Drama continues in feud over advertising boards outside Swiss Cottage theatre school

Principal Gavin Henderson outside the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, in Eton Avenue

Principal Gavin Henderson outside the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, in Eton Avenue - Credit: Archant

An appeal against Camden Council’s decision to ban advertising hoardings outside a prestigious stage school has been dismissed – but its principal is fighting back.

Judi Dench

Judi Dench - Credit: Archant

Dame Judi Dench and Stephen Fry, among others, have leapt to the defence of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, which receives £150,000 from selling advertising which is donated to youth projects in Camden.

The school, whose alumni include Sir Laurence Olivier, Harold Pinter and Jennifer Saunders, fought the council decision to remove the two hoardings in Avenue Road on aesthetic grounds at a hearing in May but the appeal was dismissed last week.

Now principal Gavin Henderson has submitted an application to keep just one of the hoardings.

He also plans to have pictures of famous alumni and words explaining the rich history of the drama school on the side of the building.

Professor Henderson said: “We want the planning meeting discussing the application to be heard in the open so the matter can be seen and heard by everyone. It would be democracy working.”

A third of the advertising revenue from the boards is donated to the annual Shakespeare Schools Festival, which works with 2,000 schools across the UK to put on half-hour Shakespeare adaptations in local theatres.

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Dame Judi Dench wrote, before the appeal was dismissed: “I know something of the considerable benefit derived from these signs... I would urge the council to reconsider.”

The school’s vice-president, Stephen Fry, tweeted his encouragement last month, and other supporters include Dame Jenny Abramsky, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Belsize Residents Association, Belsize Village Association and vicar Paul Nicholson of St Peter’s Church in Belsize Park.

In a letter sent to council chief executive, Mike Cooke, on Friday, Professor Henderson wrote: “We consulted widely among the community... but found no-one in accord with the view of substantial harm being caused.

‘‘We do what we can to serve the community... I’m sure I need not tell you of the extreme difficulties facing students at this time, and the fierce competition for diminishing charitable and philanthropic incomes.”

Cllr Valerie Leach, Camden’s cabinet member for planning, said: “Camden is one of the biggest supporters in the country of its local, voluntary sector and this delivers a range of arts and culture projects for young people.

“Removing this hoarding was one of many across the borough and is part of the council’s duty to our residents to protect their local areas.”