College pays tribute to David Bolland MBE OBE (1919-2012)
Announcement – Death of David Bolland, MBE, OBE (1919-2012)
We sadly announce the death of David Bolland on 25th May 2012. Rose Bruford College is privileged to hold his remarkable Film and Video Collection, which he most generously donated in 2002. This unique archive is especially devoted to Kathakali, the classical dance drama of Kerala, South India.
The Collection includes material dating from the 1950s and performances by great artists of the second half of the twentieth century of whom no other record exists. The Collection reflects the changing conditions of performance over the last half-century in a variety of locations – from early silent filming of out-door performances lit only by a single traditional oil lamp to video of large-scale tours on the stages of European theatres. All recordings were made at his own expense and as a labour of love for the art of Kathakali. It was his express wish that the collection should not be used for commercial gain, but should be given to the College to be available to artists, students, researchers for personal study.
Born in 1919 in Cairo, David Bolland won a scholarship to King’s School, Worcester. At school he was already filming amateur documentaries on such events as the Royal Jubilee of 1935 and the Coronation of George VI in 1937. On leaving he joined the London office of Peirce Leslie & Co. Ltd., a British firm (founded in South India in 1862) that managed tea, coffee and rubber estates as well as shipping and insurance. But war intervened, and, until he was demobilised in 1946, he served as an officer in the 1944 Normandy invasion, and was mentioned in despatches and awarded an MBE (Military).
In 1946, he sailed to India to take up his post with Peirce Leslie & Co. in India in 1950. He saw his first Kathakali play in 1954, with the great Kunju Kurup in the leading role. From then until 1971, when he retired, he saw 146 performances in various parts of Kerala, keeping detailed notes on each and filming many. With the distinguished scholar K.P.S.Menon as mentor and guru, this material formed the basis of his subsequent book on Kathakali. Many of the artists whom he filmed and who became his friends were associated with the main training academy, the Kerala Kalamandalam, and in 1973 he set up an annual prize for its leading graduate.
In 1967 he oversaw the transformation of Peirce Leslie into an Indian public company, becoming its Managing Director in 1968. At the same time he was appointed Unofficial Correspondent to the Deputy UK High Commissioner in Madras – equivalent to British Consul in South India and responsible for all consular activities. On retiring from India in 1971, was awarded an OBE (Civil) for his services to the High Commission and the British Community.
Settling in Somerset with his wife, Peggy (who died in 2003), he built an editing studio at their home to work on his collection. He first made the 40-minute Masque of Malabar, and followed this with the shorter Malabar Masque which won 26 awards at international amateur film festivals including the festival at Cannes. In 1980 he published A Guide to Kathakali, now in its third edition and recognised as the best English-language introduction to this form of theatre.