DONNA Taylor was a poor kid with bad prescription glasses, an alcoholic father and a bed-ridden mother. But when a teacher told her she had a talent for acting, it changed the course of her life forever.

Growing up in poverty in a council estate in north London, and often absent from school, Donna didn’t believe she could amount to much.

But as a result of her teacher’s praise she went on to work as an actress, co-founded a theatre school and has now set up a film company. She is proof that some positive encouragement can go a long way.

“To be told by Mary Ward from the Chicken Shed Theatre Company that I had a rare talent, a gift for acting, and that I should pursue it, meant so much to me,” says Donna, now 39. “At the age of 17 I had seen my father becoming steadily more ill from alcohol abuse and had become a carer for my mum.

“I’d been through a lot at a young age and to hear something positive turned everything around for me.”

Donna, who set up the film company DT Films in 2008, believes that kids with challenging backgrounds should be encouraged into drama if they show promise.

“For me, drama was a form of escapism where I could be free and feel like a child for a while. It was something away from home life and being bullied at school for my glasses.

“As I got older I saw how my life experience gave me an edge as an actor, I could bring something genuine to the part.

“I can spot raw talent. It is hard to describe it. It’s a presence and an understanding of the script. It is something genuine and also innocent.”

Donna’s home life was full of love but it was made challenging due to grinding poverty.

She says: “Often we would have to go next door to use their electric when ours was cut off. I remember looking in the cupboards and the only thing there was some lard. It wasn’t always like that, only when things were bad.

“Everyone on the estate was on the bread-line. I loved the place, though, because it was home and us kids spent all our time living in each others’ houses.

“There were problems going on that anyone outside the family would not have known about.

“Like a lot of families we had issues but they were kept behind closed doors.

“My father was an alcoholic but he had the appearance of being really clean cut and together. He did like a drink when he was at home.

“He was a bit of a lost soul but a lovely, clever man who loved us. He was a skilled boxer but he lost friends in a tragic accident and that changed him.”

Donna missed a lot of school due to her mum Pauline’s ill health.

Donna says: “Mum had a blood clot which lead to a stroke and her having to have heart surgery. She was in hospital for months at a time when me and my brother were growing up.” Donna thinks people need to recognise the signs of distress in youngsters when they have troubles at home.

“We would hide in the attic because we were too distraught to go to school when mum was first ill. “Later I would care for her and it meant I missed a lot of school as a result. When I did go in they’d say: ‘Oh, been off again?’.

“There was a lot going on in my young life and I had a lot burden. That’s why I relate to kids from tough homes now.

“When kids are having a tough time a lot of it is under the surface.”

After secondary school Donna went on to Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Wood Green,and then started working for the Chicken Shed Theatre Company. She had lead roles in several big productions.

But she believes that her life could have easily taken a different path.

“It is easy to take the wrong route and get in with a bad crowd. I don’t know what I would have done without the encouragement from my drama teachers. “I had a friend who grew up on the same estate but ended up having a completely different journey and got into drugs and prostitution.”

Donna discovered a passion for acting.

She says: “It was not until I started working for the Chickn Shed Theatre Company I felt I was truly accepted.

“I had a lot of lead parts and did school workshops. I was in Shakespeare plays, in several; films and the parts about real people’s lives.”

She co-founded a theatre school in Waltham Abbey for seven years and it was there Donna realised her dream to inspire youngsters into acting.

She says: “Teaching kids drama opened my eyes and it became more of a community project than a business.”

After embarking on a distance learning course in film studies Donna set up DT Productions with her partner Robin Plumber. They have worked on a variety of music videos and short films and work in schools to encourage youngsters to get into drama.

Dragged Up Dirty is the latest script for a feature film. One which Donna hopes to cast with disenfranchised youngsters who have a natural talent for acting.

She says “I want to give young people a chance to be part of something.

“I want to give them the opportunities I had.”

The film script tells the story of Melanie, a troubled teenager, whose only solace is a gift for poetry. Her mother is an alcoholic and her daily life is a constant struggle looking after her siblings and trying to stop them being taken into care.

When she falls into a bad crowd it seems Melanie’s life is destined to be on the fringes of society.

“The character echoes my own life in some ways. It shows how easy it is for young people to make the wrong decisions in life. I was lucky because I was not easily led and had opportunities in life.”

They currently have Harry F Rushton lined up as co-producer, and Lynda Bellingham has shown an interest in the project.

Donna is looking forward to creating something unique with the film.

She says: “I would like to eventually hold an open auditions for Essex and London.”

“It’s a community project to get young people dreaming big.

“Encouragement is the only ways to let these kids flourish.”

Visit for more information.