Higher Education Postcard: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’ postbag takes us to the Albert Hall

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

Look – it’s the Albert Hall!

Some of you might know this as the venue for the legendary University of London graduation ceremonies, with a huge ceremonial conga of graduates from all colleges around the stalls. But it has also been home to a specific higher education institution.

A dramatic history

Our story starts with Elsie Fogerty CBE (1865–1945), who taught speaking and voice. Her teaching emphasised the importance of the whole body and posture in speech. In 1906 Fogerty founded the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Arts, based at the Albert Hall. By 1908 she had developed a three-year course for speech and drama teachers.

In 1923, the University of London recognised the dramatic arts as a university subject, and the Central School of Speech and Drama, as it was by then known, was one of three institutions approved for the purpose. Fogerty was a member of the Advisory Board on Dramatic Arts, which made the decision – this reflects her status as an expert on speech. She also from 1912 ran a clinic for stutterers at St Thomas’ Hospital, making her one of the earliest speech therapists in the UK.

In 1937 a scheme to enable Central to occupy a space by the new National Theatre on the South Bank was proposed, but ultimately fell through.

But in 1957 the school finally left the Albert Hall, moving to the Embassy Theatre in Swiss Cottage. The move involved the renovation of a dilapidated space, and the creation of spaces for teaching as well as performing.

In 1972 Central became funded by the Inner London Education Authority, and also expanded its campus. From 1986 it offered degrees under the auspices of the Council for National Academic Awards; in 1989 it became directly funded by Central Government, and from 1992 its degrees were validated by the Open University.

Daps for drama class

2005 is the next momentous year: Central School was awarded taught degree awarding powers; it was recognised as the national centre for excellence in learning and teaching in the dramatic arts, and it became a member College of the University of London, completing the process begun in 1923.

Central became the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2012. Professor Simon Shepherd’s brief history of Central notes that

Fogerty used to say that while the Principal of the Academy of Dramatic Art [subsequently RADA] had been seeking royal title for his institution, she had been too busy working with children in the slums to do that sort of thing.

The card was sent on 22 May 1907 to an address in Doncaster.

Dear Cousin, Just a line or two to say Mother will not be coming next Saturday. She might come the following Saturday. We had cousin Mrs Copestake and Lily on Whit Monday for the day. We had our S. S. anniversary on Sunday and yesterday…

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