About this website

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    


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.



in his own words....

I would first like to express my immense gratitude for the honour of being selected as the recipient of the Julian Slade Award; it was such an incredible way to end my first year at Bristol Old Vic and also to begin the rest of my journey! I have  already  very much enjoyed researching the award and learning about its history. It is wonderful that you continue to acknowledge the potential of students at BOVTS. I was able to attend a fantastic week-long Alexander Technique course this summer, thanks to the generous prize. I can’t begin to explain just how much the award is already benefitting both my acting and singing. It simply wouldn’t have been possible without it. Thank you

‘I grew up in the Golden Valley in rural Herefordshire and lived there with my family until I moved to Bristol following my acceptance to the school. Due to its location in the heart of the countryside, local arts opportunities were relatively few and far between. However, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Courtyard Theatre in Hereford, without whom I wouldn’t have had access to theatre at all. I have always enjoyed singing but, besides a few lessons when I was younger, I never took it up as seriously as I would have liked to. In my late teens, I became involved with X-Entricity Theatre, appearing in their productions of Guys & Dolls and West Side Story and, at last, my love for Musical Theatre returned!

My first year at Bristol Old Vic has been a ball. It’s been such a great experience so far. Prior to joining the school, I almost felt as though I’d missed the boat when it came to singing. I am so thankful to the Music Department here for reigniting this flame and I have worked as hard as I can to develop it. I would like to express my thanks to the Slade family for this acknowledgement. I am honoured to be the 2022 recipient of the Julian Slade Award. It has filled me with so much encouragement and I am very much looking forward to whatever comes next!’




“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”.


  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.