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The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Announces New Vice Presidents

Learn more about the new appointments here!

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Announces New Vice Presidents

Following news last week that Sonia Friedman OBE had been appointed President of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Central has announced the appointments of four new Vice Presidents.

Joining the School in the role of Vice President are British space scientist and science educator Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Vice President, Content at Netflix UK and former Central Governor Anne Mensah, Booker Prize winning poet and novelist Ben Okri, and Artistic Director of Graeae and disability-rights activist Jenny Sealey. Olivier Award winning actor Zoë Wanamaker, a graduate and long-serving Vice President of Central, is also excited to confirm that she will continue in post.

The appointments bring together industry and thought leaders from across the fields of performing arts, film and television, advocacy, activism and disability rights, science, and literature.

John Willis, Chair of Central's Governing Body said, "We are delighted that such a brilliant and diverse group have agreed to become our Vice Presidents. Their commitment speaks volumes for Central's reputation for innovation. This is a bold collection of wide-ranging talent that embraces not only different corners of the arts but science as well. It is a ministry of all talents, connecting together different strands of creativity and learning for the benefit of all our students."

Principal Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE said, "Following the recent appointment of Sonia Friedman, one of the world's most dynamic practitioners and a Central graduate, as President of Central we are now delighted to share that she will be joining us with five Vice Presidents who we believe espouse artistic excellence and represent what Central strives to stand for. We look forward to seeing them at Central and to how they will impact staff and students in exciting future developments. It heralds a new time for Central."

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE is a space scientist and science communicator. She studied at Imperial College London, where she obtained her degree in Physics and her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. She has spent her career making novel, bespoke instrumentation in both the industrial and academic environments.

To share her passion for science further, Maggie founded "Science Innovation Ltd". Through this she conducts public engagement activities, sharing her love of space. To date Maggie has directly given speeches to over 400,000 people around the world. As well as public speaking, she is an author, a BAFTA nominated TV presenter and co-hosts the world's longest-running science television program "The Sky at Night".

"It is wonderful to be joining the amazing team at Central. The work that they do in outreach and fair access and Equality and Diversity is game changing and very much coincides with the work that I try to do, raising aspirations for all our kids. As a child growing up in a council flat near Central I used to walk past and wonder what was happening inside. Now I get a chance to go in and I can't wait."

Anne Mensah assumes the role of Vice President of Central following her time as an Independent Governor and Chair of the Board's Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Anne is Vice President,

Content at Netflix UK, where she leads the teams across all genres - scripted series, film, unscripted, documentaries and licensed programmes.

Prior to this, she was Director of Drama and Sky Studios at Sky UK. Before joining Sky, Anne served as Head of Independent Drama at the BBC as well as Head of Drama for BBC Scotland. Anne has commissioned a wide variety of internationally acclaimed dramas such as BAFTA award winning Patrick Melrose starring Benedict Cumberbatch for Sky/Showtime and BAFTA and Emmy award winning Sky/HBO drama, Chernobyl.

She oversees all Netflix UK commissions including BAFTA, Emmy & Golden Globe award winning Netflix drama The Crown and BAFTA award winning Netflix series Sex Education. Her recent Netflix commissions include The Gentlemen, produced and directed by Guy Ritchie and Kaos created by Charlie Covell.

Anne is a trustee of Into Film, as well as a member of the 2018 Class of Henry Crown Fellows within the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute.

"Having served on the Board as a Governor for nine years, I know Central is the most extraordinary conservatoire. I also know their plans for the future will only serve to strengthen and modernise this superb organisation. It's a true honour to be asked to be a Vice President of Central and to be able to continue to serve in this way."

Ben Okri OBE is a poet, playwright and novelist. He has published many books which have won numerous international prizes including the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Africa, the Paris Review Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the Chianti Ruffino-Antico Fattore International Literary Prize, and the Premio Grinzane Cavour Prize. His book The Famished Road won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1991. In 2019 his novel, ASTONISHING THE GODS, was selected as one of the BBC's '100 novels that shaped our world.'

He has been a Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge, and is an honorary Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. The recipient of many honorary doctorates, he is a vice-president of the English Centre of International PEN and was presented the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum for his outstanding contribution to the Arts and to cross-cultural understanding.

"I am honoured to be appointed a Vice President of Central, one of the greatest establishments for the teaching of the dramatic arts. It underlines the importance of my work with theatre. I hope my presence contributes to strengthening an important cultural institution and empowering the creative imagination."

Jenny Sealey OBE was made an Honorary Fellow of Central in 2013. She has been the Artistic Director of Graeae since 1997 and has pioneered a new theatrical language developing the 'Aesthetics of Access' as an artistic expression; the creative integration of sign language, captioning and audio description in performance. A Liberty Human Rights Award recipient, Jenny has directed productions, run workshops and given presentations internationally in Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Brazil, Russia and across Europe. In 2012, Jenny co-directed the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony alongside Bradley Hemmings (GDIF).

"It is a huge privilege to be part of Central School of Speech and Drama in this moment and time of real change led by my old comrade Josette Bushell-Mingo. I am excited as we forge forward together to actively embrace and embed diversity, inclusion and equity into the heart of the teaching and into the souls of the students, because after all, they are the next generation of artists and leaders. It is our responsibility to prepare them for the world they are taking on."

Zoë Wanamaker CBE graduated from Central in 1970 and currently serves as a Vice President of the School. She has committed to continue serving as Vice President alongside the new appointees. One of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation, Zoë 's multi-award-winning career spans both stage and screen. She is a four-time Tony Award nominee, and a nine-time Olivier Award nominee, winning the Best Actress Award twice for Electra and Once In A Lifetime. Her career has taken her from the RSC to The National Theatre via Broadway, the Royal Court, the West End and The Donmar Warehouse.

Her varied television career has included the much-loved BBC sitcom My Family, along with Poirot and Mr. Selfridge. She received a BAFTA nomination for her role in the film Wilde, with other film credits including Harry Potter and My Week With Marilyn. Zoë has recently been in all three series of of the Sky/Amazon collaboration Britannia as Queen Antedia, as well as appearing in two series of Shadow & Bones. She has recently completed filming on The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Cleaner and a new TV drama Criminal Record and she is now heading to New York, where she'll be opening in Pictures From Home in the New Year.

"As a drama school student at Central, I had the freedom to discover what it meant to be an 'actor', to discover who I was and to develop the 'equipment' that was needed to support my career. It was a pivotal time for me as a young actor at the start of my professional life, so I'm very pleased and honoured to continue my relationship with Central now, joining esteemed company as one of the school's Vice Presidents. I look forward to watching as a new generation of artists learn, grow and discover themselves as I did."



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