Amateur theatre is the focus of a new Sky Arts series that will search for the "nation’s best amateur dramatic theatre company".

The series, which begins broadcasting in November, will see eight groups battle it out for the title, with the winner performing in a West End venue. Each will be mentored by a leading actor.

James Hunt, Sky Arts Channel Director, said: “Sky Arts wants to recognise the importance of the amateur dramatist to UK cultural life. Sir Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and Patrick Stewart all began their illustrious careers within amateur dramatics ... We hope to find amazing new talent who can put on a performance worthy of its final West End setting.”

The eight groups are: FissiParous Theatre, Wirral (mentor Roger Allam); Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group (Niamh Cusack), Heath Players, Hertfordshire (Julie Graham); Regent Rep, Dorset (Jill Halfpenny); Crossmichael Drama Club, Galloway (Paterson Joseph); Tell Tale Theatre Company, Liverpool (Martin Shaw); Strathclyde Theatre Group, Glasgow (Harriet Walter); and Bingley Little Theatre, Bradford (Richard Wilson).

Each will be assessed by a panel of judges comprising actress Miriam Margolyes, producer Bill Kenwright and theatre critic Quentin Letts.

Nation’s Best Am Dram will broadcast for six episodes of one hour from 9pm on Wednesday 14 November.