An Ayrshire Arts Archive ~ Arts Groups and Venues

Craigie College of Education : A Dramatic History ~ 1964 - 1988

Drama and Theatre at Craigie College of Education, Ayr (1964-1969).

The Drama Studio

The Drama Studio was created within a long, brick-built, rectangular shed just inside the College gates. It pre-dated the College and was originally used for housing gardening equipment for the Craigie Estate.

For the first two years of the College, Drama was taught in a small classroom, which was very crowded when attempting practical work. This problem was solved by constructing a studio within the shed. The building was divided by brick partitions into three big, square spaces. The area close to the College gates was used as a garage for the college bus and van and for the groundsman’s equipment. The middle section became the Drama Studio. Two dressing rooms were constructed within the far section, which was already provided with a toilet. A costume store was later added in this area which was also used for storing chairs, old sets, collapsible rostra and other theatrical equipment.

The studio itself was a square space, measuring fifty-five by fifty-five feet. There were no windows. It was floored in dark grey soft vinyl and three of the walls and the pitched roof were painted in very dark blue. The wall adjoining the dressing and storage area was white to allow for projection and lighting effects.

A grid was sited over the middle of the studio for lighting and there was barrelling fixed around the three dark blue walls for the same purpose. Lighting and sound was controlled from a Newcastle Trolley which housed an array of eight horizontally mounted slider dimmers, a tape deck, two gram decks and a microphone input. Four loudspeakers were sited near the four corners of the studio and could be selected by a switch system on the trolley. The dimmers were soon doubled in number by the construction of an extension to the trolley. Later still these dimmers were replaced by a board of thyristor controls, with one pre-set, and a cassette deck was added. The studio could be divided by a dark red, hand-drawn, traverse curtain into one third and two thirds, the smaller third being the area with the white wall. This could be used as an end –stage, if required.

Basically the Drama Studio was intended as a teaching area. However it proved a useful venue for small-scale productions, many of which were part of course work and not intended for outside consumption. However, the following public performances by the College Theatre Group took place in the Drama Studio:

1967   Huis Clos Jean Paul Sartre
1968 Everyman   
1969 Look Back in Anger John Osborne
  The Bald Prima Donna Eugène Ionesco
1970  The Drunkard
A Gentleman
W.H. Smith 
1974  Under Milk Wood Dylan Thomas

The studio was also home to the Craigie College Children’s Theatre, which operated on Saturday mornings in term time. The genesis of this activity lay in a course run by Brian Way at his Theatre Centre, which Ken Brice attended near the beginning of his time at the College.

Over many years our work took various forms with a wide range of primary children often coming to us in their classes. The weekly events in the studio would usually take the form of an improvised narrative, based in an exotic or historical situation. The story was constructed in order to give the group of children choices as how it should proceed event to event and from session to session. They were led by a small team of volunteer students and teachers. Some of the latter acted as leaders who helped to channel the children’s responses to events. Others were characters who helped to create those happenings, often using costume and masks.

The whole teaching team met for an hour’s planning session at ten o’clock on Saturday mornings, before the children arrived at eleven. Much of our success was due to the work of former students who laboured with us over many years, including Carlyle Murray, Ken Walker and Richard Pugh. The narrative would be enhanced by improvised lighting, music and sound effects. Although we did sometimes work with older and younger children, we generally involved groups of primary 5, 6 and 7, especially, 6. There was never any audience. Any observer was expected to participate. I am sure that many of the children who took part in this activity will still remember our Children’s Theatre.

This work was another casualty of the cuts of the early 1980s. The Studio was heated by electric storage heaters, the original heating for the shed. These were noisy and not very efficient. The college authorities put an end to Children’s Theatre because they could not afford to heat the area on Saturday mornings.

Just prior to my departure, in 1988, plans were afoot to close the Drama Studio, on its original site, and re-locate it in the College Assembly Hall. This would have solved the heating problem. I do not know whether this change was successful over the final five years of the College’s existence.

David J F Crouch (BA, MA, DPhil, Diploma in Drama in Education)
York, 2010

 NeptuneChildren's Theatre in the Drama Studio at Craigie College ca. 1969.    A scene from Sinbad the Sailor.       magnify

Children's Theatre in the Drama Studio at Craigie College ca. 1969.    A scene from Sinbad the Sailor.   magnify

Drama Studio
Children's Theatre in the Drama Studio at Craigie College ca. 1969. Technical discussion at the sound and lighting console. 

Images from David J F Crouch (personal collection)

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Creative Ayrshire acknowledges the assistance of David J F Crouch (BA, MA, DPhil, Diploma in Drama in Education), Carolyn O'Hara, Ken Walker, Mike Bailey,  Barbara Crouch and the Librarian UWS for the provision of material for this section of the website. 

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