Do you know our Loughton Campus? I recently spent a day at one of the nation’s best acting schools, our very own East 15 Acting School.
It is a wonderful landmark that I enjoyed re-discovering and I’m excited to be able to tell you more about our plans for its further development.
I knew about the reputation of East 15 as one of the UK’s leading theatre schools, a reputation which led filmmakers like Mike Leigh to describe its impact on British cinema, theatre and television as “immense.”
Over more than six decades of its existence, the School has attracted cohorts from all over the globe and has trained more than 5,000 actors, directors and technicians – and counting - across two campuses, Loughton and Southend.
I also knew that, since 2007, more than £13 million had been spent on new buildings and facilities for East 15 in both Loughton and Southend. What I did not know was the full scope of beauty and opportunities of our Loughton Campus in particular.
Loughton Campus is a historic site situated on the grounds originally known as Loughton Hall Farm at the point where the urban buzz of London yields to the rural idyll of the Epping Forest. It is set around Hatfield House, a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian dower house, and the Corbett Theatre, a medieval tithe barn renovated into a theatre with full technical facilities and tiered seating for 130 people and fitted dressing rooms, as well as additional studio and workshop spaces.
All of this is set in five acres of formal gardens, peppered by lawns with orchards, a tree lined pond, and revery-inducing pathways.
Loughton Campus, however, also includes two buildings off-site, Roding House which houses rehearsal rooms, a sound recording studio, video editing suite, and Costume Department, and the so-called Unit 4, home to our Stage and Production Management Department, with a large workshop, paint shop, prop storage facilities and teaching spaces.
It has long been the aspiration of the University to consolidate this spread into one campus site centred around and interacting with Hatfield House.
Such consolidation of the physical estate would be a game-changer. It would further enhance education and research at East 15’s Loughton premises but also allow the School to expand in alliance with its ambition to reach a student cohort at Loughton of up to 450 and up to 35 permanent staff.
And the University of Essex likes to support ambition and visionary thinking.
So, what are those visionary plans and how we are supporting them?
Around £300,000 is prioritised each year within the Estates Long Term Enhancement Budget for Loughton Campus only and are used both to maintain this precious teaching and research environment and enhance its capacities.
Our Capital Investment Plan prioritises building of a new, double-height studio space for teaching and performance to support growth and the international reach of East 15. Future plans include a new open-space theatre and development of new facilities at the Hatfield site to consolidate, enhance and increase the activities currently taking place within Unit 4 and Roding House. And our ultimate ambition is to develop bespoke student accommodation on campus – a need that our international students are particularly alive to and that would provide an even stronger sense of community to this excellent teaching environment.
We have already summoned consultants and architects to help us scope and plan all these exciting developments so that we both preserve the uniqueness of our Loughton Campus and substantially revise, renew, and expand it.
You thought you knew our Loughton campus? Think again.
Executive Dean (Arts and Humanities) , University of Essex
Sanja Bahun's area of expertise is international modernism, and her research interests include theory of comparative arts, world literature, psychoanalysis, and women's and gender studies. She is also Executive Dean (Arts and Humanities).