Ray Winstone ‘saddened’ by imminent closure of theatre school

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Actor Ray Winstone has said he is “sad and surprised” that a theatre school he attended in the 70s is facing closure.

Corona Theatre School, in Middlesex, was founded in 1948 but has announced it is being forced to shut its doors after losing its main source of philanthropic support.

The school, which has 32 students and which states on its website that it puts “as much emphasis on academic studies as we do on developing every pupil’s skills in the performing arts”, also counts Nicholas Lyndhurst and Charlie Brooks as former pupils.

It will close on February 24 unless a new investor can be found.

Winstone said: “I’m very sad and surprised to hear that Corona is closing. I spent some time there during the mid 1970s, meeting teachers and pupils who inspired me. Vernon Morris and Bill Happer to name two of the most inspirational teachers.”

He added: “It was a theatre school that allowed you to work no film sets while studying. That’s where I learnt my trade.”

The school’s principal, Mary Greco, explained that the school was being forced to close after losing the financial support of a businessman who has subsidised it for the last 18 months.

She explained that he had stepped in to save the school from closure two years ago, when it was based in Kew and was forced to find new premises after being unable to afford the rent on its previous building.

Greco, a former pupil at the school, said the businessman bought the school its current premises in Hampton and has since been supporting it financially, which Corona has relied on to boost money it makes from fees.

However, she said the investor has been forced to stop his subsidy and put the building up for sale, and has said that she would need someone to step in and buy it to give the school a chance of survival.

“We had an investor who came in and saved us and who has subsidised the school for the past 18 months, but he can’t do it any more. He has other businesses that are struggling in the climate we’re in and he just can’t physically supplement us any more,” she said.

She added that if the school could be supported until September, when it had been expecting to enrol a number of new students, it would stand a chance of survival.

“But if someone can’t help us out for the next six months there is no alternative really,” she said.

Corona was founded in 1948 as Corona Stage Academy, before being renamed Ravenscourt Theatre School in 1989 when it was taken over by Robin Phillips. It was re-established as Corona Theatre School in 2009.

The school teaches academic lessons for three days a week and drama, dance and singing for the other two. It also offers weekend classes.


  1. This Corona School, run by Mary Greco, is not connected to the original Corona Academy, run by Rona Knight, and her sister, Muriel Martin. It was this original school which turned out such pupils as Ray Winstione, Nicholas Lyndhurst,Denis Waterman etc. Rona Knight was most insistent that, following her retirement, the Corona name would not be connected to any other establishment This is why, when Robin Philips started his school ( with Rona Knight’s permission), the name was changed to Ravenscourt.

  2. Always a shame to see anything fail when people have invested their passion, time and money into it, particularly when children are involved. But I am very proud of having gone to Corona which ended when Rona and Muriel, then very elderly, finally retired in 1989. The school was named after Rona, the principal. Somebody said to me this week, didnt you go to that school shutting down? No. Different school, whatever they say.

  3. I am surprised, and saddened that Ray Winstone has’t realised that the Corona mentioned in the above article is not the same school he attended. As Erin has said, the REAL Corona closed in 1989 when Rona Knight retired after all those successful years of training many, many, stars of screen, both big and small. The use of the original name of Corona has angered and upset dozens of past students who see the use of the name as a great disloyalty to the memory of a wonderfully talented woman. The actor/teachers mentioned in the article, Bill Hepper and Vernon Morris, have also never taught at this new school. One lives in the states and the other has been dead for years.
    I am also amased that this article has appeared in The Stage. Surely there must still be people working for this paper who know the truth, unlike the daily rags who published the story first, who did not research their subject before going to press.

  4. I want to retract the last line of my comment above as it is probably unfair. The Knight family are heartily sick of Rona Knight name and reputation being used by people in their publicity for other organisations.

  5. At last this awful place has finally closed. It had absolutely nothing to do with the original Corona Theatre School – they simply lived off the reputation and name – you only have to look at the school website and view their list of previous students and see the names – what utter garbage – the ONLY connection was that they kept the same uniform and that was it. Staff changed constantly, every time I rang there was a new head teacher! My daughter went there for three years – she went from being a top student to learning nothing – the worst teaching I have known, three moves in three years without even a warning to parents. The best person there was Jayne Knight and when she left that was it. How this school had the nerve to continue is unbelievable. People actually laughed out loud when I told them my daughter went there – luckily we took her out just in time.

  6. I agree with the comments above, the 2 schools have nothing to do with one another. I attended Corona Academy in the late ’70s and ealy ’80s. It would be great if The Stage would point out that any conection made by the closing school to the original is completely bogus.

  7. Agree with everything said above. Very surprised The Stage has not done its research, especially since the company running this school went into liquidation in March 2012. If you want you can track the fascinating history of companies using the name Corona Theatre at companies house.

  8. As a former student of Corona Academy Stage School. I totally agree with everything said above. There was only ONE Corona and ONE Rona Knight (the heart and soul of our beloved School)Please Check out the truth and don’t be mislead by “name droppers”.

  9. Facts not fiction, I feel sad that the Stage would print a story without researching the facts, this is poor reporting and i feel that had The Stage looked into this a bit further then perhaps people like Ray Winstone ( whom i was a mate with at THE Corona) would not have been made to look foolish. Shame on you The Stage check it out first, Corona Academy was unique. Everyone associated with The Corona Academy is saddened by this mis-representation of what was the best Stage school in the country at the time

  10. I cannot believe after all the comments posted on here 7 days ago that the Stage went ahead and printed this is yesterdays edition.

  11. The School that is closing under the name of CORONA has nothing whatsoever to do with the old Corona Academy founded and run by Rona Knight.
    Please get your fact right before printing this nonsense…..
    There was only ONE “Corona” .
    I was a pupil and teacher there for many years .When Rona Knight retired in 1989,and the school closed. The name of the new school was called “The Ravenscourt School ,and had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ORIGINAL AND ONLY “CORONA”

  12. My former school Corona closed as others have stated but If the students of this new school with makes use of the name have a quarter as much fun as I did, they are indeed lucky. Sorry to read that the new school is under threat .
    I wish the new owners and students well.

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