Stage and film stars pay tribute to Glasgow School of the Performing Arts as it celebrates its anniversary

Alan Cumming is one of the stars of stage and film featured in a new book retracing 175 years of the Royal Conservatory of Scotland, Glasgow’s renowned music and drama school. Photo: Robert McFadzean

Stage and film stars Alan Cumming, James McAvoy, Richard Madden, David Tennant and Ncuti Gatwa are among those who remember their formative years in a new book retracing the 175-year history of the Royal Conservatory of Scotland .

Other notable alumni featured in Raising The Curtain, which includes unseen photographs and other archival material, include jazz maestro Tommy Smith, opera singer Karen Cargill, former Scotsman Makar Jackie Kay and writer, director and performer Johnny McKnight.

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Published by Luath Press, the book also features a personal tribute to Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, who is the current RCS boss and stage musical impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

James McAvoy is one of the most famous stars to come out of the Glasgow School of the Performing Arts. Photo: KK Dundas

The RCS dates back to 1847, when the Glasgow Athenaeum was established in the city to “provide a source of mental cultivation, moral improvement and enjoyable recreation for all classes”. Officially opened by Charles Dickens, it initially offered music lessons, but its program was expanded to include acting lessons in 1886.

The institution would become the Scottish National Academy of Music in 1929, obtaining royal status from King George VI in 1944. The Glasgow College of Dramatic Art was formed in 1950 and became the first drama school to run its own studio television station in 1962..

The new identity of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama was forged in 1968 and remained intact until the name change to Royal Conservatory of Scotland in 2011 to better reflect the range of courses on offer.

Over 3,000 students from 60 countries now learn music, theater, dance, production and film at RCS each year, with a normal program of over 500 public performances attracting over 40,000 audience members in recent years. was ranked among the top three performing arts institutions in the world, alongside the Juilliard School in New York and the Royal College of Music in London.

Sex education star Ncuti Gatwa recalled her time at the Royal Scottish Conservatory for the new book Raising The Curtain. Photo: Robert McFadzean

Writing in the new book, Prince Charles says: “The founders of Glasgow Athenauem can hardly imagine the success with which their efforts would be crowned, or the many and varied forms in which the performing arts are now expressed.

“They would, however, surely recognize the timeless and joyful qualities of creativity which make the arts an essential part of being human and they would be delighted, I am sure, to see how the Conservatory has fulfilled its purposes so magnificently. “

Sir Cameron writes: “If the last days have shown us anything, it is that we need our arts and our artists more than ever. Yes, for our savings, but also for our well-being, for the essence of our souls.

Tennant said, “I was very young when I got to drama school. I was 17 and my time was very educational.

The Royal Scottish Conservatory is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2022. Photo: Guy Farrow

“It was three years of very intense growth, life experience and I was starting to do what I always wanted to do.

“It was a huge release coming straight from school where I felt like I was released into the world.

“These were three of the most important years of my life. They taught me a lot about who I have become and without them I wouldn’t have stood a chance in the professional world.”

McAvoy said, “My training at RCS has benefited me immensely.

Doctor Who and Good Omens star David Tennant. Photo: Anthony Harvey / Shutterstock

“You have three years doing tons and tons of jobs – by the time you left you’ve worked 20 different jobs and performed so many times – you just don’t get that in the industry. “

Recalling his hearing, Cumming said: “I read and reread the flyer like a spy who was about to be infiltrated, so the day I finally walked through the gates and was guided by a lovely student called Margaret-Ann, the place felt almost familiar like it was where I was meant to be.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been accepted. I didn’t have a back-up plan for the rest of my life.

“There was a letter waiting for me when I got home from work about one evening a week. And it wasn’t just a letter of acceptance, it was an escape, a new life, a miracle.

Kay said, “I took the Junior Drama Course between the ages of 12 and 16, and I can honestly say that, no word of a lifetime, it changed my life.

“It gave me confidence in my imagination, taught me not to be afraid when I speak in public and to project my voice, taught me to improvise and most importantly, made me a whole bunch of new ones. different friends from my school. friends.”

Former Scottish Makar Jackie Kay. Image: PA

Cargill said: “I was from the generation that watched Fame so moving from Arbroath to RCS when I was 17 was amazing.”

Madden said: “The Conservatory gave me the confidence to call myself an actor, it gave me a place to study my craft, it gave me the skills and the encouragement to step out into the world and be the best that I can be, to do what I wanted to do and get down to doing it.

Gatwa said: “RCS’s approach was very personal.

“It gives you opportunities to develop yourself in ways that you cannot in the outside world.

“I felt very prized. It was a safe space. Scotland has a thriving theatrical scene and I think being away from the chaos of London allows you to focus on honing your craft.

“Glasgow is one of the best places to live and study. The nightlife and the people are mean. The vibrancy of the city is infectious and you are having a great time.

“There’s so much going on there and it’s a beautiful city with real character – I wouldn’t have chosen anywhere else.”

About Madeline J. Carter

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