“There’s no other place like it”: Former Footlights President on developing creativity at Cambridge

Adedamola Laoye was formerly President of Cambridge Footlights

As President of the Footlights, Head of Wolfson’s famous Howler comedy night, and the director of the ADC Theatre’s first all-black production, Adedamola Laoye made quite an impact at Cambridge before he graduated last year.   

Adedamola Laoye was formerly President of Cambridge Footlights

Adedamola celebrated the completion of his Human Social and Political Sciences degree at the July 2022 graduation, and he can look back on an impressively productive creative output during his time as a student:   

“For me, there’s no other place like Cambridge for students to experiment and collaborate together,” he says, “making things and growing in confidence with the craft of storytelling in film and theatre. It’s something I’ll always remember.”  

Adedamola’s collaboration, experimentation, and his impact on the Cambridge arts scene was evident for all to see, both at Wolfson College and across the city.   

There is an incredible range of opportunities on offer for creatives in Cambridge, from improvisation groups to getting involved at the ADC theatre, starring in or even producing student plays. Societies and groups include Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club (CUADC), Musical Theatre Society (CUMTS), The Marlow Society, and Cambridge Footlights.   

Adedamola was involved with twelve productions during his time at Wolfson, including producing Danai Gurira’s The Convert at Cambridge’s ADC Theatre: the very first all-black ADC show.  

“Since the production, an unprecedented number of BAME productions have been staged within Cambridge University, making the production a real catalyst for change, driving a new wave of writers, actors, and directors forward with the belief that their stories are just as valued.” 

Footlights and "the most well-regarded student comedy night in the UK"

As President of the Footlights, he set out to make a similar change: to “make the comedy scene inclusive for all students”. A big part of that ambition was an attempt to “demystify” Cambridge Footlights, to break the myth of “the in-crowd”, as well as to reform the Footlights Outreach programme to “target schools from traditional socio-economically disadvantaged areas and get them more exposed to performing and writing comedy”.    

Anyone who attended the Wolfson Howler under Adedamola leadership will attest to the diversity – and quality – of the comedy he brought to Wolfson’s famous comedy night too.   

“I think it’s probably the most well-regarded student comedy night in the UK in terms of student comedy,” he says of the Howler, “and it’s such good value for money. The next generation of comics coming out of Footlights are trying their stuff on at the Howler.”   

Stay with Me: a prize-winning short film

Adedamola also stepped into the world of film during his time at Wolfson, winning the Film at Jesus  Winter Short Film Competition (Open Competition Winner and First Place Overall) for his short, Stay with Me – the story of a young man who recounts the first conversation he had with his absconded father.  

Film at Jesus is a really cool short film competition run by a student co-founded organisation. They invite students to make and submit short films of different styles and genres. They held a screening of the winning shorts during Michaelmas 2021 and I was blown away by the quality of the films showcased. It was even more inspiring that the films were made by fellow students, and I got quite obsessed with the prospect of making a film that would capture the imagination of audiences in that way.   

“A few weeks later they announced that there would be a Winter Short Film Competition. A key stipulation was that it had to be no longer than three minutes, which at that point seemed a real challenge given I had only ever seen short films between the 10-30-minute range.    

“At the time, I had a sharp focus on the themes of brotherhood, masculinity, race, and belonging both informed by my time studying Sociology and my experience directing Antoinette Nwandu’s PASS OVER at the ADC Theatre – all of which inspired me to write Stay With Me.  

“It was a great experience writing, performing, and directing the short, but I had an incredible team who made it all possible: Karisma Drage (Producer), Vidya Divakaran (Associate Director), Zeb Goriely (Lighting, Sound & Editor), and fellow Wolfson student Jedrek Koh Wei Ze (Cinematography). Looking back, it’s insane to think it was written and shot within 48hours!”   

Following the film’s competition success, Stay with Me was selected for the Downing Short Festival 2022 and Mono Box Short Film Showcase 2022.    

Mandem on the Bridge: a new web-series project

His time as a Cambridge University student now complete, Adedamola is now preparing for his next theatrical production: Mandem on the Bridge, due for release in 2024 which is a web-series centring on a collection of short stories about experiences relating to belonging in places of tradition and prestige.   

It seems likely Adedamola will bring his vision to a much wider audience, but he says he will always love the small community he found at Wolfson. And the best thing about College?:  

“The people, definitely,” he says, “the diversity. You go to the bar and you meet people you’d never meet otherwise, from places you never thought you’d go. Like I never thought I’d want to go to Singapore, but now I have loads of Singaporean friends! And you know, there’s an actual community at Wolfson – and I love that.”   

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