Up to the north of England for my annual external marking duties at Cumbria University. It's always great to have an opportunity to see what colleagues in other institutions are doing and I've really valued the four years or so that I've been making the journey up to Carlisle.
The Drama department up there is, despite suffering from some of the same challenges as St Mary's, really flourishing. There's a buzz about the place and a renewed vibrancy. The two institutions have many things in common, especially in our desire to put creative theatre making at the heart of everything we do. Like us, Cumbria have appointed a theatre manager and this combined with a front foot strategy to using the curriculum to serve the production has generated a sense of involvement and belonging in the student body. The seem proud to both be getting their degree whilst being part of a bigger enterprise. It's a model that I think the best Drama departments will increasingly adopt over the next few years. A Drama School, within a University.
It was good to see that the management at Cumbria have taken a pragmatic approach to the success of the area and there is increased provision for design and build workshops. Of course there is never enough space, but there is a sense that recruitment and achievement is being rewarded with the opportunity for growth. As ever the technical and particularly the costume design aspects of the work were very impressive indeed. As long as the staff don't burn out or get side tracked responding to administrative demands I can see them going from strength to strength. I'm back up next month for my final board.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.