I know, I know – it’s another ranty blog about “the establishment”, but at the moment this stuff is particularly raw for obvious reasons.
Yesterday I was made aware of this article in The Stage where the LAMDA Chair Shaun Woodward called on the government to do more to protect drama colleges. So what’s not to like I hear you cry – you’ve banged on and on about that for years? Well in his speech Shaun cited two closed drama colleges as his examples of what’s facing the industry – ALRA and. . . you guessed it The MTA.
Much has been written about ALRA’s closing – in particular this “long read” in The Stage – a vastly different story to that of The MTA. However that aside you might still be wondering why I’m so cross about our name check – so let me elaborate.
LAMDA is part of the “establishment” a member of the particularly useless Federation of Drama Schools. Now again I’ve written extensively about how the FDS is nothing more than a group of older colleges looking out for each other. Over the past couple of years the training industry has been rocked by substantiated and proven claims of serious abuse, bullying and systemic racism in the majority of FDS colleges – yet not once have they condemned the practices, not once have they gone on record to say anything meaningful actually. Even just reading their statement about themselves demonstrably shows you that they’re all about themselves.
The FDS is a dinosaur from a moment in time when courses were accredited, and since its formation a few years ago they have deliberately kept up the drawbridge to ensure that the old guard remains unchanged. Of course, that would be OK if that same old guard had not been found guilty of copious charges of abuse etc. Yet still, they remain the darling of the media circuit and are raised with an evangelical choir in the background every time a media organisation want to discuss drama training in the UK.
They have zero interest in supporting the younger colleges breaking through, as they are all about promoting themselves. They don’t promote diverse training, they promote each other. By refusing to condemn the much-written-about practices that have blighted the training industry these past few years they have tacitly been supporting the perpetrators of some horrific abuse.
Why name check The MTA now? Quite simply it’s because they’re all nervous as the government reviews the student funding situation on degree courses. 4 years ago I said that this would happen when the government pulled the PCDL funding from vocational colleges, and not one of those “established” colleges said a thing.
When in our closing statement in 2021 I stated that we would not be the last college to be forced to close in the current financial climate – they collectively did absolutely nothing, they didn’t send condolences, they didn’t send party poppers – they stayed schtum like they always do. When ALRA suddenly closed we saw a huge outpouring of support from other “established” colleges and indeed the industry, as everybody clamoured around to help the students that had suddenly been left in the lurch. What we didn’t see was a recognition that suddenly everybody was vulnerable.
When we eventually announced our closure this year we had to prompt Equity to send out a supportive post, there were no colleges rushing to check if our students were OK, and most importantly of all given WHY we had been forced to close, there was no outcry over the appalling, unregulated validation process that we had been subjected to by Trinity. Let’s not forget that Trinity and Trinity alone are the gatekeepers to all vocational government funding streams at level 6.
So for Shaun, or indeed for any of them to use our name as leverage for their own survival is adding insult to injury.
The training industry is in trouble. The old guard are being swept away by the social-media-savvy new colleges breaking through. The government is bound to reduce the funding for performing arts courses as the vast majority of them are not fit for purpose. So many rely on their historical successes as their business models expand far too quickly to offer the same elite training that they used to.
New organisations like BIMM are literally stealing the clientele from under their feet as they move toward bulk training. For sure some organisations like RADA, LAMDA, Arts Ed, Mountview are probably safe because they have so much private funding thrown at them. Even though a couple of them have been rocked by scandals – their perceived standing in the industry negates the hurt that they’ve caused and to quote Tim Rice, “the money keeps rolling in”.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – the colleges now running scared are culpable for the demise of the training industry. They pulled up the drawbridge and are now being attacked from within. Lots of new colleges are going to be measured by their success in the industry, and whilst their social media accounts are buzzing with stories of success when you’re training hundreds in a year, the funding is going to be tethered to the stats, not the headlines.
So why am I annoyed – because I saw it coming, I named it, I eventually shouted it, and nobody listened. Even now Trinity have still not been held to account and yet still we’re the only ones shouting about it – everybody else is looking the other way as it didn’t happen to them. . . yet!
The industry should be demanding an investigation into what happened to us not just us. The industry needs to be regulated, and organisations like Trinity need to be regulated from the start of the validation process to ensure that no other college is forced to close like we were. Only when the old guard genuinely starts engaging with the new guard will our training industry stand any chance of survival. As we all know – we are always stronger together.