Rose Bruford, the founder of the College, was an exquisite verse-speaker and muse to the Poet Laureate, John Masefield. It is her spirit and legacy that inspired the formation of the Centre which holds her books, professional papers and recordings of her recitals, together with a small book collection of poetry and prose donated by John Masefield.
The Patron of the Centre is Cicely Berry CBE, DLitt(Hon), Director of Voice, Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Fellows of the College associated with the work of the Centre include Andrew Wade, the RSC’s former Head of Voice; Lyn Darnley, the RSC’s former Head of Text, Voice and Artistic Development; RSC Associate Artists, Stephen Boxer, Ray Fearon, Greg Hicks and Joseph Millson; Mary King, Director of the South Bank Centre’s Voicelab; and former Head of Voice of the College, Sally Grace, is the Centre’s Visiting Professor. Voice specialists Jane Boston and Catherine Weate are members of the Advisory Board.
The Centre celebrated the College’s Diamond Jubilee on the 16th of June 2011 with an event focusing on Rose Bruford’s belief in the significance and joy of poetry, and her love of and expertise in speaking many kinds of verse. And researchers in the Centre developed an exhibition on the life and work of Rose Bruford to accompany the Jubilee event and work is under way on a book in which she will feature along with other influential women who have advanced the education and training of theatre-makers.
The Centre’s main project is Voicing Shakespeare, which looks specifically at the playwright’s language and its place in the 21st Century. The project involves exploration of the work of schools, conservatoires, voice specialists, actors, directors, composers, and major theatre companies; and is led by Professors Nesta Jones and Simon Trussler and the College’s Voice Co-ordinator, Tess Dignan.
Other initiatives include Looking Back at Lear which reflects on Cicely Berry’s seminal production of King Lear, at The Other Place in 1988, and the Almeida Theatre in 1989, and will result in an article for an international journal; Teaching Voice, the history and techniques of teaching voice at Rose Bruford College from the institutions inception to the present day involving the views and experience of former College Heads of Voice Sally Grace, Lyn Darnley, Catherine Weate, and Alison MacKinnon, alumni and other associated voice coaches; Words Matter, an event focused project which includes masterclasses and workshops with practitioners experienced and expert in the uses and delivery of language; and The Betty Mulcahy Poetry Competition, an annual occasion launched in 2013 to commemorate the life and work of an inspirational poetry speaker.