Ian Closier-Hawkins is the author of brand new book, ROYAL CENTRAL – A Collection Of Memories. The book is born out of his own experience of attending Central School of Speech and Drama. He has interviewed a large number of previous students from the School and there are many, many famous faces on that list. I chatted with Ian to find out what his inspiration for writing this was.
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Ian. What was the inspiration for compiling the book?
I have always wanted to write a book. Like a lot of people, I expect. I always struggled with writing and I was found to be dyslexic ONLY when I went to university – Central, where they sent me for the test. It is something I wanted to prove to myself that I could do and I have done it. Although I have not written the book so to speak, I have spent 18 months working on it and compiling it so I can say with a big smile it’s my book.
How long did your research take you and what was the most surprising element of your research?
The whole process took me 18 months from the day I sent the first letters out to people until I had the finished published book arrive at my house. Being a stage manager I am very organised and have to be strict with my deadlines and time keeping. It comes with the job and is now part of who I am. It was important to stick to these deadlines and not move away from them in order to get the book published when I needed it to be done. This year celebrates the 110th anniversary of Central School so having the book released on the 111th year didn’t really have such a good ring to it. The most surprising element was how many people responded and how positive everyone was about the book and wanting to be involved. I had so many people getting in touch and saying what a great idea it was and how thrilled they had been asked to be part of it. Having replies from what I would call ‘famous’ people was also very rewarding as they can sometimes be hard to get hold of but I have been very lucky on this project and I think it has been an important book to publish.
What are your best loved memories of being at Central?
I loved every minute of being at central! I loved the first day and walking up the famous steps which so many people had walked up before. Wondering if people in my year would end up being the next James Bond. There was an air of excitement that stayed with me every day for three years. I remember so many fun things like seeing how many people we could fit in the lift – we managed about twenty and it obviously broke down. It didn’t go down too well with the maintenance guys! I remember rehearsals and some directors being so strict that of you arrived a second after the start time you were not allowed in for the whole day! This was strict but sets you in good stead for a career in the theatre and demonstrates how you can never be late for an audition, a rehearsal or a show! I made a lot of friends whilst at central. Unfortunately, I only speak to one or two of them these days but it was a very social hub. I remember drinking for the first time. Having a hangover for the first time. staying up all night partying then going into rehearsals the next day being sick as a dog. All the things students do really, but we had fun all day. Playing games, having laughs, working hard – we were in all day every day 5 days a week. Sometimes weekends and some evenings! It was a full on three years but it was so amazing! I would do it all again tomorrow!
What would you do differently (if anything) if you had that time again?
I would do nothing differently at all – I would want it to be exactly the same. You were allowed to make mistakes and fail, so when we did we were supported and learnt from it. Never told off. It made you feel free and relaxed and able to learn in a place that didn’t criticise you for making a mistake. Sometimes you wished the teachers would tell you that you were making a big mistake, but if they did, what would we have learned from that? Nothing. I would do it all again and live every day exactly the same as I did all those years ago.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I would hope that readers of this book come to an understanding that drama schools, not only Royal Central, are not only for actors. A lot of people whom you say you went to drama school think you train as an actor, they have no idea that you can train to be a stage manager, a sound / lighting designer, a producer, a costume maker / designer, a puppeteer, a scenic artist, a voice coach, a movement coach or even a teacher! I want readers to see how much hard work goes into being at drama school and how amazing the outcome can be. I would want readers to come away with seeing how Central has changed over the years. My book covers 8 decades so things have changed and moved on since the 1940’s to the present day but some people’s memories of central then and now still stay the same. There is a common census that it was truly a wonderful place to study and I would urge and theatre student wanting to go to drama school to give Central a go and to follow their dreams.
Finally, sell it to me, why should everybody buy a copy?
Central celebrates why a career in the arts matters and is important. Hearing from people who owe their own careers to this wonderful drama school I think should be an inspiration to all those considering a future in theatre. For anyone who loves theatre and the arts this book is really for you. It gives an insight to life at drama school and reading peoples personal memories of their time at the school delves into something quite special. It is like discovering well-kept secret and some inside information that we are now privy too. Who wouldn’t want to know what Judi Dench really thought of her time at drama school and who would have thought she would skip class and didn’t want to become an actress to start off with. That’s just one example, and there are so many. The book is also written by a theatre stage manager who has self-published this book and would hope that people in the industry or interested in the industry would support him. The book is limited edition so once it’s gone, it’s gone, as the old saying goes.
Thanks to Ian for a very informative interview, you can contact Ian directly to purchase a copy: email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @mrianhawkins