Page last updated at 20:32 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 21:32 UK

Leigh supporting theatre schemes

Mike Leigh
Leigh has been nominated for five Oscars

One of Britain's top writers and directors, Mike Leigh, has returned to his artistic roots to support projects at a Staffordshire theatre.

Leigh is a patron of an appeal to raise funds for a new 2.2m centre which would expand community work at the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

His connection to the Victoria Theatre began in the 1960s when he acted at a converted cinema in Hartshill.

Leigh met those involved in a community project during the visit on Tuesday.

'Great tradition'

He achieved recognition in the 1970s with his television plays, including Nuts in May and Abigail's Party, before embarking on a successful career as a stage and then film director.

Leigh has twice received Best Director Awards at the Cannes Film Festival.

He has also been nominated for five Oscars, including three for Vera Drake, the story of a good-hearted housewife and mother who performs illegal abortions in 1950s London.

Leigh met young people involved with the community initiative Borderlines when he went to the New Vic on Tuesday.

He said: "Borderlines is carrying on a great tradition of the kind of community sense that the Victoria Theatre was all about and the New Vic is all about."

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