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The Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD) was founded in 1906 by Elsie Fogerty to offer a new form of training in speech and drama for young actors and other students. The school has been a constituent college of the University of London since 2005. The School announced on 9 October 2008 that 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature Harold Pinter (1930–2008), who attended the School in 1950–1951, had agreed to become its president and to receive an honorary fellowship in the School's graduation ceremony on 10 December 2008,[1][2] but Pinter had to receive it in absentia, due to ill health,[3][4] and he died two weeks later.[5] Michael Grandage has now been appointed President.



The Embassy Theatre.

Before World War II, the Central School of Speech and Drama was based at the Royal Albert Hall. During the War it moved to Exeter. In 1956, the main campus of the Central School relocated to the Embassy Theatre, in Swiss Cottage, North London, where it is now based. In 1963, a breakaway group of teachers and students founded Drama Centre London in Chalk Farm, after a dispute over the sacking of Yat Malmgren from Central's faculty.

In 2005, the School became a largely independent college of the University of London and was designated the Centre for Excellence in Training for Theatre by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE); as such, it has state-of-the-art facilities funded by the British government.


On 9 October 2008, the School announced in a press release that 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature Harold Pinter, who attended the School in 1950–51, had agreed to become its president,[1] succeeding Labour Party politician Peter Mandelson, who had rejoined the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown; previous presidents of the School included Dame Judi Dench and Lord (Laurence) Olivier.[2] Current Principal Gavin Henderson CBE is a well known figure in the UK arts. Deputy Principal Simon Shepherd is widely published in the areas of theatre and culture, performance theory, body and theatre, history and analysis of drama and theatre (especially early-modern, melodrama, twentieth century). Dean of Studies Ross Brown is a well known theatre composer, sound designer and writer on theatre sound. Dean of Research Andrew Lavender is artistic director of the theatre company Lightwork and a writer on intermediality.


In addition to being an acting school, the Central School of Speech and Drama offers training and education in a broad range of vocational and applied theatre specialties available, providing courses in acting, producing, design for the stage, directing, applied theatre & education, drama and movement therapy, dramaturgy, lighting design and production, media and drama education, musical theatre, performance arts, prop-making, puppetry, scenic art, scenic construction, costume construction, scenography, set design, theatre sound, stage management, technical and production management and writing.

With over 850 registered students and a faculty of 50 specialist academic staff, the official CSSD Website states that it is "the UK’s largest and most wide-ranging specialist drama institution,"[6] that the School's staff is the "largest grouping of drama/theatre/performance specialists in the UK," and that the postgraduate body is "one of the largest gatherings of specialist Postgraduates in Europe."[7]


In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise the majority of Central's submission was judged ‘world leading' or ‘internationally excellent'. The panel commented that Central modelled ‘a new kind of research institution in the performing arts'.

Honorary appointments

From the official CSSD list of "Honorary Fellows and Honorary PhD"[8]:

Honorary Fellows

At the graduation ceremony held on 10 December 2008, the most recent CSSD President, the late Harold Pinter, was named Honorary Fellow (in absentia, due to ill health),[1] along with Francis and Brand (who accepted their awards in person); Michael Colgan accepted Pinter's in his stead and spoke on his behalf.[4]

Honorary PhD

Notable alumni


  1. ^ a b c Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London) (2008-10-09). "Central Announces New President" (Web). Press release. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  2. ^ a b Alistair Smith (2008-10-14). "Pinter Replaces Mandelson as Central President" (Web). The Stage. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  3. ^ "Degree Honour for Playwright Pinter" (Web). Press Association (Hosted by Google). 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  4. ^ a b "Central's 2008 Graduation Ceremony" (Web). Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London). 2008-12-12. Retrieved 2009-01-01. "Honorary Fellowships for Harold Pinter, Jo Brand and Penny Francis." 
  5. ^ Mark Taylor-Batty, comp. "In Memoriam" (Web). Harold Pinter Society Webpages. The Harold Pinter Society and the University of Leeds. Retrieved 2009-01-01. "Harold Pinter - playwright, poet, actor, director, political activist - died on 24 December 2008, aged 78." 
  6. ^ "Courses". Central School of Speech and Drama. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  7. ^ "CSSD Postgraduate Courses - Research Degrees". Central School of Speech and Drama. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  8. ^ "Honorary Fellows and Honorary PhD" (Web). Central School of Speech and Drama. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 

External links


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