Top drama school told students left feeling ‘worthless’

Apology to ‘all those affected’ as academy investigates offensive tweets

Friday, 8th July — By Charlotte Chambers

Italia Conti IMG_4960

THE internationally renowned Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts has asked students to share any concerns they have and opened up a whistleblowers email address after a series of offensive tweets were made by someone reportedly working on student welfare.

The posts have now been deleted but in response the school took the step last Thursday of issuing a statement declaring commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The 109-year-old theatre school in Goswell Road, whose alumni include model Naomi Campbell, singer Bonnie Langford and comedian Russell Brand, said it had been “made aware of some posts on social media which have caused offence”, adding: “We have policies in place to promote equality, diversity and inclusion across the organisation. We take compliance with these policies very seriously.

“We have taken immediate action including informing our board of governors who have met this afternoon to discuss the issue.”

The statement went on: “We are deeply sorry to all those who have been affected. We would like to thank those who brought this to light.”

While the content of the tweets has now been erased, the incident has sparked critical tweets from current and former students over the school’s handling of student welfare.

Former student Tatyana Gilbert, now an actor, said: “Systematically there is so much change to be done and it’s hurtful that someone has worked at this establishment for so long without this being seen.”

Jake Wissett, who featured in a video made by the school talking about queer rights, described Italia Conti as “the institution that made me feel worthless and invalidated”.

He tweeted: “Finally the truth is coming out about that institution’s systematic homophobia, racism, and classism.”

Maddie Parker, another former student at the college, was among several students past and present who felt it was monitoring their social media accounts.

“No one could ever speak out or address anything that went down in college,” she said.

A spokesperson for Italia Conti said: “Italia Conti feel that it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of incidents relating to individual staff or students, past or present.

“The statement released on social media on June 30 pertained to a reported incident which has been dealt with immediately through our internal processes.

“We felt it necessary to publish the statement to reassure staff, students, and our alumni that we take all reports seriously and we are committed to an inclusive environment at Italia Conti.”

Italia Conti on the move

THE world’s first stage school closed the doors of its long-standing site near the Barbican on Friday ahead of its relocation to Surrey.

The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts had been in Goswell Road for 40 years, although it was founded in 1911.

Named after the actor who founded it, the academy was run from a basement in Great Portland Street and then had a spell in Lamb’s Conduit Street in Holborn.

Ms Conti died in 1946 aged 72 and was succeeded by her niece Ruth Conti to the role of director.

Now in its 110th year, to date there have been only five directors in total.

In 1984 the school moved to Goswell Road. However, as there were also other sites dotted across London and beyond, the current principal Samantha Newton took the decision to combine the schools into one site.

In a statement on its website, the school says: “Due to our remarkable growth over the last three years we are moving to a new location. It has been no secret that we are looking to relocate and move all of our courses under one roof.”

The new building is part of a multi-million-pound redevelopment in Woking, and will be 48,000 sq ft over two floors.

It will open in time for the start of the new academic year in September.

The school’s statement went on: “We wanted to be part of something big, but also something new as we felt this was a new era for Italia Conti. So, we went with a town that was already renovating and became part of a multi-million-pound transformation in Woking.

“In our 110th year our new era of talent will be nurtured in this purpose-built building.

“Our site will be part of the Victoria Square new build but will also have direct access into the already prominent Peacock shopping centre providing convenience for staff and students to access food and shopping.”

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