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Annie-Rose makes TV debut in Three Little Birds

The actor has also spoken of her battle with achalasia and praised the support she received from Coleg Llandrillo after being diagnosed aged just 17

Former Coleg Llandrillo student Annie-Rose Tate has spoken of her battle with achalasia after landing a role in hit ITV drama Three Little Birds.

Annie-Rose studied Level 3 Performing Arts at the college’s Rhos-on-Sea campus, achieving a triple distinction before going on to do a degree at the Arden School of Theatre in Manchester.

The 24-year-old has now made her television debut in Three Little Birds, a six-part drama written by Sir Lenny Henry based on his mother’s experiences of arriving in Britain as part of the Windrush generation in 1957.

Annie-Rose appears in episode five as Myfanwy Boyce, a love interest for lead character Aston, who has persuaded his sisters Leah and Chantrelle and their friend Hosanna to join him in leaving Jamaica.

The episode airs on Sunday, November 26 at 8pm, while the whole series can be streamed now on ITVX.

Annie-Rose describes Three Little Birds as a “beautiful” piece of television for its portrayal of the Windrush generation’s determination to build a better life - despite facing racism, injustice and other obstacles to integration.

“I’ve watched it all and I think it’s really important,” she said. “It’s based on the stories Sir Lenny Henry’s mum told him about arriving in the UK - stories that are just so beautiful but also very important.

“A lot of things happened that I didn’t realise. People need to know that they happened - we can’t just pretend they didn’t.”

The role is a big breakthrough for Annie-Rose, from Kinmel Bay, who at 17 had to have major surgery after being diagnosed with achalasia - a rare disorder of the oesophagus which makes it painful for her to swallow.

“When I was at Llandrillo I started getting poorly,” she said. “I didn’t know what was wrong and had to spend a lot of time in hospital having tests.

“It was really difficult because at the time I didn’t know what was going on, and nor did anybody else around me. I was a 16-year-old girl who was being sick every time she ate, and I think a lot of people thought it was just in my head.

“It took about six weeks to get a diagnosis. I’d never heard of achalasia before, but essentially the muscles in my oesophagus are paralysed so swallowing is really difficult and painful.

“Once I was diagnosed I was able to have some stomach surgeries and some treatments to help relieve it. But there’s no cure so it’s something I’ll just have to live with.”

Annie-Rose had to have keyhole surgery to cut fibres in the ring of muscle that lets food into the stomach. She has also had nine balloon dilations, whereby a balloon is passed into the oesophagus and then inflated.

She has to carefully manage what she eats, and relies on drinking water with meals in order to push food down into her stomach.

When she first underwent surgery she was still at Llandrillo, and said the support from the college and her tutor Jon Crowther helped her get through it.

“The college were brilliant, especially Jon,” said Annie-Rose. “At the time I was realising that acting was what I really wanted to do, and I realised it was affecting me massively.

“So when I was in hospital I’d be messaging Jon saying, ‘I’m really stressed, I’m missing out on so much’. And he’d be like ‘Here’s a monologue, learn it while you’re in hospital’, and I did.

“It’s something we joke about all the time because looking back, it got me through a really difficult time.

“Everyone at the college was really supportive, especially since nobody had heard about achalasia before. They accommodated everything around me, because obviously it’s a very physical course, and there were a lot of things that I couldn’t do for a long time after the stomach surgery.

“The movement teacher at the time also helped me - I couldn't stand up straight because my stomach was so mangled, and she really helped me get better with that so I’m very grateful.

“I’m fortunate, touch wood, that right now it’s fine. I’m not worried about it and I’m really good at knowing when it’s not right, when I need to go and see my specialist, but right now it’s really well.

“Having achalasia has definitely changed my life. It’s affected a lot, but I’m really proud to have it as well because it’s a massive part of who I am now.”

Annie-Rose now lives in Manchester with her partner Callum Burbidge, who recently played Lurch in Coronation Street.

Since leaving for drama school in 2018, she has regularly returned to Coleg Llandrillo to help out with final-year projects, and recently visited the Rhos campus to give a talk to the current cohort of performing arts students.

Asked about her memories of the course at Llandrillo, she said: “It was just so fun, it was great.

“There were so many opportunities - you could do musical theatre, you could do dance, you could do acting, you could do tech, you could do prop design.

“They made sure you knew about every job in the industry, that you weren’t just going into it thinking, ‘I want to act and that’s it’. They made sure you appreciated every single job that makes your job possible. I loved college, I really did.”

For more information on Performing Arts courses at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, click here. Applications are open now for September 2024 entry.