Wednesday, 19 May 2010

North North West to Rosehill.

I've had a really interesting two days in Cumbria, where I work as an external examiner. It's really useful to get to see how another institution works and to share some ideas about how to create excellent provision for Drama students whether they're in Carlisle or Strawberry Hill.

Yesterday was a real treat as course leader Richard Milburn took me down the coast to see an enthusiastic team of event managing foundation students transfer a Level 3 show from the campus to the picturesque Rosehill Theatre in Whitehaven, where Cumbria University are beginning to develop an exciting partnership.

The theatre itself is set high above the town, with gorgeous views over the Solway firth. It was opened by silk magnet and socialite Sir Nicholas Sekers, who as a lover and patron of the arts managed intriguingly to entice the best and biggest names of early sixties to travel north and perform in the tiny, but lavish, Messel designed auditorium. There are extraordinary photographs of John Gielgud, Benjamin Brittan, John Betjeman, Jacqueline Du Pre, Peggy Ashcroft, Yehudi Menuhin and so on and on. As the angry young men began to swagger in the metropolis, some of the fading old things clearly found favour and a place to recharge here in Whitehaven.

The students performed a really tight and entertaining double bill, of observational character based comedy, which they're getting ready to take to the Edinburgh festival in August. Both the writing and acting was very impressive.

On the journey back to Carlisle Richard and I talked about bringing up some Drama St Mary's students to work alongside some of the Cumbria team, developing a community work for the venue. On a sunny day, surrounded by the most magnificent countryside it's a tantalising prospect.

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