Evaristo will take up the role of President of the College from January 2021, for a period of five years, stepping into a position previously held by Sir Richard Eyre.
She is a highly successful, award-winning novelist, critic, academic and successful writer of fiction, drama, poetry, essays, articles, literary criticism and other projects for stage and radio. She won the 2019 Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other – the first Black woman and the first Black British person to do so. An alumna of Rose Bruford College, Evaristo studied on the Community Theatre Arts course and became a Fellow of the College in 2018. She is a longstanding advocate for the inclusion of writers and artists of colour and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, a lifetime Honorary Fellow of St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, and lifetime Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature.
Bernardine Evaristo said, “It is quite surreal that nearly forty years after I graduated from Rose Bruford College, I am returning as President. I loved studying at the College and credit it with laying the foundations for my lifelong career as a creative practitioner and activist who believes in social change and the power of the arts to transform our society. The College has always blazed a trail and its change-maker ethos is impressively in keeping with the spirit of our times. I look forward to the next five years ahead.”
On leaving Rose Bruford College in 1982 she co-founded Britain’s first Black women’s theatre company, Theatre of Black Women, with Paulette Randall and Patricia St Hilaire (also RBC alumni from the Community Theatre Arts course). She also organised Britain’s first major Black theatre conference, Future Histories, in 1995 at the Royal Festival Hall, and Britain’s first major conference on Black British writing, Tracing Paper, in 1997 at the Museum of London.
Principal Clarie Middleton, who joined Rose Bruford in 2018 from her previous role of Chief Executive of Hackney Empire, is spearheading the College’s vision to create the change-makers of the future. The College’s stated mission is to achieve social as well as cultural impact through delivering the highest quality vocational training and education, shaping graduates who are creative, empowered, employable, inclusive and diverse, ethical and intercultural in outlook.
Clarie Middleton said, “We are delighted that Bernardine has accepted our invitation to become President of Rose Bruford College. We knew that we needed to look to someone of high profile in the creative arts; someone who has a connection with the College, is an activist in their own right, and who will be an influential ambassador for our vision and values including our commitment to equality and inclusion. Bernardine is a creative artist of considerable integrity who has been a Change-Maker all of her professional life, and she will be an enormous inspiration to us as we continue to deliver the highest standards of learning and teaching, and strive to make our own change in the field of creative arts higher education and to motivate our students to become the Change-Makers of the future.
The role of the President is a ceremonial one. An invitation to become the President of the College is an invitation to hold the most prestigious office that the College can award. It serves as a symbol of the College and is ambassadorial in its remit to promote the College. The President’s involvement with the College includes officiating at graduation ceremonies; advocating on the College’s behalf regarding issues that affect the institution and its community; and visits, talks and events with current students and alumni.