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.