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Final curtain for 12

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Theatrical institution 12, the club formed in the fifties for agents, casting directors and other industry figures and which gave rise to the Conference of Drama Schools, has closed down.

Started in 1958 by Cary Ellison, who worked at The Spotlight, it was formed as a talking shop at which people who normally only wrote to or telephoned each other could meet and swap ideas and information. In the sixties, it spawned the Conference of Drama Schools – which later gave rise to the National Council of Drama Training – in response to concerns from members that graduates were ill-prepared when it came to finding work.

Current president, casting director Tony Arnell, cites lack of interest among younger members of the profession as the reason for its demise. Arnell, a member since 1962 who took over from Ellison as president in 1988, said he was “absolutely distraught” that the organisation could no longer continue but added that letters from members, while expressing their disappointment, backed him in his decision.

“We were all in our thirties and forties when it formed. I am now in my seventies, we are all retired so we don’t have the same sort of problems. It is really up to the younger ones,” he said.

“The younger ones who have been invited or nominated sometimes they don’t even bother to reply and the ones that do reply never come to the meetings. Their lives are too busy and they don’t feel the need to meet anybody else. When I was a casting director you wanted to meet the agents you were talking to all day long but I think that whole attitude has changed.”

For the past 16 years, the group has met at the agent Kitty Black’s Kensington house. The last meeting, on April 28, coincided with her 90th birthday and Arnell felt it would be unfair to keep using her house as a venue for the gatherings – another reason he cites for its closure.

Speakers have included Sheila Hancock, Jeremy Isaacs, Michael Grade, Jack Tinker and Ian McGarry.

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