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Alison Chitty, OBE, Awarded the 2007 Sir Misha Black Medal for Design Education

Alison Chitty, OBE, Director of the Motley School of Theatre Design, the only independent post graduate school of theatre design in the world, has been awarded the 2007 Sir Misha Black Medal for distinguished services to design education.

The Misha Black Medal will be given to Alison Chitty at a special award ceremony to be held at the Royal College of Art at 6pm on Tuesday, March 20th 2007 when Alison Chitty will also deliver an address on her design and education philosophy and on training designers to work in the internationally and highly competitive world of design for theatre, opera, film and television.

The Motley School of Theatre Design was founded in 1966. (The founder, Margaret Harris had been contributing to Theatre Design since the 1930’s). Alison Chitty has been co-director of the Motley School since 1992 and Director since 2000. There Alison Chitty leads a team of instructors who are all practising professionals who guide the project-based course. Within the stage design programme the students study design for set, lighting and costume and participate in sessions with directors, production managers and performers. The school is situated in the Drury Lane Theatre in the heart of London’s West End, thanks to the support of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Really Useful Group. The students, who have come from backgrounds as varying as architecture, engineering and archaeology, as well as stage management and costume design, create a dynamic which feeds the central objective of the course, to maintain the ‘excitement and freedom of imagination’ which was its original inspiration. Alison Chitty and her colleagues have shown the determination and ability to maintain these values.

Alison Chitty’s career began after she had graduated from St. Martins School of Art and the Central School of Art in London and won an Arts Council Bursary to the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent to become head of design in 1974, designing some forty productions of classical, documentary and new plays and children’s work. She returned to London in 1979 to work at the Hampstead Theatre, Riverside Studios, the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West End. She later became resident designer at the Royal National Theatre where she spent eight years. Since then she has worked in theatre and opera houses all over the world and has also advised on the design of theatre buildings in the UK, Delhi and Johannesburg. She is currently working as consultant on the design of the Rose Theatre, Sir Peter Hall’s new theatre in Kingston. She has production designed several Mike Leigh films, including ‘Secrets and Lies’, winner of the Palm d’Or at Cannes and Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture. She has received an Olivier award for Best Costume Designer for ‘Remembrance of Things Past’, two Oliver Awards for Best Production, including ‘Billy Budd’ and in 2004 she was awarded an OBE for her services to drama. The Medal, however, is not awarded for these achievements but for Alison Chitty’s major contribution to the education and development of designers.

Alison Chitty’s commitment to innovation through teamwork by designers of many disciplines falls very much within the tradition of Sir Misha Black who founded the Industrial Design (Engineering) course at the Royal College of Art. Prof. Frank Height, Committee Member, who was the immediate successor to Misha Black at the Royal College of Art, says:
“Misha Black had a powerful belief in the creative interaction of all design disciplines and removed previously perceived barriers in design education. In my opinion, Alison Chitty has taken this belief into her chosen field of design and used it to achieve international recognition for the excellence of the application of the creative process in both traditional and new fields of entertainment and is an exemplar of advanced design education which is being fostered in so many UK institutions."
The 2007 Award Programme and Ceremony have been generously supported by the John Lewis Partnership.