ALRA drama school closes: why has it closed suddenly, what will happen to students, what does ALRA stand for?

Alumni of the academy includes Call the Midwife star Miranda Hart and Love Island contestant Georgia Steele

<p>It has been announced that the school has been closed with immediate effect (Photo: ALRA)</p>

It has been announced that the school has been closed with immediate effect (Photo: ALRA)

The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA) has announced that, with immediate effect, the institution has closed its doors to students and staff.

In a statement from the school, it said that it is no longer “financially viable” and, after unsuccessfully pursuing other options like selling the school, the ALRA Board has decided to stop teaching students and shut down the school.

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This is everything you need to know.

What is ALRA?

ALRA is a British drama school with two campuses in the UK - one in Wandsworth Common, in south London, and one in Wigan, Greater Manchester.

It was founded in 1979 by Sorrel Carson, an Irish actress and director who acted as the school principal until 2001. The current acting principal is Kieran Sheehan.

The school offered a number of different courses, including a three year acting course, a 15 month acting course and an MA in directing.

Actress Miranda Hart attended ALRA (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Some notable alumni of ALRA include:

  • Miranda Hart (Miranda, Call the Midwife)
  • Dominic Burgess (Raising Hope, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
  • Tanya Franks (The Bill, Broadchurch)
  • Clive Ashborn (V for Vendetta, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest)
  • Stephanie Chambers (Brookside, Emmerdale)
  • Sarah Parish (Industry, Bancroft)
  • Georgia Steel (Love Island, Celebs Go Dating)
  • Amita Suman (Shadow and Bone, The Outpost)

Why has it closed?

It has been announced that ALRA will be closing its doors - with immediate effect.

In its statement, the school said: “The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts is no longer able to continue to teach students and will be closed as of Monday 4th April 2022.”

It goes on to say that, in spring 2021, the school went through a restructure that was “designed to stabilise finances”, but “the losses made in the 2020/21 academic year and the lack of any significant new income streams in 2021/22 meant the organisation was not financially viable”.

According to its statement, the ALRA school is no longer ‘financially viable’ (Photo: ALRA)

It continued: “In October 2021 the ALRA Board, after taking advice, decided to seek a new owner to ensure the college’s long term future through an intensive sales process. Unfortunately, after thorough talks with interested parties, this was not possible to achieve.

“As a result, the ALRA Board sought other options and ultimately resolved to cease teaching students and working with partners, are providing appropriate support provided to students to find alternative study options.”

In its statement, ALRA says that “all roles within ALRA will be made redundant” and that “28 permanent, and 16 fixed-term jobs will be affected”.

Aside from its statement about the closure of the school, the ALRA website has almost entirely been wiped.

What happened in 2021?

In June 2021, the school opened an internal investigation and issued a public call for information following allegations that a former teacher sexually harassed students.

ALRA said that it was “heartbroken” after confirming the allegations made against a former member of staff.

In a statement at the time, the school said: “The wellbeing of our staff and students is of the upmost importance. We have emailed all staff and students across both campuses to offer support and share our reporting options and policies.

“We have invested money in further support spaces for staff and additional counselling support for students.

“We ask that anyone affected does not hold back from asking for a space to speak, we will work as quickly as we can to find you support and listen to your concerns.”

In 2020, a group of 13 former ALRA students published an open letter which accused the institution of widespread and systemic racism.

The letter, which was tweeted by Manchester based actor Lamin Touray, outlined some of the incidents that students claimed to have experienced at ALRA, including a student being told by a tutor that they could hear their “negro roots”, a different student being told they walk like “an African princess”, and another who was told she couldn’t audition for the role of Juliet in her second year production of Romeo and Juliet because “Juliet was not black”.

Principal at the time, Adrian Hall, stepped down following the accusations of racism within the school. An external review ruled that the school had “turned a blind eye” to racism, and had a culture of minimising or dismissing complaints made by its students.

What will happen to its students?

In its statement about the closure of the school, ALRA said that the Office for Students (OfS) and Department for Education (DfE) have been working with other organisations “to ensure that all students are offered a place on alternative courses”.

ALRA students have been offered spots on replacement courses at places like Rose Bruford College, based in Kent, St Mary’s University in Twickenham and Arts University Bournemouth.

St Mary’s University has set up a dedicated hotline for ALRA students for support and for clear and impartial guidance about the options available to them.

ALRA students have been offered places for similar courses at other colleges and universities (Photo: ALRA)

You can contact St Mary’s at [email protected] or you can phone 020 8240 8284 where you’ll be connected with an advisor.

Advice is also available via the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), which is an independent body which reviews student complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales.

You can contact the OIA via its webpage, at [email protected] or by calling 011 8959 9813.

Students studying the MFA Linklater course at ALRA will have their awards validated by Arts University Bournemouth. You can find out more about your options with the Arts University Bournemouth by phoning 01202 363325 or emailing [email protected].

What have students said?

Lizzie Green, a third year acting student, told the BBC: “I’m heartbroken and devastated.

“All my life I wanted to go to drama school. For it to end like this is devastating.

“It was clear the school had no money. But we pay about £14,000 a year in fees so we want to know where is the money going.”

Green also tweeted: “4 years at #ALRA, having to work in a class with a sexual assaulter, 3 years of covid disrupting our training to arrive at our third term of third year with the school closing. Don’t even know what to say.”

Students and staff have taken to Twitter to express their frustrations over the sudden closure of the school.

Zoe Camplin tweeted: “I cannot believe the news this morning feeling absolutely devastated, after training at alra for nearly 4 years, I don’t get to see the course till its end. Sending love and support to all my fellow students North and South, we are resilient and we will be okay.”

“ALRA have continued to f**k us over again and again and today we wake up to find our drama school has closed. Jobs lost and degrees people have worked for years just to get a place on lost. It’s such an uncertain time with agents and this is just a massive blow,” Eleanor Philpott tweeted.