Nikki’s having a ball teaching Sheffield children to perform

Sheffield’s creative arts industry is one of its biggest assets and I’m proud to be teaching the next generation of performers, writes Nikki Johnson.

By Nikki Johnson
Sunday, 26th April 2020, 6:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th April 2020, 8:12 pm
Nikki Johnson on the netball court
Nikki Johnson on the netball court

As founder of Noodle Performance Arts, a Sheffield-based performing arts school for children from walking age up, I love passing on my passion for performing to young people and watching them grow in confidence and ability.

We run performing arts and dance classes all over the city and have been going since September 2011, but I’ll never get tired of the feeling I get when I see a shy child come out of their shell at one of our sessions.

I started Noodle as an alternative to traditional theatre schools which are out of the price range of many parents.

Our classes are affordable and informal – there is no compulsory uniform to buy or expensive exam fees to pay – instead we focus on having fun and passing on vital life skills.

Even the lockdown hasn’t been able to stop us. We are now offering online classes in ballet, street dance and performing arts and they have been a big hit with both children and parents.

The Crucible Theatre

I love all theatres, just going into them gives me a feeling of going home!

As a child, I would spend whole school holidays in theatres at dance competitions.

When not on stage, I would be hanging out with my friends backstage, in the wings watching friends, or scoring the competitions myself from the auditorium!

But the Crucible in Sheffield is particularly special to me – you can’t beat the intimacy you get from theatre ‘in the round’.

It’s a challenge for performers and production teams but the end result brings the audience closer to the action than standard theatres.

Nikki Johnson, founder of Noodle Performance Arts, Sheffield

I saw Everybody’s Talking About Jamie there, when it was first performed.

I went back the very next day to watch it again and have since seen it in London and at the Lyceum.

I think Sheffield has such a rich creative arts industry - we’re really lucky.

The Lifestyle Centre, Beighton

Nikki, second from right, celebrates winning a trophy with her netball team

Almost nine years ago, I was living in Beighton and working for the Civil Service in Sheffield, having been made redundant from my career in banking during the banking crisis.

When I decided to start teaching performing arts to children, the Lifestyle Centre was the first venue I went to see and they were brilliant.

I held my first class there with just eight children and ended up using one of the centre’s office units as Noodle’s first headquarters.

The Lifestyle Centre does so much to support local businesses and the community as a whole – it really is a hidden treasure of Sheffield.

I am so passionate about its work that I am now vice-chairman of the Beighton Village Trust, which runs the centre and ploughs all the profits back into supporting the regeneration of Beighton and Sothall.


I played netball for my school team, where I was a shooter and I really enjoyed it.

About two-and-a-half years ago, I was at EIS with my son and I saw lots of women, some around my age, waiting to come in and play in a netball league.

I had often thought about playing netball, but at 49 I thought I was past it!

I looked online and found Back to Netball, an organisation which helps players back into the game, whether they are 16 or 60!

From going to their sessions, I ended up playing in a tournament and I now play for three different teams.


I love geocaching, it’s something we can all do together as a family and we’ve been doing it for about five years.

It’s basically a treasure hunt, where you use GPS.

One person described it as using multi-million pound satellites to find Tupperware in the woods!

There are millions of them hidden all over the world, and there are some lovely places in and around Sheffield to go looking for them.

We’re addicted!


I love the way music can transport you back to a place or time and there are many songs that take me back to my childhood.

I love all kinds of music from classical to musical theatre and I think working with children keeps you musically young.

I play piano and spent 10 years singing with Abba tribute bands.

We do lots of singing in our Noodle classes and it’s a real privilege to watch young people fall in love with music for themselves.

Find out more about Noodle Performance Arts by visiting