From Disney to Marvel – lockdown couple put movie magic into new business


A life-long love of performing not only brought Katie Stubbs and Declan Marshall together but they’ve turned their passion into a successful entertainment business with the help of University support.

As well as living, working and acting together, the couple is also students at the University of Sunderland and tapped into a scholarship fund, in partnership with Santander, to get ‘A Magical Moment’ off the ground during the first lockdown.

The fledgling business sees the couple dressing as characters from popular movies from Disney to Marvel, performing at everything from birthday parties to school discos. They have even managed to continue working during lockdown by performing at a social distance on the doorsteps of delighted children and their families.

It’s no surprise the determined pair’s project is proving so popular, as both Katie and Declan are no strangers to the region’s theatrical circles, having performed from an early age with Performers Stage School, the Live Theatre, The Customs House, The Westovians Theatre and many more.

Katie Stubbs and Declan Marshall Turn Their Passion Into A Successful Entertainment Business
Sunderland University students Katie Stubbs and Declan Marshall have set up their own business The Magical Moment during the lockdown. Picture: DAVID WOOD

Katie, 20, from Cleadon, South Tyneside, a second-year Screen Performance student, has also recently been working as part of the production team on the popular BBC children’s television programme The Dumping Ground, as well as teaching drama at the Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts in Sunderland at weekends, prior to lockdown.

Katie said: “I have wanted to act for as long as I can remember and audition for as much as I can through my London-based agent. But Covid 19 has impacted the theatre industry, and we decided to apply for seed funding through the Santander scholarship to launch A Magical Moment last April. It’s gone very well. We are growing the business all the time. We’ve been allowed to continue with doorstep performances through lockdown, so it’s been great and helped with our finances.”

Declan, 23, who is in the final year of an Automotive Engineering degree, added: “We started the business for a reason, it’s not just financial for us, it’s also because we enjoy performing so much.

“We actually met doing a show together and have since performed together with a number of times. Both our long-term aspirations are to continue acting. We hope A Magical Moment goes from strength to strength and are delighted the University was able to help us with funding to get this all started.”

Katie was last year selected for the University’s Puttnam Scholars’ programme which involves students taking part in a series of interactive seminars as part of Oscar-winning film producer Lord David Puttnam’s unique mentoring scheme.

Katie was able to meet Lord Puttnam, a former Government minister and former Chancellor at the University of Sunderland, at the Houses of Parliament last year. As part of the scheme, she helped produce an online documentary about life in lockdown, which Lord Puttnam included in an Open University talk.

Katie said: “It was amazing to meet Lord Puttnam, and I was able to help produce a documentary, which has been entered for the Royal Television Society Awards this year. Production, as well as acting, is where I want my career to head. I am learning so much on my degree, hopefully, all this effort will strengthen my career prospects.”

Asked about her long-term career goals, Katie said: “I have to admit I’d love to appear in a soap, I love Coronation Street and Emmerdale!”

She added: “I will also continue with the theatre work; I’m confident once our lives get back to normal, this industry will bounce back. People have missed seeing a show so much that there’ll be a huge appetite for it.”

Dr. Adelle Hulsmeier, the Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Programme Leader for Screen Performance, said: “Katie has been an excellent addition to the University from day one. Her passion, drive and enthusiasm are to be admired. She is a very able person who involved herself in a variety of exciting endeavours. Her engagement with the Lord Puttnam scholarship was inspiring. She was the first Stage One student to be accepted onto the scholarship. Her new business demonstrates Katie’s ability to push creative ideas forward. We are behind her all the way.”

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