Rose Bruford College is so proud that our students and their potential is being seen and recognised by the industry in this way, read on to find out more about Akshita, the award, and the work of our Theatre and Social Change BA (Hons) cohort…
For me this award is far bigger than the certificate and the money. I can feel the wonderful weight of potential that this carries not only for me personally, but for my course. For me internally, this award means that the work that I will continue to do is recognised by the industry
Please could you tell us a little bit more about the Lilian Baylis award?
Sure thing! So the Lilian Baylis award is in memory of Lilian Baylis herself, who was a force to reckon with when she ran the Old Vic Theatre from 1912 till her death in 1937, from ensuring productions there were of the highest quality, making sure her theatre was financially accessible regardless of class and devoting her life to making it a more holistic experience for all those involved. We were told a really sweet story at the ceremony about how Lilian Baylis’ office was so close to the stage because she wanted to be as close to the magic as possible and to see how the audience found the work, which so many had worked so hard on; all of which I found really inspiring, because that’s what I believe theatre can and should be striving toward! A better tomorrow, through the arts and the wider world. But more on what the award actually is.
So it’s an annually presented prize from the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation (RVHF) to a second year student that their drama school nominated, from each of the 10 accredited London Drama Schools who shows promise to significantly contribute to the development of theatre. And the award consists of getting to meet the 9 other awardees and gorgeous ceremony at the Old Vic itself, which I was really luckily able to take my family and my tutors, where someone awesome, this year it was Lolita Chakrabarti OBE, presents a certificate and a grant cheque, this year it was £2000 to each student so that they can finish their courses without undue financial concerns.
How did you find out that you had won?
I like this story very much, because it’s in two parts. First part being that I was in a rehearsal one day in late February and I got an email from my course director, Brian, and he said my tutors and the College had nominated me for something, but he needed a few extra bits of information by the end of the day, so after rehearsal, I stayed to get it all in. At this point I still didn’t know what it was for, then the Head of Student Experience, Shakira, called me to ask how the information collation was going, at which point I asked what it was for, and then I heard about the award for the first time and found out that I had been nominated for Rose Bruford College, which made me feel so grateful and bubbly inside to even be nominated. At this stage I didn’t know that being nominated meant that you were one of the awardees. That’s part one. The second half to this is, toward the end of April, I received an email from Carol at the RVHF, whilst returning on the bus from a day long expedition for a Student Union matter telling me I had received the award along with the others and the ceremony was to be in mid-June, and asking whether I would be able to attend? Would I! I was very excited and my heart was very full. And then I called up my family and that was that!
An excerpt from the nomination documents compiled by Dr Phoebe Patey-Ferguson:
Akshita has a deep dedication to compassionate care practices which she is determined to take with her into transforming the theatre industry into a place of greater equity particularly in terms of race and ethnicity, but also taking an intersectional approach considering gender, class, ethnicity, disability and sexuality
What does winning this award mean for you?
This is going to be a long answer, I can already feel it. For me this award is far bigger than the certificate and the money. I can feel the wonderful weight of potential that this carries not only for me personally, but for my course. For me internally, this award means that the work that I will continue to do is recognised by the industry as something important by people outside of the circles I move in, it means that the horizon of change is closer than perhaps was initially thought, and that the public imagination is gearing up for a new world almost. It may sound cliché but it is no secret that things need to change in what currently seems like radical ways before society as a whole can be happier, more sustainable, more accessible, all of the good things. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this award makes that dream feel closer. Logistically it means I can subsidise £2000 of the artistic change making that I do for organisations that don’t have the budget to spend on the arts, on lateral thinking, facilitation and more, without having to worry about remuneration for it, because I have this opportunity to align with that now.
For my course, BA (Hons) Theatre and Social Change, I feel like it’s only added to the glowing portfolio that our collective have already. Being in the pioneer year of my course, it sometimes felt like all eyes were on us, what would we do? Who would we be? This award, alongside the shifts we have made on campus, in our own communities, in the wider world of theatre and in general, it feels like people are beginning to see that this is part of something bigger. On my course, each individual person in all year groups of my course, students and staff alike, is a powerhouse of possibility, and I can only say it feels like this award and the recognition that comes with it is for us all, for all that we have done so far, and all that I’m sure we will continue to do.
Will this award help you with your studies?
I think there’s more in store than I can see for myself right now. So, directly with my studies I’m not sure as of yet, but what I do know is that I’m really grateful and honoured to have had this chance to talk to so many lovely people on the day of the ceremony. I feel like being able to put this on my CV now is going to be a good thing for sure. Undoubtedly this will be an important achievement for my course’s history and all that Theatre and Social Change is yet to be, and naturally the money will be helpful for funding me to continue working on the things that fuel my soul. I feel the award’s positivity definitely, even if I couldn’t pinpoint to you the exact academic impact just yet.
How are you finding your course?
Oh, Theatre and Social Change means everything to me, without a shadow of a doubt. After the summer, I’ll be going into my final year, which I can’t quite believe, it seems to have gone by so fast. But I love it to pieces. My course has taught me invaluable things through academia, through performance and everything in that delightful fuzzy bit in between, consequentially I’ve personally and professionally grown so much through it. This community that I’m a part of is so different in so many ways, but underneath it all, I would say our fires all connect in a way that is so deep, I can feel my face warming as I say this, but purely objectively, I feel that way because we’re all visionaries in our own weird, beautiful ways, and I like to think we can see that in each other. I can only talk about the experiences I’ve had, but my cohort make me laugh like no other, and pushes me in ways I didn’t know I could go, all held by tutors who care so much and offer whatever they can and then some. In my very obviously biased way, I think this is the best course there is, even with all its trials and tribulations as every course has.
What would you say to anyone considering Theatre and Social Change?
Consider it more! Even before I’d had the experiences of the past two years to colour my views of this course, when I was applying, I knew this was the one. Without having even visited campus or anything. Which sounds a bit wild but there you go. However I know that’s a very individual thing. I would say if you are thinking about applying, there must be a spark of sorts in you that’s tugging you toward this specifically, so I would say play with that feeling, what is it that’s nudging you here? You’ll know inside you somewhere what’s right for you and your journey, and if you’ve got questions, just reach out to the course leaders and the College itself. On the other hand, as much as I advocate for this course, if you have that fire, art and love coursing through your veins, your path will align in the ways you need it to, with or without this course, and I for one will be very excited to see where that takes you.
As with any training, the course has to be right for you and you have to be right for the course. But if you’re thinking about it, do think about it more, it’ll be whatever you make of it, and just in case I hadn’t already talked your ear off about the one I’m on, personally I’d vouch for Theatre and Social Change any day!
Have you found anything about the course surprising?
I think how open ended and fluid it can be. You’re not training to become just one thing on this course, I think those who do train in one line are incredibly talented and so sharp at what they do, but this course isn’t that, and couldn’t be that, because it’s special in its own way. The thing that surprised me most was how much I could try out and play with, whilst on this course, it gave me the means to explore parts of my practice I didn’t know existed, and it tries its best to fit around the needs that there are in the room. It let me hone as many different things as I want to which I feel gives the freedom to find how the rhythm of X thing worked with me as an artist. Naturally all of these ideas are growing and changing processes being such a new course, but I would say our rooms often hold environments that so many others could benefit from, and for me the peak of that, is that fluidity that exists.
What do you like best about studying at Rose Bruford College?
For sure how gorgeous and bright the campus is, and how alive and passionate the community always feels no matter how long our days are. But for me, the best part has got to be the people I get to meet here, the mix of vibes and energies from the students, all with their own unique combinations of wizardry, but also the sheer breadth and depth of knowledge that the tutors that teach us have to offer.
What do you think you might do next?
I’ve still got a year of my degree left before I graduate, so focussing on that this year, continuing to develop my practice and chipping away at placements to learn more about the industry and where I could add to it, then seeing where I’m at once I’ve completed the course! But wherever I end up, I know it’ll be driven by the want to change the world with other visionaries.
Learn more on the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation (RVHF) website.