The early yearsThe Workshop Theatre has the longest running MA programme in the UK. When it first opened in 1968 with a single student, Christine Eccles (who went on to become a director, writer, reviewer and script reader), the programme was just called MA in Theatre Studies and the only permanent academic staff member was Martin Banham. Martin would remain at the Workshop Theatre for nearly 30 years, rising to become Professor and to, for several years, lead the School of English. It was he who nurtured the internationalism of the course as well as a spirit of openness and generosity which encouraged students to explore and experiment. The Banham Theatre is named after our much loved first Professor, who though long retired, remains ever interested in the fortunes of the programme he founded.
Quite quickly the word of this new masters programme spread and it became a matter of competition to get place on the course. Moreover students began to appear from all over the world though with a particular preponderance of Nigerians, where Martin had worked for a decade. New staff joined the Workshop Theatre, both backstage and academic, and it became a hive of performance activity, with work being written, directed and staged by both staff and students. In 1979 the WT started to accept PhD students and its status as a centre of postgraduate study was firmly established.