Response to the Closure/Suspensions of SoPA at the University of Wolverhampton
To whom it may concern,
We are writing to express our concerns regarding the recent news of course suspensions and closures in the School of Performing Arts. We, a company of professional actors, creatives and musicians, had the privilege of bringing our Arts Council-funded production of ‘Is He Musical?’, a new musical, to the school in February. During our time in Walsall, we had the joy of working in partnership with members of your excellent musical theatre faculty.
For us, it was an absolute pleasure to be able to work on this production at the university - not just because of the excellent performing arts facilities on offer and the truly welcoming, professional environment, but particularly because of the opportunity to work with the outstanding staff and students as part of our brief residency. It is no secret in the UK’s musical theatre community that the faculty at the University of Wolverhampton is one of the most thriving in the country with regards to the level of academic talent and output, led by passionate, dedicated staff who are at the heart of discussions on diversity, supporting the creation of new work and driving change across the industry. Many of us have previously attended national musical theatre symposiums and conferences featuring senior academics from the department. We have all benefited from their expertise during our visit in various ways, particularly as many of us are graduates or early-career professionals. Other staff in the department, such as technical staff, were equally as friendly, supportive and professional at all times. It was evident that all staff truly care about their enthusiastic and hard-working students, too, who were equally as pleasant and engaged with our work. It was truly a wonderful place to work.
The news regarding these course suspensions and closures is heartbreaking and immensely disappointing for several reasons, but as a company we wanted to highlight to you our particular concern that other industry professionals will be unable to benefit from the environment, facilities and outstanding staff support and expertise that we have experienced as a young company. Our Arts Council funding enabled us to pay for this time and space, and the co-producers in particular felt that this was far more beneficial than going to any other local venue, particularly because we were able to work so closely with such experienced staff, but also as we really appreciated the space to share work with students and create unique opportunities for them to experience professionals bringing a new musical to life firsthand. This truly seemed to set them apart from other MT students on other local courses and highlighted the exciting, competitive element of the courses your staff have worked so hard to create. In addition to the devastating consequences course closures will have on staff and students, it also seems like a very disappointing missed opportunity to continue to welcome professional companies into your excellent facilities at Walsall, along with the funding and ticket revenue they may bring, too, impacting on local arts and culture. We regret that we will be unable to share our enthusiasm for this with our industry colleagues across the country who may have also been keen to work with you.
We urgently and strongly encourage you to reconsider your position. We hope that you will support your hard-working staff and students with the care and respect that they absolutely deserve during this process.
Jude Taylor (he/him) (writer/co-producer)
Matt Powell (they/she/he) (director/co-producer)
Teddy Hinde (they/them) (actor)
Barry O’Reilly (he/him) (actor)
Francesca Fenech (she/her) (musical director)
Ryan Wiggins (he/him) - Assistant/Movement Director
George Strickland (he/him) - Music Supervisor
Adastra Fletcher-Hall (they/she) (violinist/ music education student)