Alice Langley, MA Classic and Contemporary Text, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Raising Funds for Prospective Students' Fees
'I'm writing to apply for the...'
I've written those words so many times in the last few months. Thirty four, to be exact. I graduated from the University of Exeter in July 2013 with the dream of becoming a theatre director. I applied for three MAs in Directing, at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland that year and was unsuccessful at all of them.
Undeterred, I worked for free at theatre and opera companies as an assistant director to get as much experience as possible. I also started my own theatre company, Lock & Key Theatre. I worked in bars and waitressed alongside, running the company from my phone on trains and buses as I travelled between rehearsals and jobs. I also reapplied for my MA to start in September 2014. Again, I was unsuccessful for most of them, but eventually won a place on the MA in Classical and Contemporary Text (Directing) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
I burst into tears when I opened the email offering me a place. Sitting in the carpark in my waitressing apron, reading this email telling me I finally had my dream and working in theatre, pursuing directing, was all within reach.
Then reality set in. The course fees would be £11,620. Rent, assuming it would be roughly £500 a month, would be £6,000 for the year, Giving myself the same again every month for bills, food, books, theatre trips and travel seemed right, but this brought the total amount to over £23,000..
So I started writing letters. I spent two days researching as much as possible on the internet, using this website, the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding, alongside other people's recommendations and university websites to find as many charitable trusts and foundations as possible. I visited the British Library to use their resources, sitting with a pencil and notebook in the reading rooms making lists. A lot of charities I was too late to apply to, but of those I was eligible for, I was rejected from seventeen. I was losing hope. But then I received an email from the Richard Carne Trust who also support the Donmar Warehouse's (a theatre in Covent Garden) trainee director scheme. They don't offer grants to individuals usually but were so compelled by my letter and situation that they offered me £1,000.
I then also received a scholarship from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for £3,000 towards my fees. And then, the Headley Pitt Charitable Trust wrote to me with a cheque for £250.
I am so thankful to have been offered this. Combined with support from my parents, a student overdraft, the donations, savings from my temp job and a career development loan, my future and these dreams seems possible.
Every day, I think about how lucky I am to be able to spend a year doing what I love and giving myself the best possible chance to succeed in an industry that is fraught with difficulty. I am still waiting for responses - from the Yorkshire Ladies Council, the Leathersellers Company. I have a folder full of unsuccessful letters but I'm still here. The MA is only the first step down what will be an immensely challenging path, but it's a step that has been made possible by the kindness of strangers, which I will never, ever forget.