LAMDA management has been accused of “an act of vandalism and manipulation” as further details of redundancy plans at the drama school emerge, under which more than 40 teaching posts could be cut.
According to a document outlining the proposed redundancies at the drama school, the organisation believes income for the current year could be about £4 million less than was previously budgeted. It states this is due to the “sudden loss of income" caused by the pandemic, with reductions in both LAMDA examinations and loss of income from short course places this summer.
Its LAMDA Examinations strand is estimated to bring in revenue of £2.66 million, against a budgeted £6.14 million.
While it is looking at its non-staff costs, it said there was a need to reduce annual staff costs by approximately £1 million from the £5.9 million budgeted for 2019/20.
As part of its proposals, due to be discussed this week, the drama school has outlined about 50 posts that could be lost, including 12 acting teachers and 12 movement teachers. It said there are currently 14 acting teachers and 14 movement teachers, and that two of these could be retained in each department, in new roles.
It is also proposing losing six of its eight voice teachers and four screen and audio teachers, as well as six music and singing teachers.
In the document, it states LAMDA will complement remaining staff by appointing self-employed associate artists to deliver both “internal and public-facing productions and projects” and self-employed specialist practitioners.
The proposed redundancies document seen by The Stage states that new permanent roles created by the restructure would be via a “competitive process based on applicants’ suitability” and that teaching staff would be required to contribute to the development of LAMDA and the way it supports its students in at least two of four areas, including access and inclusion.
“It is proposed that as part of the selection process for the proposed new teaching roles, applicants be asked to demonstrate in their application forms and interviews how they have supported students in this regard previously, how they do so now and what they propose going forward,” the plan states.
However, the redundancy proposals have been met with widespread concerns that the changes would lead to the end of the school, which is led by Sarah Frankcom, as it currently stands.
One student, who asked not to be named, said: “The way in which Sarah Frankcom is bringing about her changes is draconian and being done with little sensitivity to the staff or history of the school. Students are increasingly restless.”
Robert Price, a former voice tutor at the school who left earlier this year, said the plans were “an act of vandalism and manipulation”.
“When RADA removed the Alexander Technique there was a sustained student campaign on the basis of its importance to training, which led to its substantial reinstatement. This is much worse. There will be very little training left and the process will move very quickly. Many people’s professional lives will have been callously trashed and the meaningful future of a successful and happy institution carelessly fumbled. It’s really very, very sad,” he said.
A petition has been launched against the redundancies, which currently has more than 1,000 signatures.
One of the signatories is Simon Callow, who said “the training as it stands works”.
He added: “To wantonly destroy it is a crime, above all at a time when we need all the inner strength and discipline we can muster. If the proposed changes go ahead, LAMDA as we know it will be dead. We must fight hard for it, especially since my alma mater, the Drama Centre, sharing many of the same values, has just been wiped out by ruthless ideologues. Fight, fight, fight for serious training. Acting as we know it cannot survive without it.”
LAMDA said the unexpected loss of summer short courses and LAMDA Examinations revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic meant that it “must now make some difficult decisions in order to reduce our operating costs, increase income and implement our emerging new vision”.
“We believe that a restructuring of the organisation is the best means available of protecting and building LAMDA’s future,” it added.
The school said in a statement that this process would “sadly mean redundancies and the loss of greatly valued employees” but would also enable it to “maintain and enhance the quality of learners’ experiences as they work towards their LAMDA exams, and the training of our acting, directing and technical students”.
“We plan to streamline what we do, reducing the cost of management and various administrative functions, and the number of teachers we employ. We propose to develop new types of teaching contracts, which will enable us to give students a blend of expert training from LAMDA teachers alongside self-employed specialist practitioners and associate artists with current industry practice. In this way we will preserve and further enhance the quality of LAMDA’s provision in exciting new ways,” it said.
Consultations with staff will begin on July 24.