Elsie Fogerty founded The Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art at the Royal Albert Hall in 1906. Fogerty was a specialist in speech training and held a firm belief in the social importance of education. She was committed to advancing the study of theatre as an academic discipline.
In 1957 the School moved from the Albert Hall, having acquired the lease of the Embassy Theatre at Swiss Cottage and its associated buildings.
By 1961 three distinct departments had been established within Central. The Stage department was running its three-year course for actors, with alumni as distinguished as Lord Laurence Olivier and Dame Peggy Ashcroft already a part of its history, and a two-year course for stage managers.
The Teacher Training department was preparing students for its own Diploma, which was a recognised teaching qualification, and for the London University Diploma in Dramatic Art. That diploma had been instituted in 1912 precisely as a result of Fogerty's campaign for the recognition of drama and drama teaching as subjects worthy of serious academic study. By this time the School was as famous for its Speech Therapy department as for its work in training actors.
The School continued to expand. In 1972 Central became grant-aided by the Inner London Education Authority. In 1989 it was incorporated as a higher education college in its own right and funded directly by government. Central had been offering degrees since 1986, firstly validated by the Council of National Academic Awards and from 1992 by the Open University.
Distinguished Alumni and Staff
Apart from its famous alumni, who include Lord Laurence Olivier, Vanessa Redgrave, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Harold Pinter, the School has had some famous staff. In the 1960s Yat Malmgren taught movement, based on principles derived from Laban; Cicely Berry taught voice to students and later the Royal Shakespeare Company, and continues to do so around the world; John Allen, Principal from 1972 to 1978, founded the Glyndebourne Children's Theatre, was the leading organiser of the Communist Party's Unity Theatre, where he coordinated the first Living Newspaper, Busmen (1937), and was a founding member of the Group Theatre, also in the mid-1930s; Litz Pisk was Head of Movement (1964-1970), having previously worked with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill in Vienna, and then Michel Saint-Denis at the Old Vic Theatre School.
A University Conservatoire
In 2004 the Privy Council granted the Central the power to award its own taught degrees. In 2005 students from the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art transferred to Central after a 100-year history of significant contributions to stage and screen. In the same year, the School was designated as the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Centre for Excellence in Training for Theatre. With effect from September 2005 Central became a College of the University of London, finally realising the ambitions articulated a hundred years earlier by its founder Elsie Fogerty.
The Central Book: a 100 Year History of the Central School of Speech and Drama by Lolly Susi (Oberon 2006) at a cost of £20 is available for purchase by emailing: email@example.com