It starts in January 1968. Anna Scher had done some acting and written some poetry which led to television appearances. She applied for some supply teaching to make ends meet and was sent to Ecclesbourne School, in Islington. Very soon she started a Drama Club, which immediately became extremely popular in the school and, before long, in the surrounding area.
By 1970 the club had grown so much that she was forced to find a different venue and it was at this time that I came in with her, initially just running the administrative side of the business. This was the Bentham Court Hall era, which lasted six years and included the formation of a charity and growing success managing the careers of young actors.
The philosophy was to provide the best possible improvisation based training at the lowest possible price. As a business plan this sounds absurd but, in the outcome, it was brilliantly successful. We produced outstanding young actors, working in a much more up to date style than the competition and, in numbers, people who would never have been able to afford the orthodox drama school route.
On reflection, it is easy to see how this was influenced by my own life experience. My parents were both brought up by single parents themselves. My mother was rescued from poverty by winning a scholarship to the grammar school and my father joined the Air Force and then became a partner in a haulage business. Sadly, he died when I was only four years old.
So it could be said that, in aiming for best training, cheapest price I was simply following the needs of my family. To get my education I had to win scholarships to school and university and I had to find unusual ways of doing things that worked. Apart from my parents I would name Leonard Cheshire as an important influence.
And, of the people who were in that first class back in 1968, John Blundell and Herbert Norville have recently been in touch. The current 'longest inhabitant' is Ray Cezan. Members who have achieved striking success include Kathy Burke. Gary and Martin Kemp, Linda Robson, Pauline Quirke,, Ray Burdis, Naomie Harris, Phil Daniels, Joe Wright, Susan Tully, Gillian Taylforth, Andy Serkis, Jake Wood and many, many, many others.
And we're still going strong.