On Monday 30th January 2017, Sir Tony Robinson led the festivities for a special ground-breaking ceremony at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. The event marked the official start of construction on the School’s new North Block Development.
The North Block building, which received planning permission from Camden Council in March of 2015, will extend the School’s teaching, rehearsal and performance spaces, and will include the addition of studios with a focus on training for film/ media and a new public, courtyard theatre. The development will improve the campus’s provisions, providing access to cutting-edge arts facilities for both students and the local community and further cementing the School’s reputation as a North London cultural hub.
Sir Tony Robinson, who graduated from Central in 1966, is a much-loved actor, presenter and comedy icon whose career has spanned more than fifty years. For twenty years, he was also the presenter of Time Team, corralling a group of quirky, opinionated academics as they ruthlessly dug up countless gardens in the name of archaeology. His close affiliation with Central – together with his proficiency at wielding a spade – made him the perfect choice to break ground on the School’s new development. Of the ceremony, he said:
“My three years at the Central School of Speech and Drama were an enormous influence on my career and on my life, so I’m particularly pleased and proud to have been asked to cut the first sod as it embarks on creating an even bigger and better school for all those who work in the entertainment industry. For twenty years I’ve been watching other people wielding a spade and a trowel on Time Team, and now at last it’s my turn. I just hope I don’t muck it up!"
Central’s Principal, Professor Gavin Henderson, said:
“The anticipation of this moment has been extraordinary. Ten years have passed since we set this objective, and then we had the credit crunch and recession … but this helped us to acquire the site from Camden Council, and begin our planning procedure with them. Then there was the money … with post-recession costs rising fast, but £16 million later, and a little bit more still to find – we’re up and away – or digging down and beyond! Our design team, with Tim Ronalds Architects at the helm, have done a wonderful job in shaping a building that will keep Central ahead with the finest combined estate of any British Drama School … truly World Leading!”
Rob Joyce, the London Office Director of the project’s official contractors GRAHAM Construction, said:
“As the school campus will remain fully operational during works, it is vital to have a systematic management programme in place. This proposal requires demolition and construction in the centre of the Swiss Cottage campus, but with an experienced GRAHAM team and an extensive educational portfolio, we aim to deliver this with minimal disruption to staff and students, as well as the local community.”
Architect Tim Ronalds, whose firm is responsible for design of the new building, said:
“It is thrilling to see construction underway at last! The project fits an amazing amount of new space onto its small site, and we hope it will make a big contribution to the creative work at Central.”
Central is one of the world’s pre-eminent conservatoires for the performing arts. With over 100 years of history, its alumni can be found in every avenue of the creative industries and include such luminary figures as Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Grandage, Sonia Friedman, Deborah Warner, Martin Freeman, Andrew Garfield and Kit Harington. Its ratio of undergraduate applications to places is the highest of any UK university, and both its institution-specific funding and its research grant allocations have been recently increased in recognition of its independently adjudged world-leading teaching and research programmes.
Founded in 1906 at the Royal Albert Hall, the School moved to the Embassy Theatre in 1956 and it is upon this historic site that it continues to grow.
Work on the North Block is expected to be completed in 2018, and the school will remain in use throughout the construction process. As with its previous development works, Central remains committed to engaging fully with area residents and to working closely with local stakeholders and Camden Council.
My three years at the Central School of Speech and Drama were an enormous influence on my career and on my life, so I’m particularly pleased and proud to have been asked to cut the first sod as it embarks on creating an even bigger and better school for all those who work in the entertainment industry.
Sir Tony Robinson