitor to her old school – now called Knutsford Academy – and enjoys speaking to the pupils about her career and encouraging others to follow a life in showbusiness. That willingness to share her experiences and help others starting out on the road (yellow-bricked or otherwise) is a sign of her mature approach to stardom and the pressures and responsibilities it brings.
‘I love to teach and to pass on whatever I have learned. I’m more than happy to pass on anything that might help,’ she said. ‘A career in the arts is incredibly exciting and dangerous too, in a way. It’s a hard business to get into and there is no right path, you just have to find what works for you – that’s all part of the amazing adventure.
‘My parents had a slight concern about what I wanted to do and said that maybe I should take history and English in case it doesn’t work out. But I had the determination and the focus to make sure it worked out.
‘I really respect the responsibility of the job. The nation voted for me to have the role of Dorothy and I still meet a lot of people who watched that.
‘I have had the pleasure of giving a lot of people their first theatre experience and that is something that’s very special to me.’
Danielle’s former teacher and now friend Helen Mayne recalls the star’s school days in Knutsford
Danielle appeared in a number of school productions under teacher Helen Mayne’s direction, including roles as Carmen in Fame, Maria in West Side Story and as the narrator in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Helen, who still teaches at the school, said: ‘When she was here it was clear she had an extraordinary talent which emerged very early on. I could see on the first day I taught her in Year Eight that she was talented but it wasn’t until Year Ten that I started to think she really had the potential to go a long way.’
Helen, Knutsford Academy’s head of performance, encouraged Danielle to audition for Over the Rainbow and coached her through her drama A level and BTec in musical theatre. The two are now close friends.
‘She was surrounded by talent when she was here,’ Helen added: ‘At least six of Danielle’s contemporaries are touring or working at a high level in the arts and so that kind of talent was the norm.
‘It makes a world of difference to the students we have now – and we have some very talented Year 12 and 13 students at the moment – to be able to show them people who have come from similar backgrounds, been through the school and gone on to make it. That sort of role model can be invaluable.’
A few of her favourite things
I miss Tatton Park. I love nature and green places and I used to go there after school with my friends.
I’m thinking of moving to the States. New York has always been my inspiration, ever since a school trip from Knutsford High it has been the place I have always seen myself.
Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre was my hideaway. It’s a really inspiring place. I love it there.