An investigation by the board of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art into its director, former Royal Exchange Theatre artistic director Sarah Frankcom, found a “serious breakdown of relations” between Frankcom and her staff.
The director, who led the prestigious drama school for fewer than two years before stepping down a month ago (see here), was hired with a brief to improve the school’s diversity and bring it up to date, but is said to have alienated some members of staff and been largely responsible for weaknesses in leadership, and in communicating policy and managing the changes she sought to impose.
The complaints concerned her management style, failures in informing staff about restructuring plans and safe working practices during the pandemic – among other matters – but acknowledged that Covid-19 restrictions had exacerbated problems. It was revealed she had asked to step down some weeks before a complaint from staff members about her leadership sparked the inquiry.
After the findings were revealed, Frankcom released a statement – her first about the events – saying she was proud of her time at LAMDA: “I have discharged my duties as director in challenging circumstances to the best of my ability, while taking on the additional role and responsibilities of director of actor training,” she declared. “I am stepping down because the situation of performing both roles has become untenable.
“I am human and while there are of course things that might have been handled better, I believe I have always worked in a transparent, collaborative and empathetic manner.”
She suggested the difficulties of implementing structural changes in schools such as LAMDA are not fully understood: “I remain concerned that there is an underestimation of the real work and accountability required for any institutions tackling inherent structural biases and inequities in order to genuinely embed inclusivity and anti-racism,” she said. “I am proud to leave behind a more diverse staff team and student body than I found when I joined and an evolving, relevant training experience for actors and technicians for the 21st century.”
Following the complaint, an open letter supporting her work and criticising the board’s actions was was signed by over 100 people. many of them members of staff who welcomed her attempts to promote change in LAMDA policies.
But this year’s National Student Survey has seen LAMDA students’ satisfaction with their training fall from 95 per cent last year to only 52 per cent – though again, Covid restrictions are the reason for some of that dissatisfaction.