It was Rose Bruford's mission to train actors who could teach and teachers who could act. In its early days the College had a commitment to community and theatre in education. This proud heritage is something we still embrace even as the College has diversified into new areas.
“Rose Bruford or ‘Bru’ as she was known was a remarkable woman. An inspired teacher and exquisite verse-speaker, a talented director, impeccable organiser, a respected Principal and Leader – a creator, instigator, encourager and friend to all especially those in trouble, need or sickness. A woman of integrity – of the highest possible standards in her life and work – a woman of character.”
These words were spoken by James Dodding, a graduate and Fellow of the College, on the occasion of the Thanksgiving Service for Rose Bruford held at the Actor’s Church, St. Paul’s, Covent Garden in June 1984.
Rose Elizabeth Bruford was born on the 22nd June 1904. She remembers herself as a child always acting, often directed by her brother Lionel. She was educated at Kilburn High School, and later at Bath High School where on one occasion a verse recital was given by Elsie Fogarty, the founder and Principal of the Central School of Speech and Drama, then situated at the Royal Albert Hall. Having decided that she wanted to pursue a career in drama Bru resolved to go to the Central School and although the early months were not particularly happy she grew to love Elsie Fogarty who she claimed was ‘undoubtedly a genius’ and a profound influence on Bru during her formative years.
While still a student, Bru took part in the renowned Oxford Recitations of Spoken Verse, begun in 1923 by John Masefield. Here she became acquainted with the poets W.H. Auden, Gordon Bottomley, Richard Church, Walter de la Mare, T.S. Eliot, Christopher Hassall, John Drinkwater, and W.B. Yeats who encouraged her to speak some of his poems to a small harp, a featured highlight of her recitals in years to come. In 1928 she walked off with top honours for her verse speaking and John Masefield was to be her champion and guide for the rest of her life.
After graduating from the Central School, Bru followed her parents’ wishes never to work in the theatre and instead became a visiting teacher of Speech and Drama. Between 1925 and 1949 she taught regularly at forty-three different schools, but in 1941 she was appointed to the staff of the Royal Academy of Music where, starting with seven students, she built the Drama course to the point when it boasted seventy students and was recognized by the Ministry of Education as a qualified teacher-training programme. While spending three days at the Royal Academy of Music she spent the other two days at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she taught mime to all the students.
In 1948 her first book, Speech and Drama, was published and became a best-seller. But she wanted better conditions and bigger premises for her course at the Royal Academy of Music. The new Principal was adamant: "Miss Bruford, I cannot accept any more of your new ideas". Bru responded to friends, "I can’t go on with this new Principal. I can’t stand it. I must have my own school." The next day Bru handed in her notice. It seemed that no-one had ever resigned before from the Royal Academy of Music, but after her fourth attempt it was accepted. She gave up a well- paid position and a pension, and although she had only £600 to her name she began preparations for her own school. She eventually found the ideal premises. The Kent Education Committee offered her the use of the mansion in Lamorbey Park and the Rose Bruford Training College for Speech and Drama had a home for the rent of £5 a year. Surrounded by a staff of quality and dedication the College established a unique training programme where students took a dual course as actors and teachers. Bru worked herself for some years without pay but gradually the course developed becoming grant aided and recognized for qualified teacher status. Her repeated advice when training actors was 'Think, move, speak.'
Students taught by her have commented:
"When she walked into the College she brought with her a larger, more heroic air – of integrity, honesty, innocence, goodness."
"Her guidance, her wisdom, discipline, values and love will be treasured forever."
When asked what advice she would give to students, she often quoted the last lines of a poem specially written by John Masefield for the formal opening of the College In 1951:
"Beauty awaits man’s capture, as of old: - She awaits you here; adventure and be bold."
Honorary Fellow Roger Chapman reminisces about his time studying at 'Bru's'