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In the 1950s Julian Slade was probably as well known to London theatre-goers as Andrew Lloyd Webber is today. He was frequently compared to Noel Coward and Ivor Novello for the tunefulness of his music and the wit and charm of the lyrics he wrote with his writing partner Dorothy Reynolds. He was best known as the composer and co-writer of ‘Salad Days’ and ‘Free As Air’, both of which had significant runs in London’s West End. ‘Salad Days’ broke all records for a musical at the time, running for nearly six years at the Vaudeville Theatre. ‘Free As Air’ ran for over a year at the Savoy in 1957/8.
Julian and Dorothy had previously won a huge fan base in Bristol at the Bristol Old Vic with two years of packed out Christmas shows they had written and after ‘Free As Air’ they went on to write three more London musicals together. At Bristol Julian also wrote incidental music for Shakespeare plays and a complete new score for Sheridan’s ‘The Duenna’. This too proved very popular when it opened in London shortly before ‘Salad Days’.
He went on to write many more musicals, on his own or with other partners. They included adaptations of ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘The Pursuit of Love’ and ‘Trelawny of the Wells’ (‘Trelawny’), which was the most successful of the three.
On the Biography page you can learn more about Julian and how some of his shows came about. On the Shows page, as well as looking at details of each show, and the views of the critics of the day, you will be able to listen to extracts of some songs. Items under the Shows include a summary of Julian’s work, coverage of London productions of ‘Salad Days’ and ‘Free as Air’ between 2010 and 2014, comment, and tributes to some of those Julian worked with. The Julian Slade Award page features the full list the eleven  award winners since 2008. (‘Award Watch’ below lists the current activity of most of them). The Latest News pages keep you up to date with current news. And, if you would like to know more, do not hesitate to make use of the Contacts page.
When Julian died in 2006 he left behind a generation or more of theatre-goers with very happy musical memories of him. These and his life are detailed more fully on the pages that follow. Click on the links to find out  MORE

    THE CONTINUING CORONA-VIRUS EDITION                     OF THIS WEBSITE (Part 4 October 2021)

award-watch

Each year since 2007 an award has been given to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School student judged to have the most exceptional musical talent. Julian Slade often used to help similarly promising students at the School and, after he died, his brother Adrian  and nephew Rupert, in full oo-peration with the School, helped to establish the new Julian Slade Award in his memory.

THE NEW JULIAN SLADE AWARD WINNER

SAMUEL BELL (21/22)

in his own words....

“Initially, I was not a very confident singer. The first time I sang was at my high school variety show when I was 15. I was incredibly nervous but enjoyed it so much I went on to join the Calder Valley Youth Theatre and performed in the ensemble of ‘Flashdance’. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in acting, performing in a variety of plays at my local theatres, the Hebden Bridge Little Theatre and the Todmorden Hippodrome, and also touring Calderdale with ‘The Brutish Multitude’  theatre company. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 2020. Before I came to school, I had had no prior training in singing. But, in the midst of a very strange first year of mostly online sessions, I was still able to make significant progress under the guidance of our singing tutor, Pamela Rudge. She always pushed me to remain dedicated and focused on the work. I was able to build up a strong technique and learn more about the craft by being encouraged to explore outside of your comfort zone. It was a great delight when we were able to start in person sessions for the first time and begin to work together as an ensemble, with our year finally managing to put on our musical theatre project to an audience of staff and students. I was humbled to win the Julian Slade Award, with it coming as a big, but welcome, surprise. It is a testament to the school’s incredible teaching staff and the continuous love and support from my year group that I was able to achieve this. I hope that I can continue to grow and retain the passion I have developed into my final two years and beyond.”

FOR NEWS OF ALL PREVIOUS AWARD WINNERS SEE ‘LATEST NEWS’ PAGES

HOW SENIOR BOVTS STAFF SEE THE COMING MONTHS

 FIONA FRANCOMBE  Principal

“We are now in week 5 of the new academic year and already progress is tangible.  Rehearsals for our two 2nd year Acting students are well underway for the forthcoming Nativity plays, and yesterday the School resounded with We Three Kings which gave an interesting juxtaposition with the mild weather here in Bristol!    The third year Acting students are working hard on productions of Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet, and our 1st year technical students today presented their project Haunted House to a packed audience in one of the School’s studios.

It’s truly wonderful to see everyone working hard and relishing being in our buildings together.  Staff across the School continue to be supportive and truly professional.  We have been somewhat hit by flu over the last few weeks, but I am happy to suffer that rather than the position we were in this time last year.  Strategic work on planning for the School’s future continues, much helped by the Executive and Senior Management teams, and by our Trustees.  There is never a dull moment, thank goodness”.

 JENNY STEPHENS    Artistic Director

The news from Bristol is very good (I am touching a lot of wood here!). We are absolutely thrilled to have all of our students back in school with us this term – laughter, music and high-drama are all reverberating around our buildings. Although we are keeping some Covid protocols in place, such as mask wearing in corridors and extra cleaning, students aren’t normally wearing masks or face-shields to rehearse or in their practical classes (unless they feel they would like to). One big game changer has been that households and contacts don’t all have to isolate if one person is suspected of having Covid, so even if someone is away for a couple of days because they are awaiting test results the work can keep merrily on track.

Rehearsals are underway for two Nativity tours for local schools; filled with carols and Christmas songs; these shows for children are an annual delight. Meanwhile, the final year actors are getting stuck into Shakespeare as we rehearse Macbeth (which will be on in the Bristol Old Vic studio) and Romeo and Juliet (which will be at the Redgrave Theatre). We have plans in place if there is another shut down – but we’re holding our collective breath that these will not be needed. So we hope it’s a yo-ho-ho all the way through to Christmas!”

DIONNE DRAPER  Head of Music and Singing

“I’ve been in post for exactly two months and so far it has been a game of two halves. September included a hand-over with Pam Rudge and a move into the beautiful Music Room at Downside Road. I’ve captured valuable moments in the staff room with different tutors and heads talking about what they do, and I’ve toured the creative spaces of BOVTS; a stage set here, a prob bear there! Heaven.

Since the students’ arrival in October it’s been a colourful mix of ensembles, tutorials and nativity rehearsals. Each element as rich as the next. The students are bright, engaging and full of ideas, from all corners of the UK and the world (MFA’s). The work, can you call it work? Is wonderfully challenging and varied, tutorials range in style from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Hamilton’ to ’.

I’m looking forward to building on the strong techniques and passion for music that my predecessor brought to the role. I’m also excited to bring my experience as a singer, composer and scriptwriter to my teaching practice, to unlock the musical potential of every student. 

Recent work includes writing, performing and touring my one woman musical ‘DAWTA’ (2019/20) and completing my MA in Popular Music Practice (2021) with Distinction. I’m looking forward to building on the strong relationship with Julian Slade’s community, which nurtures and inspires our BOVTS students.”

 HOW JULIAN’S “SALAD DAYS” BROUGHT MUSICAL MAGIC                   TO THE THEATRE OF THE 1950S 

  The Guardian of October 11 2021

Salad Days: the bittersweet musical with an evergreen charm

He fell for it as a boy on holiday in London – and American author Ethan Mordden is still obsessed by this whimsical show. Why? ‘It’s a lesson in being openly what you are’

Just the right note … Newton Blick, Eleanor Drew, John Warner and Minnie the magic piano in Salad Days at the Vaudeville, London, in 1954.
Just the right note … Newton Blick, Eleanor Drew, John Warner and Minnie the magic piano in Salad Days at the Vaudeville, London, in 1954. Photograph: University of Bristol/ArenaPAL

“My parents took me to Europe for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958 and on the way home to America we stopped in London. As we were staying in a hotel on the Strand, we kept driving past the Vaudeville theatre, where I was thrilled to see the musical Salad Days was still playing.

Written by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds, Salad Days had been an obsession of mine ever since I heard the cast album, which my Aunt Agnes had brought back on her last London trip. The songs were a little fanciful, but the music was very attractive. I was especially fond of a ballad for the lead couple, Timothy and Jane, who were just leaving university: We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back.

A bittersweet undercurrent runs through this number for these two kids, evicted from the playroom into grownup life, worrying what will become of them. He’s being pushed into a job among the pompous elite, she into a posh marriage, and neither of them is keen about anything. But suddenly they are swept up in an adventure: a mysterious tramp hires them to look after a magic piano that turns everybody gay.

Or, actually, no. The piano makes everybody dance. But the authorities wanted to confiscate the instrument, as all that dancing in public creates disorder – in other words, freedom. Later on, I drew the analogy between dancing and coming out, and saw how smart Salad Days really was under its folderol. It’s a lesson in being openly what you are.

Words and music ... Julian Slade, composer of Salad Days.
Words and music … Julian Slade, composer of Salad Days. Photograph: Frank Martin

Meanwhile, I got my folks to let me see Salad Days for myself. I vividly recall my father, at the Vaudeville box office, asking for “a seat down front for this young man”. There were plenty, as it was a midweek matinee, with nobody else in the house but two rows of women in the middle of the stalls. Later, during the intermission, they actually had tea brought to them, right in their seats.