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124 responses to “Add your comment

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  5. Phoebe Cooke (Australian Production Design Student)
    I have never attended Motley but it would be heartbreaking if I never could have the chance if it closes down! Looking at the amazing staff, work that the students produce and celebrated alumni I feel like a piece of theatre history will end, and the opportunities for aspiring designers like me to learn and grow will become much slimmer. Please save Motley so the legacy can continue on creating the next generations of designers!!!

  6. As a stage manager over the last 30 years I have had the great pleasure of working with many Motley-trained designers in theatre, television and corporate events. All of great talent and individuality, they appear in the most likely and unlikely settings. The entire entertainment industry will be the poorer for the lack of such a great training resource.

  7. Hi Stephanie, no the exhibition is usually a bit later than the rest of the graduate exhibitions.

  8. Anna Jones (Group 38)

    As countless others have written, the experience at Motley was brilliant, the relationships with students and staff, rich and rewarding. The sheer quantity of skills and knowledge we learnt in one year never fails to astound me. Why was this year in a leaking building on Drury Lane so amazing? The teachers are inspirational and caring, and the ethos of the school created by Percy is thorough, challenging and intelligent.

    After graduating from Motley, I felt well equipped for the professional world, and have been working as a designer for performance and exhibitions since.

    I think it would be a great shame for the theatre industry to lose such a valuable asset. Whenever anyone asks for a recommendation for design training for me there is only one answer. I hope that there is a future for the school so that the next generation can benefit, as many of us have.

    The strong foundations laid down by the Motley tutors should be built upon and the doors should stay open, utilising the skills of numerous talented designers who have been fortunate enough to spend a year in this unique school. We don’t want to become an endangered species! We need Motley to continue to provide students with opportunities to develop their skills, harnessing the talents of future generations of designers.

  9. Deborah Gearing

    I had the good fortune to be invited to work on a joint project with directors and Motley students on one of my plays. It was a wonderful experience – a model for me of how discussion with writer, designer and director might lead to a design which is an inspired, and inspiring, expression of the text.
    Save Motley!

  10. It is vital to the ongoing health of the arts community in the world, that Motley is able to continue its inspirational work. I know that my uncle Sir John Gielgud would be writing here to put the utmost pressure on all who can assist towards its preservation

  11. Percy’s project of creating a theatre design course was inspirational. Far from being brought to a close it should be considered as a model of TRAINING in 21st century.
    It is a fine example of how young people can be helped to transition from education to a creative working life, through the networks of arts professionals, academics, artists, artisans and business people that make the working world. The course introduces students to the WORKS in microcosm.
    Smallness of group, introduction to inspiring figures from different stages in the profession and the continuity and personal contact with a very senior and experienced person of the field made the course a familial as well as a professional experience. This kind of opportunity should eventually be made more widely available. The distinctive personalities and career paths of alumni testify to the value of such a course.
    Researchers might helpfully offer their analysis of the practical work done by the course and its students because this is worth understanding and putting on record. Talent should be recognised and nurtured. Percy found an effective means to do this as the head of the course and to help others to do it after her.
    Funding mechanisms like the Prince’s Trust have already demonstrated that early stage employment initiatives for UK artists can help individual young artists create their own work. Could UN and European funding be invited to help make the Motley Design Course flourish as an international training?

  12. Fiach Mac Conghail (Director of the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's National Theatre.

    I have never been to Motley nor have I ever met the founders. It doesn’t matter as Irish theatre continues to benefit from the imagination and the rigour of the school. Generations of Motley-trained Irish designers have worked at the Abbey and brought with them the courage and clarity to serve the (any) play. This legacy reminds me of the importance of what we serve and how Motley should continue to empower us all in this collaborative artform.

  13. Motley plays an arterial role in British Theatre. Its unique ethos and bespoke training produces creative, committed and collaborative designers who produce ground-breaking work. Motley’s loss would be profoundly felt throughout the industry, and British theatre design would be much the poorer for it. I wholeheartedly support the campaign for Motley to be saved as one of our great training institutions.
    James Grieve, Joint Artistic Director, Paines Plough

  14. As Motley alumni are so international, does the school still need to be based in the U.K?

  15. Gabriella Csanyi-Wills

    Save Motley!. Too good, too valuable to let disappear.

  16. Motley is a truly special place,its designers are always inspiring and joyous to work with.To lose it would be devastating,senseless and embarrassing.
    Total support for Motley’s future life,and its continued vital contribution to the theatre arts.
    Ian Wooldridge
    Theatre Director
    Dean and Director British American Drama Academy

  17. I am privileged to represent a number of designers who have graduated through Motley, and also know and admire the work of many others.
    The school produces a wide variety of talented and creative designers who have benefited from the particular ethos that pertains there, without inhibiting the application of their especial and particular gifts.
    I very much hope that a way can be found to keep Motley going.

    Dennis Lyne

  18. The Motley sisters had an important influence on our mother, Jocelyn Herbert who was trained by them at the London Theater School run by Michael St Denis and George Devine. Jocelyn continued to support the Motley School throughout her life as it expressed much of the values to which she aspired in her work. These values were integrity to the text and sensitivity to the environment that scene,lighting and costume created that bore a powerful impact on that text. It is therefore vital that the Motley school continues.

  19. Motley does what no other theatre design course, to my knowledge, does: in a single year it offers its students intensive exposure to working theatre practitioners, from all aspects of the business. Motley is led by designers at the peak of their game, and its success is evident in the consistent quality and expertise of its graduates. The complexities of bureaucracy and regulation must not let this invaluable resource disappear. Let us all do whatever we can to give the next generation of designers the best start possible.

  20. I am writing as one of Jocelyn Herbert’s daughters to represent her voice as she is no longer alive. She knew and admired Percy as a friend over the years and for her formidable knowledge ,vision and passion in creating Motley. Jocelyn often talked to Motley students about their designs and loved the wide ranging backgrounds and diciplines that they came from.
    She always recognised the uniqueness of this intense one year training .It is unthinkable that it should no longer exist.We as her children adamantly
    support the continuation of Motley.

  21. I attended the motley 42 Group in 2007. My time at motley completely changed the course of my life. It was exciting and stimulating in way my art degree was not. I learned a huge range of skills and met truly inspiring people. I learned that if I worked hard enough I could tackle almost any problem. I made 10 loyal friends.
    I have been meaning to write this message now for the last 6 weeks. My excuse for not getting around to it is that I have been really busy with design work. As we all know we are in a highly competitive and difficult industry. There are no other courses, which I know of, that continue to support their students after the course finishes. When I need advice I know I can call kat or Ally or the 10 others motleys I trained with. When I say to people ‘I trained at motley’ I feel proud to be part of such an impressive legacy. Motley is a family and a way of thinking we must fight to keep it alive.

  22. My Mother , Jocelyn Herbert and Percy were great friends and Mum quite often gave lectures at Motley .She often said that Percy and the Motley school were the best combination to producing wonderfully inspired students of theatre design. The love and care that Percy gave her students is apparant in the testimonies above but she also brought out all their passions and thoughts about how to approach each piece of work that they were given.
    It is rare in a school of design to find a course that is run in this way instead of in a technical theoretical money driven way. But the results of the students and how they go on to deveop into really interesting designers is proof enough that this wonderful school should at all costs be kept going if at all possible . We cannot let Percy’s amazing influence & knowledge that is still perculating down through the students work go to waste,The school simply must continue.

  23. Matt Deely (Group 28)
    For the past few years I’ve been the model making tutor at Motley, I have never been trained as a teacher but have tried to pass on tips and sugestions from my experience working with director/designer Stefanos Lazaridis, who demanded detailed and accurate models!
    I remember my first day at his studio, I was a bit scared as I had heard of his hard reputation. I made a little airport boogie for his production of The Nose, Shostakovich. Stefan walked into the studio picked up what I had made and just smiled. Guess I did something right! He asked where I had studied; I said the magic word Motley. He didn’t bother to look at my portfolio, but said just carry on. I did for another 10 years, as assistant/associate/collaborator on over 20 operas!
    He told me a story of a conversation he had once with Percy, asking her what’s the secret of a long life, she recommended lots of reading. I’m reading more these days!
    I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching at Motley and have always been amazed at how talented the students are and their respond to a little tuition.
    Please save Motley, I need the work…..!

  24. Motley designers have made a huge contribution to British and World Theatre. The quality of their thinking and the professionalism of their work is highly valued and the continuation of this very special training needs to continue. It offers a positive alternative to the mainstream degree courses. I sincerely hope all the issues involved can be resolved to allow it to continue and thrive.

  25. (Group 39)
    My year at Motley was one of the best years of my life, and has undoubtedly meant that I have since met and worked with many inspiring and amazing people. The philosophy of this course is so different from the theatre course I attended before going to Motley and so transformed the way I thought of design. It was incredible to experience teachers who were all working in the industry, instead of teachers who have long lost touch with how it is to work outside an instition – as it can happen in many other courses.
    Closing Motley would be a great loss to many people in the industry.

  26. Caroline Story (Group 38)
    Motley was the most extraordinary year of my life. Not a course only in design, but self reckoning as well. I learnt so much about myself in that year, and found a belief in myself that I did not know I had. And that belief has allowed me to pursue my dreams.
    There is no other place like Motley, and it would be a tragedy for it to close.

  27. Don’t close Motley. I want more than anything to get on to this course one day to acheive my dream of being a set designer. This course, as far as I am concerned, is THE best course out there, and doesn’t deserve to be shut down. Please.

  28. Once upon a time, an American girl wanted to be a costume designer. She discovered a book, by Motley, many years ago that explained everything she needed to know. The journey, was about to begin. In later years, many textbooks crossed her desk at various colleges and universities, but the MOTLEY book with its dog-eared pages and faded paper cover, never lost its relevance. There is sits today, surrounded by the glamourous books about fashion and film. But like an old friend the MOTLEY book remains, a reminder of that first voyage into theater design and still beautiful, after all these years.

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  30. I have had the pleasure of working with many graduates from The Motley Course and they have quite literally revolutionised they way I approach my work. As a director they offer me such a real sense of collaboration – more than just designers they help me make and deliver work – they are brave, radical, thorough and British Theatre will be missing a beating part of its heart without this course.

  31. For years now one of the most important and relevant sources of new emerging stage designers has been the Motley design course. I have worked with designers and design assistants who have graduated from Motley for decades now and always had a high regard for anyone emanating from that design school. Having taken part in end of project criticisms there and seen numerous final shows, I believe that the approach to design in that school is unique and produces unique and talented individuals. Motley is like the ‘last of the art schools’ – unburdened by academia and taught by working artists – a genuinely creative course of education.
    It would be a great loss to the theatre and arts world if this course was to be no more and I sincerely hope that a workable solution will be found to ensure it’s survival.

  32. The Royal Ballet Company have had an amazing array of designers working with us who trained at Motley. It is a very important part of design training for theatre in the UK and overseas and it’s links and association with world class designers and directors make it a unique place to study. It would be such a loss if this course would cease to exist. I support the campaign for it to continue wholeheartedly.

  33. Brilliant design is not a luxury for me. It is a prerequisite. It is such an essential element in the realisation of any production that I always think of the designer as my primary collaborator. I have been lucky enough to have worked with a number of Motley designers in my time and have always relished their brilliance and their application. It would be a really sad day if the doors were to close. Colin Blumenau, Artistic Director, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

  34. Kevin O’Day-Artistic Director and Choreographer of Kevin O’Day Ballett Nationaltheater Mannheim, Germany

    I have had the pleasure and thrill to work with and continue to collaborate
    with Motley alumni. Each Process is a fantastic journey full of wonderful
    discoveries. Their skill and method in developing their designs from concept to delivery have been enriching and invaluable to my work. The final design when viewed repeatedly (which I have the opportunity to do), seems to have a life of its own, adapting and morphing with the needs of each performance. This I believe has to do with the organic process in which the designs have been conceived. It would be tragic for the future and continued development of theater, dance and opera if Motley ceased to exist.

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  36. It is difficult to describe the sense of shock and loss prompted by the news of Motleys closure. It seems impossible that such a unique and essential course, with such passion and dedication running through it, could end. I owe so much to Percy, Alison and Ashley and my time at Motley- it made me think and feel and work in a way that has supported my whole career.It feels terrible that others will not get the same chance to learn and grow, and impossible not to do all we can to preserve its spirit and form.

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  38. Dominique Dumais

    My name is Dominique Dumais. I am a choreographer working in Mannheim Germany, as Deputy Director and in house Choreographer of Kevin O’Day Ballett Nationaltheater Mannheim. For the past 8 years I have had the honour to work in close collaboration with Tatyana Van Walsum, a graduate of the Motley program. Tatyana and I have collaborated on close to 10 full evening ballets and several short works together. Tatyana’s contribution to my work and to the development of my working process and overall esthetic vision is immesurable. Tatyana always brings a wealth of ideas and in depth research for each project. This part of our collaboration deeply informs my process. While the pre- design brainstorming phase is very organic and free, I am always amazed by how she realizes the physical design from our ephemeral discussions. From so may directions, she is able to pull out and distill the essential ideas to create the atmosphere needed to house the work. After so many productions together she still suprises me with new ideas, fabrics, materials, shapes, colors, forms etc.
    Recently I have had the pleasure to work with another Motley graduate, Jean-Marc Puissant. Although Tatyana and Jean -Marc are very different designers, Jean-Marc’s process is as organic, as rich and the collaboration as exciting.
    Both Tatyana and Jean-Marc are international designers, working with respected directors and choreographers from all over the world.
    Having had the chance to speak them about their time at Motley, it is clear that they are both very grateful for their unique experience there.
    I wholeheartedly add my support to the campain, in the hopes that Motley will be able to continue to bring such fine designers to stages all over the world.

  39. I have used graduates from Motley as a designer on a number of my productions and have always been impressed and amazed by their work. It would be a loss to the creative industries if this brilliant training was lost.

  40. The Motley design course has always played a key role in the training and development of some of our finest theatre designers. I speak from experience as I have both taught some of their students and employed a number of their distinguished graduates. I do hope any attempt to eradicate this crucial resource will be resisted.
    Michael Attenborough, Artistic Director, Almeida Theatre

  41. Resident Lighting Designer- New York City Ballet
    Head of Lighting Design- Boston University

    It is with pleasure that I send my support for the continuation of this important program. Having had the privilege of collaborating with several Motley alum, I would hate to see the design world without future designers trained in this way. As both a designer and educator I am acutely aware of the value these programs bring to our industry, our cultural, and our artistic life. These unique learning experiences are as important to all of us as they are to the individuals who have been molded, shaped, challenged, and supported by them. I urge all of you in the position of making this important decision not to be swayed by the short term view of current economics or the political tide. Please allow Motley to continue in their critical mission of developing the talent and passion of young designers who will enrich us all for years to come.

  42. Purni Morell, Head of Studio, National Theatre

    I am sorry to hear about the envisioned closure of Motley. To my mind, Motley offers the best stage design course in the UK, and consistently produces graduates of great talent and character. Losing it would make a substantial difference to the quality of stage design in this country, it seems to me, and therefore I hope there is the possibility that decision-makers might reconsider.

  43. Mark Baldwin (Artistic Director, Rambert Dance Company)
    Motley Theatre Design course is a very important part of design training for theatre in Britain and overseas. The history of Motley reaches back to the very beginnings of specialised design for the theatre in this country. Without Motley early Ballet Rambert would not have had the influence and effect that their brilliance gave to ballet and dance which is felt just as strongly today.

  44. Lucy Pitman-Wallace

    Freelance Theatre Director
    I am currently working with a Motley designer (Jessica Curtis) in Sweden. Seeing one of the alumni so impress an international theatre, reminds me of the excellent training given by the course. Losing Motley would change the theatrical landscape and mean that directors, like me, do not have access to such special designers, who teach us design is central to theatre and not an add on. I fully support the campaign to save this unique course.

  45. Freelance Theatre Director

    Motley, and designers who have trained there, have played an important part in my career as a director. As a directing student at Birkbeck I had the privilege of doing a placement at Motley, this shaped my ongoing relationships with designers, giving me a fuller understanding of how the designer can be an integral part of all aspects of making a production happen. I feel this is directly related to the Motley ethos and something that must be sustained.

    As a director I have gone on to work with a number of Motley designers, and believe their approach and skill, informed by their training, brings a unique perspective to designing that should not be lost.

  46. Greatly saddened to hear that Motley is in danger of closure.

    Having worked with Motley designers I’ve always been impressed with the way they have approached productions, and of course as a result of their approach, with the fantastic work they have created.

    I’m always pleased when I see Motley on applications and it would be a loss to the theatre world if their approach to design and theatre were not in some way carried on.

    • I worked with Chris, shortly after leaving Motley,on an Avalon production of a wacky new musical called PSISTER PSYCHO for the Edinburgh festival.

      While new at the game, I believe the MOTLEY on my CV secured me an interview. The projects I could show in my portfolio were not deemed to be simply student efforts, but were recieved as examples of professional designs.

      I applied much of what I had done at Motley to my design process for this show. I received praise from Chris, the director, as well as from the rest of the creative team and from the actors, for my set, costume and prop design and build.

  47. Lighting Designer

    A production for which I designed the lighting, with a Motley-trained set and costume designer, still stands out in my mind. She showed more interest in creating a unified whole than various other set designers with whom I have worked.

  48. British theatre design and scenography would not be what it is today without the influence of Motley – it would be a real shame to see the end of a school which has impacted so many designers’ work.

  49. Belated good wishes for this crusade. I always felt somehow that the course was about much more than theatre design. I will always be grateful for that year spent under the ENO rehearsal rooms in Aldgate.

    Group 13

  50. frieda schneider

    group 32 – I am very unhappy to hear that Motley is without leadership in the moment, threatened to dissappear. Motley meant for me, after studying at 4 different Universities before, a home-coming, the first place where I found the atmosphere of studying. A place run by strong characters, love and passion, (not by bitterness ,as is so often the case in education ) Here I recieved challenging honest critique by people who did not need to prove themselve anymore but were there to GIVE. With all their being. I think Alison and Ashley have given more that anybody of us can imagine, and it is right for them to stop at some point. How should the next generation of Percy’s legacy look like? First of all, the course was based on characters, On Percy’s first of all (and the invisible board) the 2 course leaders and of course the students who were so brilliantly put together, teaching each other.
    I wonder if the NEW MOTLEY which I hope will come out of this discussion and joint effort, will have to be based on even more characters: I have no idea about the situation in the UK (being based in Switzerland and Germany) but I can imagine there are not so many big-shots (please excuse this word) in the theatre now who want to spend the little time left next to productions on teaching. Maybe now there needs to be a system of lots of not-so-big-shots.
    When I see the list of all the alumni I feel, Percy has left in our hearts such a love and urge to give back what we recieved, so maybe a new structure of teaching has to be created where WE ALL GIVE. So rather than looking extensively for another Alison and Ashly (hard to find) create a managing team for coordination, find a sectretary-mother (like we had), have a place to stay for Alumni from abroad/ have a room where to work from for the (short term) teachers so to share working methods with the students/ share with other Alumni teachers… These are my current thoughts, and I would love to come and give as much as I can. frieda (Berlin)

    • It is nice to read a constructive suggestion about the future of the course. I would love to be able to give back something of the inspiration and love I got from percy and the other tutors and directors. I do not have the money to rescue the course financially but I can give time and would willingly give that if there was somewhere to stay as frieda suggested

      Stephanie (Group 18)

  51. Mark Wing-Davey

    Having worked with many brilliant Motley alums, and with the program itself, it’s desperate news that it is now faced with closure. My experience of the un-homogenised independence of vision of its founders, staff and alums still remains a touchstone for me in my work with young designers here in New York, both in my capacity as Chair of Graduate Acting at NYU Tisch and as a freelance director. It’s precisely the eclectic nature of its intake and output that has maintained Motley’s unique place within the design program pantheon and which must continue to be enabled.

  52. Group 22. I came from Australia to study at Motley when I was 29. I’d met Percy Harris a few years before and knew that this was for me. I came with no grant and not enough money but it was possible. I know of nowhere else like Motley, not just because of its independence, but because it gave, what I understand even better now was an understanding and love of working in the theatre. I’ve needed no other qualification. Being at Motley is a rare opportunity that has and can always make a difference.

  53. Completely astonishing and shocking news. The closure of Motley would take away a hugely creative stream of developing designers in British theatre – it’s a direct line to the past which feeds all that is most exciting and bold about the future. Motley’s influence is everywhere and in all corners of the theatre and it would be a terrible loss for theatrical design and inventiveness.

  54. Mini Grey – Author and Illustrator

    I was in the1987-88 group down Upper Street in Islington. I’d done a degree in English but had ended up putting on drama productions on the side, and knew I wanted to do something visual and creative but that was linked to a story.
    My year at Motley was incredibly hands-on and practical and also crossed all disciplines. It involved getting to grips with an enormous range of skills including the intellectual, creative, practical and technical, and often feeling like you were attempting the impossible. Percy made a point of making sure we working with practising directors and designers, on projects designed for real theatres.
    For the last ten years my work has been writing and illustrating picture books – but I owe a debt to Motley for all those transferable skills that have turned out to be quite good for picture book making….
    I hope an ingenious way can be found to keep this unique and wonderful course up and running.

    • Madeline Herbert

      I too was in this group (22) with Mini, in those days the course was simply known as The Theatre Design Course, it was and still is unique. I remember Percy saying to me when I was stuck with a difficult scene and couldn’t find an obvious solution, “Start with the people”. As Percy’s people we must find a creative way to keep her course going.

  55. Over the past 5 years i’ve had the good fortune to work with 4 fantastic Designers who trained at Motley and i’m shocked to hear that the course is set to close. As a young director looking for exciting designers, my first port of call was the annual exhibition. If Motley hadn’t been there for me my work as a director would have been a hell of a lot poorer and i’m sure many other directors would agree. There are obviously other courses with plenty of good young designers but the tight knit intensity of the training and the quality of work produced makes Motley special. Its not something that can easily be replaced.
    Jamie Harper, Director

  56. Motley is the bees knees of theatre design! It will be an act of unbearable crassness to allow it to fold, akin to chucking Chippendale in a skip. What is it with the British? Why do we never recognise a jewel when we see one? Save Motley, or kick yourselves forever!
    Julian Garner, playwright

  57. ‘A small grove massacred to the last ash,
    An oak with heart-rot, give away the show:
    This great society is going smash,
    They cannot fool us with how fast they go,
    How much they cost each other and the gods.
    A culture is no better than its woods.’
    – W.H.Auden, ‘Bucolics’

  58. Motley was absolutely the most inspiring, unique and supportive place to learn about theatre design. I feel incredibly lucky that i went there and had that chance to be taught by all the wonderfully experienced people that made my year (43) what it was. I really really really hope that it can be saved and future students get the chance to live, work and breathe the Motley experience!

  59. Iain Gillie (Executive Producer, Curve Leicester)

    This is a very serious problem for our industry and the young talent that want to work in it. I’m sure that Alison, Martin, Catrin and Board of Trustees have done what they can to avoid this happening. I’d be very interested to hear what the industry can do to help Motley continue to operate and would lend my support in whatever way I can.

  60. Betsy Gregory (Artistic Director, Dance Umbrella)
    I heard only yesterday about the possible demise of the Motley course. Along with all those who have already posted comments, I am appalled by this news. Motley is unique, encouraging its students to be not only creative but open-minded in their approach to their work. As a result, Motley graduates have raised the profile of their profession immeasurably and the course is world-famous. I have had the pleasure of working with several Motley graduates over the past 30 years and I have no doubt that the theatre, dance and opera world would be much poorer without them. Do not let this vital resource die!

  61. Dominic Dromgoole

    Motley is a special spirit, encompassing the ideals of beauty, experiment and radicalism, which are at the heart of our theatre tradition. Its loss would be a heart-break.

  62. Hello, I am writing in the name of the Prague Quadrennial to offer our support for preservation of Motley Theatre Design Course, one of the most important in the world.
    Please tell me if there is anything I can do to help,
    Sodja Lotker

    Sodja Zupanc Lotker
    Artistic Director
    Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space
    June 16 – 26 2011

  63. I was in group 28 (’93 – ’94) and am so sad to hear Motley is in danger of closing. It is such an amazing course and would be such a loss to the industry if it were to go. I have such fond memories of my time in Earlham Street and learned an incredible amount in that year. Good luck with the campaign!

  64. The closure of Motley would be a real loss for the British theatre world. It should not be allowed. It would mean throwing away something really precious.
    One has only to go to the end of year show at Motley to realise what a unique and special course it is.
    I have been fortunate enough to collaborate as a director with a few designers who trained at Motley: they were all extremely creative, dedicated, intelligent artists and the standard of their work was simply excellent. Obviously their training at Motley had played a big part in developing their talent.
    I really hope that such a wonderful course will be given the support it deserves!!!

  65. Rob Swain - Birkbeck directors' programme

    I am greatly saddened by the imminent closure of Motley, as are all the directors from Birkbeck who have been privileged to work with Motley students for the past seven years. The Motley ethic has informed the imagination and work of many emerging directors as well as designers over these years and this is a small example of the hugely positive influence that Percy’s, Alison’s, Ashley’s and others’ work has had, and its loss removes a brilliant thread from the fabric of our theatre. Its uniqueness will make it difficult, if not impossible, to replicate so anything that can be done to ensure its continuation has my support, and the support of many grateful directors from Birkbeck who have learnt so much from Motley designers.

  66. Sarah Paulley (Group 5)

    I am shocked that there maybe no more Motley, particularly as I have been encouraging and teaching would-be theatre designers in Scotland (and occasionally in Ireland) for 20 years. Motley was where I pointed the talented and the truly committed. Some of them made it!
    I was in group 5, at that point, lodged in a portakabin on the roof of the old Sadler’s Wells Theatre. I went on to be freelance designer, but also to teach theatre /set design on a project basis in art schools, theatres and universities over the years. My teaching practice was inspired by Percy Harris; not so much the skills I acquired on the course, but her approach and attitude to the art and craft of theatre and as important and distinctive, her style of passing on what she had learned to the next generation.
    Living in Glasgow in the 1990’s and shocked to discover that the nearest Theatre Design training to be had was in Nottingham, I became involved in writing a proposed MA in Scenography on behalf of Glasgow School of Art.
    The project was evolved in collaboration with Glasgow University School of Film and Theatre Studies and The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama; the designers agreed but the institutions could not and it was not validated.
    When researching this project I naturally consulted Percy on what is important. Then in her 90’s she thought for a moment and said:

    Don’t get involved with a University-be based in a theatre.
    Don’t take anyone under 21.
    Don’t give up working yourself.

    It remains very good advice in my own experience.

    I currently teach at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh where the Theatre Production Course, together with its Design Dept. has been closed, finishing this year. Like many higher education institutions it is unable to support small specialist practical courses however high the demand and successful the outcome, and is busy making its specialist staff redundant.
    Although I’m sad to see the TP course at QM go I agree with Percy that this subject should not really be taught at undergraduate level.
    When, frustrated by all the lack of action on the MA project, I started a Theatre Design Summer School in partnership with Irina Brown at the Tron I insisted that it was at postgraduate level with places offered on the basis of CV and track record.
    This course, like Motley has moved about, to the Arches at present, and changed its scale, now 7 days not 10, but it continues to attract a steady stream of bright, interested, people prepared to work hard and go out and get experience and make a career out of this shifting, patchy but fascinating job.
    I think there is as much need for Motley as ever, if not more given the increasingly generalised courses on offer.
    Given the costs of a university education a short high-level course offering direct access to the industry could be thought to offer very good value! -I think this type of specialist course will be proliferating as we speak –they just don’t have the brand name.
    I think it might be valuable at some point to list the factors that alumni most value :as John Simpson says what is the point of Motley if it undermines it’s fundamental values?, but it may be possible to refresh/re invent to meet a changing situation.

    • Dear Sarah,

      Couldn’t agree more with what Percy said and you agreed with:
      ‘ that this subject should not really be taught at undergraduate level.’
      My experience I feel bears this out


  67. I have just heard the news about the possible closure of Motley. I have been lucky enough to work with Motley alumni designers and to have taught on the course. Defending and speaking up for Motley should not be necessary, as its unique structure and its string of incredibly talented graduates surely speak for themselves. But in these times speak up we must …

    Tim Albery.

  68. Why not contact Susan Collins head of the Slade?
    It may have come to a time when the course needs support from a larger institution.

  69. Hanne Horte-Garner

    It is extremely important and necessary that Motley Theatre Design School will carry on and keep the generous and inventive spirit of Percy alive. Especially in today´s world of materialism and corporate mentality places like Motley keep the “flame burning”.
    Thanks to Percy and Alison + the rest of the team and all the other amazing theatre practitioners we were privileged to work with, we acquired a high and generous working moral and we were taught how to enter the different worlds of plays and to become immersed in them using the text as our main guide . I have been working in different theatres in Norway and Finland and am so grateful of my Motley training and the standards we were set.
    I am currently designing one of the main shows for Turku European Capital City of Culture 2011 and I have picture of Percy on my studio wall reminding me of Motley spirit.
    It is alive even in Finland – please don´t let it die!

    Hanne Horte- Garner group 30

  70. A few years ago when I studied at DAMU in Prague I have heard from my proffessor a lot about a unique course called Motley situated in London´s Covent Garden. My proffessor didnt get the name right but I was looking for the course for few years and I finally discovered it when I studied at LCF and handed my application in few minutes before the deadline… and was offered a placement! which was something I never even dared to dreamed of. I always wanted to study in UK and that is why I researched many theatre colleges in UK and must say that Motley is absolutely exceptional. A tough course with the highest standard of teaching producing designers of the highest standards. The selection process is strict and the number of people that are offered a placement is great that it is so low – it is not very ussual in the world. When I was studying in Prague we were just three in one year.

    The whole teaching process is great. I especially like that Motley teaches theatre design as a performing arts discipline. I like that the course teaches the students how to work with the text as a designer. Every student gets huge amount of attention from all the tutors so that one can develop one´s skills, thoughts etc. The modelmaking classes had the highest standards. One of the most important things at Motley is that one is surrounded and tought by experienced (and very often well-known) theatre practitioners and not just academics.

    I think that closing down such a unique course would be a huge mistake because the level of design reaches the highest standards that is obvious also from the cv´s of the Motley graduates.

    I was really fortunate that I could study there. It is a pitty that the course lasts just one year.

    Aleš Valášek
    group 42, Overall winner of the Linbury Prize for Stage Design 2009

  71. As someone from abroad who has observed and participated in the British theater for several decades I am shocked to hear of the possible demise of the Motley course. Please will some Authority Figure stand up and make themselves useful and help save this world – famous and unique design course. Over the years Motley alumni have been at the very heart of British design and a creative beacon internationally. Dismantle this institution or let it fizzle out and something important and intrinsic will be lost and not easily replaced!

  72. Charles Edwards

    It is a simply appalling reflection on the current state of further education and on the more general artistic condition of this country that there is even the slightest idea that a course as valuable as Motley should be in such real danger now.
    I did not attend Motley, but spent four years from my late teens studying theatre design in a college which is now a part of a much larger conglomerate. I am certain that three out of those four years could perhaps have been better spent, not because of any lack of application on my part, but because I was very motivated and impatient to pick up what I needed from the rather hit-and-miss tutoring that was available. Only when the urgency of being an assistant, for some years after I left, kicked in did I get the faintest idea of what the designer’s life entailed and how enthralling it could be.
    At Motley, where I have been privileged enough to teach one project and assess another, people who usually have more life-experience or previous further education could avail themselves of extremely committed and detailed tuition, because of the small size of the course, and indeed because of its brevity. The urgency and energy with which the course progresses encourages the sense of commitment in the designers in embryo, the pool of outside tutors is frankly on a much higher and more expert level – being drawn from active theatre artists – than is the case in many other courses. The importance of collaboration is emphasised despite the cost and difficulties entailed by the inevitable additional tutoring required. And the location, in the middle of ‘Theatreland’, means that students have access all the time to the world they are about to enter.
    What is a miracle is that such a course has been run by phenomenally hard-working and passionate artists like Alison, Antony and Ashley and administrators like Cat. What is unbelievable is that it is unique! Why more such courses, in other artistic disciplines, do not exist is pretty amazing. It is a beacon in an environment where we desperately need this kind of vocational educational zeal. If a shred of such zeal existed in the present plans for ‘education, education, education’ (remember that?) we’d be in a better place. It has to stay!

  73. Motley cannot be allowed to close. The course is an integral part of the British – and international – theatre scene. I have collaborated with two Motley designers and have seen the impact of its graduates across the whole scene. The course trains designers who are boldly individual artists with an advanced understanding of their trade, and an acute sensitivity to the dynamics of collaboration. These are the types of people we need to feed and continue to develop out artform. It must continue.

  74. Duncan Macmillan

    I’m astonished and saddened that Motley is in jeopardy. I’ve worked with a number of Motley graduates, both as a director and as a playwright and I’ve always been humbled by their dedication, talent and technical knowledge. What particularly impresses me is how Motley designers strive to serve the play and achieve the vision of the writer and the director. They do so with panache and elegance. There is a rigour to their work which I’m sure is a consequence of their exceptional training. As a practitioner and as a theatre-goer I sincerely hope that Motley’s future can be secured.

  75. Abigail Anderson
    (Associate Director, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds)
    I was lucky enough to work with Dora Schweitzer, a Motley graduate, on two shows at the Theatre Royal. The two projects were totally different and both very challenging in terms of text, budget and artistic brief. Thinking out of the box, listening to collaborators, being imaginative but practical, understanding what it actually means to be creating the visual world of a play that actors will have to inhabit: these are some of the skills which mark Motley designers out from the crowd and what make them so special and so essential. Long live Motley!

  76. I wish to add my unqualified support to the campaign to keep Motley alive and thriving. In my capacity of Director of Drama at the Guildhall School I have collaborated with several graduates of Motley and have always found them to be superlative artists of the theatre.
    It would be a tragedy for our profession if Motley were allowed to fail through lack of funding.
    Please please DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN.

  77. I’m sorry but its too long ago now to remember which Group I was on, but I wanted to add something about transferable skills. I moved back into visual art after working in the theatre as a Motley graduate for some five years, both freelance and at Theatre Projects. Throughout my professional career as a curator, project manager and writer, I have always worked to the basic principles that Percy taught us as fledgling designers: to keep hold of the text through repeated reading and imagining on paper until the structure of your design revealed itself. This works for exhibitions, books, presentations, whatever…. and I value this simple approach enormously. The continuation of this Course is all the more vital at a time of enormous pressure for the arts and humanities in HE, but also because it is about acquiring practical skills taught in a way that has clearly been very effective for its graduates in terms of career development.

  78. I studied on the course under Percy who was a great friend to me during difficult times as well as being an inspiration and mentor in my work. I got a place on the course on merit, as at that stage, I didn’t have a degree. I couldn’t get the government to give me a grant even then and had to apply to private charitable institutions for financial assistance so it has never been an easy ride for the students of the course. I find it hard to imagine the course not being there after all this time. It would be a huge loss to the international design world and should be saved. Stephanie Hakin (Group 18)

  79. Motley has been an integral part of the fabric of British Theatre for as long as I can remember. Design is not the surface of a theatre production but the very heart and Motley engenders all the qualities needed to make that heart function. Save Motley and secure a better future for our theatre.
    Sean Mathias (Director)

  80. As Artistic Director of London New Play Festival, in the early 1990’s the Motley Design course was instrumental in our development. Percy matched playwrights and directors with designers vigorously, and encouraged them to realize their designs to the stage. Over 25 designers participated in Festivals and their professionalism and imagination was very exciting. That is because their Foundation and the principles of design were being well taught, and new ideas were being brought to the stage through their sets and costumes. I support this campaign and wonder why on earth a programme like this isn’t a regularly funded organization?

  81. I have had the pleasure of working with 2 groups at the Motley design course. As a director exploring devised theatre processes I found the range and quality of input from the students was ample testimony to the fact that this is a unique design course that encourages collaboration and experimentation alongside the traditional skills of theatre design.
    Over the years of my professional career I have worked with and come into contact with a number of directors and designers who trained at Motley. They represent a distinct and vital resource for the UK creative industries. It would be extremely sad to see this course disappear considering that it has, over the years, lead to the development of such a huge body of talent that is recognized both nationally and internationally.

  82. Dr Esther M Armstrong

    All the Motley graduates that I have worked with have been excellent colleagues and I have learnt from them too. It would be a travesty if a course which trains theatre designers to this high standard were to close.
    Dr Esther Armstrong, Stage Manager and Lecturer at University of the Arts, London.

  83. As a production manager I have worked with three designers that came out of Motley, and the enthusiasm and artisitic standards have always been high and inspirational. In my experience its a badge of excellence, and they have all been lovely people too!! Keep it going!

  84. It would be a tragedy for the theatre if Motley were to close. Over the years it has produced designers of real quality, who have a truly collaborative, highly imaginative and yet practical approach to theatre design. The fact that the course has consistently attracted as teachers and mentors successful and busy working designers is proof of the respect and high regard people working in the theatre have for the course.

  85. James Wright.. Group 37
    Looking through the names listed from all of the Groups since Motley began is a real eye opener. So many great designers have been through the course, and the diversity of countries that the students came from is extraordinary!It is a well deserved testimony to the fantastic success of Motley as a learning ground for future designers. The tutors teach from experience, not from an “academic” approach. This is what makes the course so unique. The students learn from people who are out there designing, drafting, model making, costume making, scenic painting,, and the list goes on.
    So many people, so much talent; such a great loss to the future of theatre in many places all over the world if Motley ceases to continue passing on the great wealth of information that it has to offer.

  86. emma fryer - group 30

    On hearing the news about motley possibly closing I was extremely sad.
    At the moment we are going through such hard times, the arts will without a doubt unfortunately be affected. For this reason we have to fight for the things that really are important and that are so valuable to us – the motley course being part of that.
    Percy I am sure had many difficult years to contend with, she was however such a strong force who was so passionate about her field and believed in passing on that passion and inspiration to all her students that she never gave up.
    It was her force and fighting spirit that enabled the course to continue for so many years, alison and her team brilliantly carrying this on.
    I had the most fabulous year at motley and it formed a part of the first stepping stones that set me on my way in my career into the industry. It is such a well loved and respected course in the industry, there is no other course like it.
    PLEASE SAVE MOTLEY so that many future young talented individuals can also benefit from an experience they will cherish.
    Emma Fryer – Group 30

  87. What ghastly news! Of course I want to show my support. How can i help?

  88. Very sad to hear this is happening. It is a wonderful course and I have been fortunate enough to have worked with several alumni all of whom have proved to be both exceptionally talented and single minded in their approach. You have my support.

  89. Motley is an incredibly special place. It is one of the few educational institutions which survives as a result of the passion and generosity of everyone involved in it. The mere fact that it manages to enlist the help and support of some of the most successful and influential people working within the world of theatre, stands as testament to their belief in the need for such independent institutions. Motley is not taught by professional teachers who have little to no contact with the theatre world, it is taught by professional theatre makers who have dedicated their life to their work. This is what is what makes the course so special and inspiring. I hope that it can survive as there is nothing else like it.

  90. Dear members of the Motley community,
    I met Alison while working as a draper for her productions at Santa Fe Opera and Seattle Opera, and had the chance to visit her at the school on a trip to London. As I am also a teacher, in the NYU Department of Design for Theatre and Film, she invited me to visit the school which I was thrilled to do. My visit turned into an impromptu session with students where we discussed fabrics and sketches and how to make some of their designs. I was completely taken with the passion, intelligence, and commitment of the Motley students. They were clearly imaginative, talented and devoted to learning their craft and pushing forward new ideas for theatre design in the future. I have heard first hand how much the students mean to Alison and how devoted she is to teaching. In a time when the economic realities world wide have been rough on many sectors, theatre included, I am sure these are hard times for Motley. But I hope that somehow this rare and valuable resource can be preserved. It is unique in the field, and the theatre design community will be poorer for its absence.
    Maggie Raywood

  91. David Reekie - Group 5

    Having studied on Percy’s ‘Sadler’s Wells Theatre Design Course’ (as it was then called) forty years ago I guess that I had always imagined that it would go on forever. Studying on the course was a rich and stimulating experience. I continued knowing Percy right up until the end and edited her last book ‘An Illustrated Dictionary of Traditional Theatre Terms’. What a wonderful woman she was! It goes without saying that I totally support all efforts to save Motley.

  92. I will always be grateful to the Motley Course for the steep,intensive 10 months, learning curve.
    In summary, even if not one project is the same, similar rules apply to them all: respect the text, believe in your instincts, get on with the work and make it happened.
    A real dress rehearsal to what was to come out there!
    I give all my support to the SAVE MOTLEY campaign.

  93. Frank Conway IRL G 12

    Motley has been a very important course, not just for me personally, but for theatre in Ireland, when for decades there was no specialized training for theatre designers until very recently. We finally managed to get a full time BA Degree course in Theatre Design up and running at Sligo Institute of Technology in the west of Ireland in 2006. We brought over a number of students from our to Motley in Nov last, where two of our4th yrs and some of our 3rd years were keen to apply. They were inspired by the visit. The Motley philosophy has permeated right through every aspect of Irish theatre for over thirty years and informs the philosophy behind the course we teach on in Sligo IT. (I have no doubt it has informed Briens Vahey’s teaching work in Dun Laoire and Cheesato’s work in Trinity over the years also) Motley is a natural progression for our students, and we were very much looking forward to establishing more and stronger links to it.
    Motleys work has contributed significantly to the development of theatre in both Ireland and England, it needs to be preserved, and preserved without compromising the philosophy that underlies it. This is not easy in these recessionary times, and money is the big and very difficult issue. Allison Chitty was an inspired and perceptive choice of Percy’s and it is a huge credit to her that it has kept going in such difficult circumstances. It is devastating to think that it might disappear.

  94. Becky Brown (Group 34)

    Motley gave me a stronger foundation in working as creative individual than all my previous experience at art school did. Personally it taught me about integrity, hard work, not settling for an easy option, the importance of mistakes and just what I was capable of achieving. It also taught me the immense value of peer learning and sharing of knowledge, that passing on skills is about generosity and responsibility. I’ve tried to apply what I learnt at Motley to my career since leaving, I can’t always say I’ve succeeded, I am no paragon, but when I haven’t the knowledge that I can do better, that I owe it to myself, my colleagues and on occasion my students (poor sods), comes from my experience at Motley. It is my benchmark. The fact that I work so rarely in theatre these days is irrelevant, I am still working as an artist and still trying to do so with the integrity ingrained in me at Motley. Motley training is about so much more than theatre design and it would be a shame that future generations should miss out on the ethos and independence of thought it can teach you.

  95. Dear Alumni and friends of Motley.
    I have rather lost touch with the course and am shocked to hear the news that it may close.
    This must not happen! I would see the closure of the course as a disaster for the general good of humanity!
    Increasingly we are being taken over by bland corporate pressures. This world is increasingly being run by organisations that have no soul and are utterly out of touch with what real people need. The course stands out as an independent voice for the visual storytelling craft so needed by the industry.
    The designer is usually the quiet backbone of any production and what we bring is the essence not ego of the piece. The joker holds this part usually in the court of old.
    The doctrines impressed on my by the course have always run through my work. My strengths and integrity in design and aesthetics was instilled in me by attending and was definitely the best education I have ever received.
    when I return from my much needed holiday I will get more involved
    Hold the fort!

  96. “I am part of Group 43 and I want to offer all of my support to the SAVE MOTLEY campaign!!!! Motley was an unforgettable experience for me and I am certain for all who have been lucky enough to have been taught by such fabulous teachers! Motley is a unique school in London where students are taught not only to be constantly fascinated with life and art around us but with the beauty in the world of Theatre, including all of the people.
    It would be such a tragedy for London and the World to lose such a special,inspiring and nurturing place.”

  97. I was a graduate of the three year design course of the National Theatre School Of Canada in Montreal. I left there in 1971 after two years design training and one term as resident designer at the school.
    The school at that time tended toward a decorative approach to stage design. It should look nice and the presentation had to look polished. It had little to do with the theatre I found waiting for me outside in the real world. I met Percy in 1973 while in London with a Canadian company doing a one month run of two shows at The Bush Theatre. I kept in contact and armed with an $8,000.00 grant from the Canada Council I took the course in 1975/76. The National Theatre School’s approach was to tear you down to build you up and it seemed to treat stage design as some sort of secret that you needed to decipher.
    Percy Harris’s generosity was the most impressive thing about her. She always approached her students as fellow designers and never made you feel foolish or untalented even when the ideas were less than brilliant. I had a difficult time being a student after 4 years of working in the business and expressed my frustration at not achieving what I wanted. I felt that I was taking up a space better used by someone else. Percy made it clear that the course had taken me on and would support me as I made a mess with paint and cardboard. So, The Motley Design Course for me ,was Percy and being in London when theatre tickets could be had for 2 pounds.
    The Course has always been a “workshop/laboratory” for designers rather than a degree dispensing institution. That is it’s strength and the reason so many of it’s alumni can be found working in theatres and opera houses around the world. A listing of all these companies would show the arts funding community just how valuable The Course is to world theatre.

  98. I did the course through 93/94 I shared the studio with some off the most amazing people I had and have ever met. And I have been grateful to them ever since
    Previously I had been playing with steel and stone and timber and fire and jcb’s , I arrived at motley with sheep grease under my nails, cuts and burns to my arms and fear in my heart. To calm me down one of the first things Percy said to me was ‘Forward Regardless’ . As we flicked through old black and whites of herself with Lawrence of Arabia .
    I came to Motley with a passion for making, I took away a passion for design. The taught, passionate, rigorous and generous discipline that is the benchmark of Percy’s, Alisons and the Motley approach.
    Motleys strength lies in its passion independence and tenacity. I want Motley to survive and support this campaign, but I know that Motley will go Forward Regardless!

  99. Sheree Tams (Group 39)
    It would be tragic to lose Motley. I learned so much about process and refining ideas, working and sharing knowledge with other artists, being rigorous about research, exploring different materials, adhering to tight deadlines, respect for the text and collaboration. This unique school is like no other.

  100. I believe in Motley. It is a vital tributary into British Theatre. We all must do what we can to protect it.

  101. Paul Ghirardani

    I was fortunate enough to attend Motley when Percy was running the course.
    Her great love and passion for theatre and design is something that I have always cherished and carried with me. This course has always provided a unique chance for students to learn a craft and to be part of a great tradition with its roots firmly in British Theatre history. Having worked with Alison in the theatre for many happy years, I knew the course was in good hands when she took over its running along with Ashley Martin Davies. It makes me sad to think of them stepping down.
    Theatre/Film/Television/Media will be a poorer place without this wonderful design school. Without question I add my name in support and hopefully to its continuing future.

  102. Kevin McKeon (Group 24)

    I did the course in Upper St in 1989-1990. I had a fantastic year and learnt so much about theatre and design in general. It was such a privilege to work under Percy and the amazing team that she had working for the course. That’s what the course is all about really – the amazing quality of the people who come to share what they have learnt and their generosity – I’m pretty sure they weren’t doing it for the money! I was always so struck by the incredible sense of loyalty staff & students had to Percy and the course. If you knew her it wasn’t difficult to see why.

    It would be a tragedy if the course came to a end. It has been an integral part of theatre here in the UK and abroad since it began. Looking at a list of the people who have come through Motley and the work they have produced speaks for itself- it’s an incredible achievement for such a small course run so modestly. Also if you look through how often it’s students have featured in the Linbury Prize it clearly holds it’s own against much bigger and better funded institutions.

    I really think Motley has something very unique to offer. Well done to Alison Ashley, Catrin and the rest of the staff for keeping it going for so long. I feel very lucky to have been part of it and it will be such a great loss if it can’t continue.

  103. Having been self taught or just learned by working in theatre abroad, I had none of the paper qualifications to enter a normal theatre design course , but I had a huge desire and a need for professional training and guidance. This was what Motley provided: gathering students from across the world and from across a huge range of backgrounds,age , skills and experience, chosen for talent and possibility rather than nationality, wealth or diplomas… all given in the heart of working theatres and with working personnel ..and all in a wonderfully rule-free eccentric world that inspired and prepared us for the unpredictable world of theatre outside..A completely unique concept which worked and which should survive…David Roger (14)

  104. I was on the Motley of the G 23(1988~9) under the direction Percy Harris & Chris Rogers and I’m Japanese. I have been working as an artist & the theatre artist between Tokyo Japan and UK since I left the course . I also presently teach at the Art university in Japan so I convey to the Japanese Arts & theatre Design students so many things, which I learned from the Motley theatre design course and the students are always so appreciate.
    Hope we are able to save such a great course , which is so remarkable and so unique in the world.

  105. I did the course on the year 1993-94 under Percy and Alison , it really changed my life both profesionally and personally, it blowed my mind and expanded my views on the profession , I hope the course will not shut down, it was the first place we were treated as professionals .I still remember Percy’s 80S birthday that we helped to organize that same year, I add my support to the campaign to ensure Motley’s survival.

  106. penny leaver green

    I did the course under Percy Harris at the Almeida in 1990- it changed my life both professionally and personally and has influenced every aspect of work I have undertaken since. I have only just been made aware that the course is under threat and would like to support the fight against its closure in any way I can.

  107. I was on the very first Motley course ran then by the fabulous Percy. It has always led a nomadic existence, moving from one temporary venue to another the first one being if I remember correctly 8 of us crammed into a tiny ramshackle room in St Johns Road in Islington. Isn’t it time it settled into a permanent home and is given the full financial recognition it overwelmingly deserves.

  108. Playwright

    I lend my whole-hearted support to Motley in their campaign to survive and thrive. What Motley does is very special and it nurtures very special and talented designers.

  109. Group 33

    The year I spent at Motley taught me how to think in a way that three years at University and all the other years at school had not come close to and I use the resources it gave me everyday. Percy, Alison, Ashley and Anthony were truly inspirational teachers. I am both thankful for what it gave me and hopeful that others may continue to benefit from the course in the future.

  110. Without the course we would lose a valuable route into the profession for those who come to theatre through a non linear career path. it is an irony that this year we will be taking two Motley students as trainee designers at the RSC one a former architect the other an actor. The commitment and passion of the students to their work has always impressed me. i hope as a community we designers can find a way to keep it going …

  111. Thinking back, the thing that I took away from Motley was the capacity of the course to ask how is the visual environment constructed and how can it be analysed, dissected, retold or subverted.

    To spend time on the course means discussing the telling of a story through the specifics of the design of an object, the exactitudes of where it is placed, the timing of its appearance and disappearance and its lighting. The resolution of these basic decision-making processes was more powerful and compelling than the over-complex and over-ambitious set. This attention to the specifics of an object appeared to allow the telling of a more profound narrative with more integrity.

    It is this questioning that is one of the core parts of the course that I feel may be part of the identity of ‘The Motley Approach’. This specific type of freedom of enquiry and discussion within the discipline is truly worth saving in my opinion.

  112. Alex Lowde (Group 31)

    I am very sad to hear that the Motley School is in jeopardy. It has given me a great deal both personally and professionally. Many of the lessons learnt on the course remain as vital today. The uniqueness of the training has proved most valuable, the commitment and dedication of Percy and Alison truly inspiring. The fact it has survived for so long on so little is in part testament to the energy and drive of this pairing. Looking forward, it would be a great loss if others were not able to share in the vigour and creativity of a School that we were so privileged to enjoy.

  113. Playwright, Artistic Associate , Lyric Hammersmith

    The imagination and energy of the Motley School is unique. British theatre is dependent on that imagination and that energy and that combination of a proper working ethic and a rigorous high aesthetic. It cannot be underestimated how central the unique and particular conditions of the Motley way of work are to the creation of this aesthetic and ethic. Its closure would damage the metabolism of the immediate future of our theatre.


    In the mid 1960s I had been a scene painter at our local theatre and was desperate to become a stage designer. I applied for all the major design courses only to be turned down by all of them. It was then that I met Margaret Harris who had just started up her Sadlers Wells Design Course. She must have seen something in my background that would work in well with the other students she had chosen for her second year.
    We were a small varied group working out of an old shop around the corner to Sadlers Wells Theatre. The facilities were next to nothing, however that was unimportant, it was the people that mattered. All the students in our group came from very different backgrounds and disciplines and we were able to spark off and learn from each other.

    In an age when there are so many degree courses all offering a similar standard of education it is vital that we have a Motley Design Course. In fact it is even more necessary today than it was way back when in a well known director said to me “thank God for Percy’s students at least we have individual designers and not the look alike students found in the other collages”.

    I have designed over 275 productions throughout the UK and abroad and can honestly say that I owe my whole proffessional career to those wonderful months spent on Percy’s course. It is a course that has always punched well above it’s weight and rightly so producing far more than it’s share of top designers working in theatre today.

  115. Mauro Tinti (group 34)
    These are really sad times where culture and formation of the younger generatios is no longer taken into consideration, the same thing is happening in my country, Italy and it is sad to see that is happening even in England! The news that Motley is facing closure is deeply shattering for me, the Motley experience has been one of the most extraordinary of my life, I always consider myself a privileged one for having had this chance. Percy, Alison and everybody there completely changed my approach to the profession and to certain extend, to life itself. I will never forget it. And I met there a group of fellows that I still cherish as some of my dearest friends. I constantly keep in touch with the majority of them and even if we see ourself not so often we have still very strong feelings. Let me know if there is something I can do, please keep me updated.
    Love to all the Motley people there!xxx

  116. Although I have not worked in the industry for 15 years, I still value my time on the course and the support that it gave me for many years after. Percy was a great inspiration to me in most of the things that I have embarked on in my life and I sincerely hope that the work of Motley can continue and that others may have the opportunties that I have enjoyed.

  117. It makes me very sad to hear that Motley might have to be closed down. But I am still in hope that this could be averted. The loss of this unique school with its exceptional teaching would not only a big damage for the british theatre, but for the theatre world in general. I am very lucky h…aving had the chance to study at Mortley. Being part of this inspiring and intriguing exchange, gaining not only theatre skills but meeting wonderful people from all over the world. Many thanks to the whole Motley crew, especially to Alison, Cat, Anthony and Ashley for their reckless abandon.
    Friedrich Ludmann (Group 38)

  118. Sean Holmes ( Artistic Director Lyric Hammersmith)

    I have been lucky enough to work with Motley students on five different projects . The passion and creativity of these students allied to the rigour and commitment of the teaching make it unique. It’s a miracle it has thrived for so long on such little resource. It would be a great shame if it were to end. For these reasons I wholeheartedly support the campaign to ensure Motley’s survival.

  119. Simon Daw ‎(Group 34)
    There are so many things that are special about Motley -The independent ‘can do’ spirit, unrivalled links with the industry, the careful selection of a small diverse group of students and of course the quality of teaching by tutors who are out there designing themselves. I wholeheartedly add my support to the campaign to ensure that Motley will continue long into the future.

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