Former CANDI student stars and co-produces film with acclaimed director Wim Wenders

A former City and Islington College (CANDI) Performing Arts student is starring in a short film she co-produced with acclaimed German director Wim Wenders.

Lena Góra also co-wrote the script for Roving Woman with director Michal Chmielewski, which was also produced by her co-star John Hawkes and Orian Williams.

Wenders is best known for his film Paris, Texas, which won the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984 and saw him win a BAFTA for Best Direction the following year. He has been nominated for a Oscar for Best Documentary Feature on three occasions

Roving Woman is a quirky road movie about a woman called Sara who is kicked out of her home after a break-up and steals a car, falls in love with the owner and sets out to find him.

Lena, who studied for a Performing Arts Level 3 Diploma at CANDI, explained that the film was inspired by the disappearance of US singer-songwriter Connie Converse and her own life.

She said: “There’s been a really wonderful reaction to the film. I’ve worked with many acclaimed producers and it feels different with each person. Wim is a really special human being and his movies are a work of art. He inspired us all in every possible way.”

Lena was born in Poland where she performed in theatre before taking the stage in London and New York before her TV debut in the CANAL+ series The King of Warsaw. Last year she appeared in the film Traveling Light, filmed in Los Angeles Light and the Polish crime-romance Saint.

She also co-wrote and received a Special Mention for the film Stillborn at the presentation of the Krzysztof Kieslowski Award, which was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, and is set to star in a Netflix dark comedy feature called Night at the Kindergarten.

Giving her advice to future performers or anyone wanting to get into film, Lena said: “Don’t be lazy. Don’t wait to get discovered. Networking doesn’t work unless you have a really solid project that you are pitching.”

Another former CANDI Performing Arts student, Blanka Douglas, was the Production Manager for Roving Woman, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in June.

Blanka is also from Poland and came to the UK in 2013 and after studying at CANDI she went on to graduate with a BA (Hons) Drama from Queen Mary University of London.

The daughter of a Polish film director, she co-produced and appeared in her first short film An Ode to The Order of Things, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017. She has also appeared, produced and directed other shorts through her own production company Doorbell Films.

Blanka said: “I will never forget my time at CANDI and the support I got. I came to the UK by myself and was renting a room with people I don’t know, and my English wasn’t great.

“I am so grateful for my teachers who really made sure I had a good experience. They always had a lot of energy and time to pass their expertise. They were wonderful teachers but also exceptional human beings. I made sure I put extra effort to get good grades and they saw it. I truly couldn’t choose a better place to start in London.”

Lena and Blanka are among the many successful CANDI Performing Arts alumni, which includes Charlie Heaton, best known for his role as Jonathan Byers in Netflix hit series Stranger Things.

Other former students include Armin Karima, who has appeared in Netflix series Sex Education and Black Mirror as well as BBC drama Waterloo Road, and Kandaka Moore whose theatre credits include Bernarda Alba, The Bacchae and Yard Girl. She has also sung and featured in music videos for Clean Bandit.

Tim Chaundy, Curriculum Leader for Performing Arts, said: “It’s so inspiring to see our students Lena and Blanka making such fantastic progress in the film industry. Both were students on our Performing Arts courses and were committed students who also liked to question and push the boundaries, which shows in the work that they have gone on to create.

“We’re very proud of the diversity of students that have trained at CANDI, many of whom go on to high-level industry work in theatre and on screen, or further training at some of the world’s top universities and drama schools.”

Find out more about Performing Arts courses and apply here.

Former WestKing Hospitality student named runner-up in UK Receptionist of the Year

A former Westminster Kingsway College hospitality student has been named runner-up in the AICR UK Receptionist of the Year competition.

Emily Gilson-Jones, 19, who works at the five-star Pan Pacific London hotel in the City, came second out of 10 finalists at a ceremony at Hotel Café Royal in Regent Street on 14 November.

She said: “It’s a huge shock to be named as one of the best receptionists in the UK, but one of the best achievements of my career so far.

“When they announced the second runner-up as the girl from Four Seasons, I thought I haven’t got a chance, but then they announced me as the first runner-up. Suddenly, they handed me a certificate and I was in tears. I’m still gobsmacked to be honest. It has only just started to sink in.”

Emily achieved a triple-starred Distinction in her Hospitality Level 3 Diploma at WestKing in 2021 and was one of two students to share the college’s Best Hospitality Student of the Year award that year.

She began her hospitality career working part-time in front and back of house roles at the Roslin Beach Hotel in her hometown of Southend-on-Sea while she was studying at college.

After finishing her diploma, Emily worked as a Private Events Waitress for The Connaught in Mayfair before joining Pan Pacific London as a Front Desk Agent in March this year.

“I loved my time at WestKing. Even when everything went online during the pandemic, we were still doing all our classes and working as a team and all of the college tutors supported us,” she said.

“By the time it came to the graduation ceremony I couldn’t believe it was over. I wanted to stay on for another two years and do it all again.”

Emily was among a group of students at WestKing who provided catering and hospitality for a schools’ event at 10 Downing Street to mark International Women’s Day just prior to lockdown.

“I remember thinking this is quite overwhelming but really cool, I’m 16 years old and I am having the opportunity to do this,” said Emily, who along with other students met then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other political figures on the day.

“My connection at The Connaught was also through the college. If I hadn’t gone to WestKing I wouldn’t be where I am now, because if The Connaught wasn’t on my CV I wouldn’t have got the opportunity at Pan Pacific.

“I’m working at a five-star hotel, which wouldn’t have happened if I had just walked out of school with A Levels and then decided I wanted to work in hospitality. WestKing gave me my first real stepping stone on my hospitality journey. I wouldn’t change it.”

Emily learnt she was among the finalists in October following an interview with AICR UK committee members after she was nominated by Nicole Cechmann, Front of House Manager at Pan Pacific.

“The team I work alongside at Pan Pacific is one of the best teams I’ve ever worked in,” said Emily. 

“For a business to be successful you need to work as a team, and when you get on with the team you work with, it makes it so much easier.

“It’s also nice when guests are checking in and excited about their stay, and when they leave and they tell you their experience has lived up to or gone beyond their expectations. That is probably one of the most rewarding things. It’s the reason we work in the industry.”

The AICR (Amicale Internationale des Sous Directeurs et Chefs de Réception des Grand Hôtel) was founded by the receptionists of several hotels on the Côte d’Azur in France in 1964.

AICR UK was formed when the Association of Front Office Management (UK) joined the AICR in 1989, three years after the association was established in 1986.

Liane Bhalla, Lecturer in Hospitality, Food and Beverage and Supervision, said: “We are all super proud that Emily has finished as the first runner-up in the AICR Best Receptionist UK 2022.

“At college she showed huge potential. She was always bubbly and enthusiastic, going above and beyond what was required of her in her assignment and practical sessions in the training restaurants and happy to volunteer to take part in other events. She was clearly destined for a fantastic career in hospitality.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here.

Young chef ‘humbled and proud’ to win Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year

A “phenomenal” young chef from Westminster Kingsway College has been named Apprentice of the Year 2022 at Compass Group UK & Ireland’s Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.

Dylan Patel, 25, who is undertaking a Chef de Partie Level 3 Apprenticeship at Compass Group’s head office in Chertsey, Surrey, won the award in the Retail, Hospitality and Tourism category.

The awards showcase the huge talent and hard work within multicultural communities that is made possible through the contribution and support of employers and education providers.

Dylan, from Hounslow, who started his culinary career on a Commis Chef Level 2 Apprenticeship, said: “I am so humbled and proud to being named the winner of this award.

“Taking on this apprenticeship has allowed me to follow my passion, balancing learning with practical work whilst getting paid. I love being part of the team here and learning from others around me.

“There is always something new to uncover and that’s what I enjoy most about being a chef and I hope to build my knowledge further, as I continue this exciting journey.”

Compass Group UK & Ireland is part of Compass Group, the largest contract catering company in the world employing 500,000 people and serving 5.5 billion meals to 55,000 clients each year.

Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers at Compass Group UK & Ireland, congratulated Dylan on his “wonderful achievement.”

He further praised Dylan’s “phenomenal efforts” as he has progressed in his career and described him as a great role model for anyone looking to start an apprenticeship.

Tom Damen, Chef Lecturer at WestKing, said: “Each week at college I see Dylan’s commitment to improving his culinary skills. Through his apprenticeship at Compass Group he has excelled to a new level of professionalism and confidence.

“I would like to congratulate him on wining Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year, which is so well deserved. He is an outstanding young chef and destined to go far in the industry.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts apprenticeships here.

Students celebrate success at first Capital City College Group Excellence Awards

Students and apprentices celebrated a year of outstanding achievements at the first Capital City College Group (CCCG) Excellence Awards.

Around 60 awards were presented to learners in recognition of their hard work, commitment and success over the past year at a glittering ceremony at Tobacco Dock in East London.

Students from City and Islington College (CANDI), Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL), and apprenticeship and training provider Capital City College Training (CCCT) all received awards.

Awards were also presented to participants of entrepreneurship programme Visionnaires, which started within CCCG in 2019, and 01 Founders, a coding school launched with CCCG in 2021.

Organisations that work with CCCG were also honoured. Arsenal in the Community received a Community Recognition Award while Nominet and Building Heroes/Regal London were handed Employer Partner Awards.

The ceremony was compèred by Kamal Ellis-Hyman, Founder and Director of Aim A Little Higher, which runs personal development programmes for young people across the UK.

Alastair Da Costa, Chair of CCCG, welcomed the award winners and their families and presented the awards along with Jasbir Sondhi, Vice Principal of WestKing, and David Dangana, Director of Group Quality and Compliance.

He said: “Excellence is hard work realised. It takes dedication, perseverance, overcoming frustrations and doubts. Realising excellence requires support from friends and family, it requires picking up when you are down, and it is right to celebrate achievement and success with friends and loved ones.

“This evening, I want to thank you all for being excellent, whether you win an award, are supporting those who win an award or whether you have taught and helped those in this room to realise their potential.”

Awards were presented to students from across CCCG’s provision including many who had achieved success at college and overcome major challenges during their studies.

Among the award winners was Vivek Quissor who gained a triple-starred Distinction in his Public Services diploma at CANDI and was praised for the quality of his well-researched assignments and being an inspiration to other students.

Vivek, 18, who is now studying for a BA (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Greenwich, said: “My lecturers provided an outstanding level of teaching throughout the length of my course. I credit my success to them. They left no stone unturned when it came to making sure that assignment work was completed to the highest of standards.”

Also picking up an award was Mariana Ghertan who completed her Healthcare Support Worker apprenticeship with CCCT despite catching COVID twice and suffering family bereavement.

Mariana, 36, said: “My tutor was the most incredible support. She encouraged me not to give up and offered me more time. I spoke to my husband and sons who had seen how much hard work I had put in. They said that my mum was proud of me and would have wanted me to finish, so I did.”

Tyler Minter, 24, wanted to start a Rail Engineering apprenticeship with Alstom and CONEL after learning he was to become a dad. He was described by his tutors as “an exceptional student” who produces a high standard of work and is a perfect role model to his peers.

He said: “I love the fact that I’m learning while also getting hands on experience. I’m gaining knowledge that is vital to the job and putting it to use in a practical sense. I’m also not getting into debt like a lot of people who go to university do, and I’m earning a good salary.”

The final award of the night was the CCCG Inspiration Award, which was presented to CANDI Art and Design diploma student Georgiana Guias, who was praised by her teachers for her dedication, intelligence and enthusiasm, as well as her support for her peers.

Georgiana, 18, who is now studying a BA (Hons) Architecture at Central Saint Martins, said: “It’s a big surprise to get this award because everybody on the course worked hard. The course was challenging but I got to learn new skills and techniques and the teachers were friendly and supportive of me and other students.”

The ceremony also featured live performances by Music Performance and Production students from CANDI and WestKing.

CANDI students Beth Cook, 18, Gloria Elubode, 17, and Ralph Heywood, 17, performed their own composition entitled Faith and Strength is the Key.

WestKing students Gabi Reece, 18, and Isabelle Linehan, 17, together known as The Park, performed their own work called She’ll Stay.

Hospitality and Culinary Arts students from WestKing served canapés at the event with front of house service run by WestKing’s Travel and Tourism students and CONEL’s Public Service students.

The ceremony was sponsored by Apogee, NCFE, OCN London, Gateway Qualifications, Dar Group, insight6, Learning Curve Group, Candor Professional Beauty Academy, ESB, GLL, SFEDI Group and 3Drakes.

Roy O’Shaughnessy, CEO of CCCG, described the evening as “absolutely incredible and inspiring” as he congratulated the award winners, staff, sponsors and organisers of the event.

He said: “I want to congratulate our staff, students, their families and friends and thank them for making this evening such a wonderful success. It is such a privilege to look around this room and see students, teachers and staff from across the Group, sitting here today and celebrating the hard, hard work of those that we’ve honoured, so really, truly well done.

“We wouldn’t have been here without our sponsors, and I would like to thank them on behalf of our staff, students, staff and governors.  Your work means that at CCCG we not only can offer courses and programmes, but we are able to work with employers to give opportunities for our students to create the future for London.”

Find out more about our wide range of courses and apprenticeships here.

We’re London’s Number 1 for school leavers!

According to data recently published by the Department for Education (DfE), Capital City College Group are number one of all colleges and college Groups in London, overall and for positive 16-18 progression. We are also very highly rated among London providers for getting adults into work, and for both learner and employer satisfaction.

The DfE data, which covers all England’s further education colleges, was aggregated by FE Week magazine for its annual FE ‘league table’ called NICDEX. This year’s NICDEX was published in November and gives the Group a score out of 10 for four measures:

  1. Percentage of 16-18 students with positive progression – we scored 9 out of 10 with 81%
  2. Learner satisfaction – we scored 8 out of 10 with 84%
  3. Employer satisfaction – we scored 9 out of 10 with 86.4%
  4. Percentage of adult students moving into paid employment – we scored 4 out of 10 with 37%.

Using these measures, NICDEX also gives an overall score out of 40. Not only is Capital City College Group rated first in London for positive 16-18 progression, we also scored highly compared to other London providers for the other three measures. In addition, our overall score of 30 ranks us highest out of London’s colleges and college groups, and joint 16th nationally – out of 171 colleges and college groups.

Commenting on the figures, Roy O’Shaughnessy, Group Chief Executive said: “This data is very pleasing. I am delighted that the Group and our three colleges have been rated so highly by our learners and those employers that we work in partnership with.

“Our excellent ratings for 16-18 and adult progression also reinforces my own view, that we are transforming the lives of so many Londoners and helping them to achieve their ambitions and dreams.”

To see the full NICDEX including their methodology and including links to the source data, click here: https://feweek.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/NICDEX-2019-supp-digi-v2.pdf