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Thursday, 20 January 2022

Judith Blake copyright the University of Bedfordshire Archive

Judith Blake Theatre

In the performing arts, Judith Blake’s life and career is heavily celebrated by the University.

Opened in 2004, the Judith Blake Theatre is a teaching and performing space that houses theatrical productions, film screenings, workshops and masterclasses. It is the primary teaching location for the Media Performance course, which was founded by Judith Blake herself in 1993, alongside Paul Bannister.

Named RADA’s ‘Most Promising Actress of the Year’ in 1969, Judith was part of the founding of Paines Plough, a touring theatre company, in 1974 and worked with Steven Berkoff in his famous adaptation of Metamorphosis.

After time spent living in Australia, Judith returned to England and set about sharing her knowledge and experience with the next generation of performers at what was then the University of Luton.

Sadly, Judith passed away before being able to teach in the newly opened facility, now known as the Judith Blake Theatre, following a cancer diagnosis.

Rachel Clark, senior lecturer in the School of Media Performance, worked alongside Judith from 1994 and helped get the Theatre named in her honour with the help of colleague Margo Annett. She said:

“Margo and I worked to get the Theatre named after Judith as a tribute to her contribution to the University, the school and the course.

“Judith had a great zest for life. She was a wonderful person: funny and creative, with an incredible warmth to her students. Not afraid to give strong feedback, she taught students to take a professional approach in a very competitive industry.

“Judith was my mentor and I learnt such a lot from her and have carried her torch forwards, now that I am the course coordinator.

“Judith was very passionate about her work and her legacy is this Theatre, where many students can nurture their passion, develop the skills needed to be who they want to be and launch their careers.”

Margo Annett added:

“If it hadn’t have been for Jude’s enthusiasm, drive and talent, then the Media Performance Course – which is now Media Performance for Film TV & Theatre – would not have been created.”

Gemma Hunt graduated from the University’s Media Performance course in 2003 and has gone on to become a television presenter and is currently as the main host of CBBC’s Swashbuckle. Now also running workshops, Gemma says she enjoys sharing the knowledge that Judith once bestowed upon her. She said:

“Judith was an inspirational woman, not only in her passion for performing, but in how she led by brilliant example.

“I learnt so much from her as a performer that I now share with others that I teach, such as ’not to interlace your fingers on camera, as they look like a bunch of sausages’!”

Tilda Goldberg copyright the University of Bedfordshire Archive
Judith Blake copyright the University of Bedfordshire Archive