History A prestigious history

About Us


The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School was opened in 1946 by Laurence Olivier

It was designed as a training school for the Bristol Old Vic Company. It initially began its life in one room in a beautiful though cramped building behind the Bristol Old Vic stage door.

It was affectionately then known as the ’fruit school’ as it was close to the fruit and vegetable markets, which surrounded the theatre.

Salad Days

In 1954, Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade wrote for the Theatre School, the musical Salad Days for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Royal. It went on to achieve enormous though totally unexpected success, with extended runs both in the West End and on Broadway.

The show gave the Theatre School the much-needed funds to move to bigger premises in Downside Road – the School’s current site. The building was officially opened in 1956 by Dame Sybil Thorndike.

Scenic art students holding large backdrop, teacher in background Production Arts

The Conservatoire of Dance and Drama

In 2003 the reputation and work of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School was recognised by the government when it was invited to join a new scheme designed to provide secure funding for students.

The Conservatoire of Dance and Drama invited the School along with RADA, the London Contemporary Dance School and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance to be a founder member ensuring the Theatre School can take the most talented students regardless of their own personal financial circumstances.

Highlights From Bristol Old Vic Theatre School's History

I absolutely love working backstage. It was something I had never done before arriving at BOVTS and I'm so grateful for the opportunity. Madi Barncoat, BA Costume Student