LAMDA board face criticism in open letter over Sarah Frankcom departure

Hattie Fisk
Monday, September 6, 2021

Almost 100 LAMDA staff and individuals in the theatre industry have publicly challenged the drama school’s board over their handling of the investigation into complaints surrounding Sarah Frankcom’s leadership, and her subsequent departure.

The Carne Studio Theatre, LAMDA
The Carne Studio Theatre, LAMDA

The open letter to LAMDA chair Shaun Woodward and the Board of Trustees was written to show ‘support and solidarity for Sarah Frankcom following the recent announcement of her resignation’, stating the letters first priority is students. 

The letter, which was signed by more than 20 permanent LAMDA staff, as well as artistic directors Michelle Terry and Matthew Xia, actors Maxine Peake and Julie Hesmondhalgh and playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, states: ‘We are shaken and devastated that a leader as bold and visionary as Sarah felt the need to step down under your tenure’. 

Arguing that trustees did not ‘meaningfully [engage] with the process’ of investigation into the allegations, the letter continues: ‘Transitions are always uncomfortable, often bumpy – there is no doubt about that. But we were healing, with a student body that is more exciting and groundbreaking than ever, we were beginning to rebuild and recover after the pandemic. It did not need to come to this’. 

The announcement of Frankcom’s departure last month was accompanied by a statement from LAMDA’s board that a ‘full and fair internal inquiry’ was being undertaken due to ‘complaints on some aspects of conduct and management style’ had been made by former colleagues. 

Addressing the ongoing investigation directly, the letter asks if it ‘can be fair if there is no external accountability’. The letter says: ‘Can an investigation that remains entirely internal, without an adequate, transparent record of minutes... [and] in which the chair of the board himself foregoes and bypasses the investigating committee and official investigative channels by ringing up staff to speak to them off the record ever be a fair one?’

The letter reiterates the commitment towards ‘actor training that is equitable, anti-racist and accessible’. 

LAMDA has been contacted for a comment. The full open letter can be found on Medium, here.