I started 2022 with so much hope and optimism for the year ahead after a particularly trying 2021. I was the Principal of a multi-award winning drama college which had somehow managed to be “saved” after announcing that it would be closing in September 2021. In an era when it felt like nobody had a good word to say about drama training, the “save” felt particularly significant and life-affirming.
After 14 years we had finally seen a glimmer of hope RE: long-terming funding for our students when Trinity College London changed their validation criteria allowing us for the first time to apply for a formal level 6 qualification. A qualification that would finally give our students access to serious government funding streams. I entered 2022 with a (metaphorical) skip in my step.
That optimism stayed with me right until July, when suddenly everything came crashing down. A benefactor pulled out, and the pre-validation assessment that we eventually received from Trinity some 4 months later than planned was a farce. We needed one or the other to ensure the long-term security of the college yet within the space of a few days we had lost both. We kept the faith for the first few weeks as the Trinity pre-validation assessment was so ridiculous I felt sure that we’d just get an apology and get sent the report that was originally discussed with me back in March. . . but of course that’s not how the story went.
So on September 11th 2022, The MTA closed its doors for the last time after 14 years of training, with an unblemished track record, with every single student leaving the college having secured independent agent representation – even the 6 1st years that had their training cut short were signed by the time we closed.
As I slowly began to process the shitstorm that had been the last few months, I also realised that The MTA closing also meant the end of my teaching career. So two milestones for the price of one there. What a difference a year makes.
Here’s my takeaway on it all though (if you’re at all interested). The past few years have been (and indeed continue to be) horrific for our industry. We hear time and time again about the impact of Brexit and covid on an industry that’s always walked a tightrope at the best of times. Just this week The Stage ran an article about how Producer’s mental health was suffering under the strain of the world right now. When the world was in lockdown we all spoke about building back better.
With the #time4change mental health charter for the arts The MTA changed the narrative in our industry around mental health. We started the conversation that so many other people and organisations are now able to have. Back then it wasn’t fashionable to discuss people struggling, but we did it. If you want to facilitate change you have to keep plugging away at it. 6 years ago I felt like a stuck record, batting off all the detractors telling me to shut up about mental health – the idea being that if you don’t talk about a difficult subject, the difficulty will just disappear.
Fast forward to now and yet another record is stuck as I attempt to hold Trinity accountable for their treatment of The MTA. As with #time4change I’m once again not fighting for myself, or my college (RIP), but for an industry that I truly believe in. If we fail to hold Trinity to account for the lies, threats and gaslighting that they subjected us to, then every other college needing their validation is at risk too as they remain the gatekeepers to the main source of government funding for vocational colleges.
Discovering that organisations such as Trinity state boldly in press releases that they’re regulated by OfQual but fail to acknowledge that no application to validation is covered by a regulatory body was a shocker – especially when we were left with so many unanswered questions
Trinity hope that the questions will vanish a bit like the college – unfortunately for them I still have a few avenues left to try.
I’d like to take a moment though to give huge thanks to the friends and colleagues that have also fought for the truth with me. Who have read the evidence, seen the whistleblower statements, and who like me, agree that there are serious questions that need answering. I raise a glass to the people that have unwaveringly stuck with me to get to the truth.
What saddens me a bit though are the people who like with #time4change, purport to be activists in our industry, fighting for change, putting out the right form of words on their socials to make it look like they’re advocating change, but when it comes to it do nothing. They are activists for “likes” and “follows” only. The people that keep their heads down because they’re worried that if they speak out – they themselves (or their colleges) will be at risk.
Our industry will never change unless we all stand together against the things that are wrong. However, what is disappointing is that people seldom keep fighting for something unless they are directly impacted by it. So to those people who like to think of themselves as revolutionary and on the right side of history, please remember that actions speak so much louder than words, and change takes a long time to implement – but it’s always worth it.
So here’s to 2023 . . . and here’s to accountability. . . plus of course the long-awaited book . . . just got to finish that last chapter 😉