When I was 21 I lived in a fantastic University Hall called "College Hall". It was based (and still is) in Mallett Street in WC1. Of course at the time I didn't realize just what a brilliant stroke of luck it was to be living next door to RADA The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in a cosy all girls hall in central London studying some of the finest literature of our time. University College London is a brilliant place to study but I had had my eyes set on Cambridge.
I didn't get into Cambridge.
For my interview at New Hall College (also all girls what is it with the no boys theme?) I had studied the Bronte Sisters because I had been told that I was to be interviewed by the leading expert on the subject. Unfortunately she was on maternity leave for my interview. The smart lady that actually interviewed me was curt and straight to the point. "Don't you know anything other than the Bronte sisters?"
Anyhow I ended up at UCL and lucky for me that I did.
Looking out from my lovely cosy room in the spring of 1993 at the actors practising their sword fighting next door, I wanted to be them. I really really wanted to be doing that not swotting for a six hour Shakespeare exam. With finals looming I knew that I had to have a plan of action for the summer and for the rest of my life. Journalism? Acting? Flipping burgers? I decided to go to the careers office and have a look at some prospectus'. Mmmm. Journalism. Could be great. Creative, involves words, communiacation, maybe travel, fun people.
I picked up a prospectus for RADA and next to it was one for Mountview Theatre School. Everyone in it looked smiley and happy and excited. Or 'in the moment'. And to top it all there was a picture of a sweet looking mixed race girl on page two. I took it as a sign that I was to go there and applied that day sending off my £15 for the audition. Non-refundable.
A friend of mine was applying for a summer journalist course and I thought that I should apply for that too. I filled out the form and waited. Within two weeks I had my interview and I dressed smartly and neatly. As I walked into the room I was greeted by a middle-aged white man with greying hair. He looked really shocked to see me. He immediately recovered his composure but his questions about my CV were unorthodox.
"What are your family like?"
And "Are your sisters as clever as you?"
Not really very relevant. It dawned on me like a slow ache that he hadn't expected to see a mixed-race person in his office that day.
Unless they were cleaning his office.
I didn't get the post and I decided from that moment that I wanted people to know what they were getting up front.