My first encounter with Rona was when I was a teenager and she adjudicated the Craven Drama Festival in Skipton. I was spellbound by this erudite and attractive woman who evidently knew everything about theatre. This was in the halcyon full length festival days of the 'Northern Circuit' : Harrogate, Skipton, Clitheroe, Settle, Fleetwood when a respected adjudicator would go from one festival to another - as Rona did.
She had an excellent C.V. for any adjudicator : BA Hons in English Lit., trained for the stage at R.A.D.A where she was awarded the Principal’s medal in 1940, and acted in Rep and the West End for some ten years before teaching theatre. Before retiring she was Professor of Drama and Education at the Guildhall School.
In 1956 The Sunday Times National Student Festival held its first gathering with Harold Hobson as adjudicator, then the leading theatre critic for the paper, and Rona was asked to join him, which was a great honour.
During my first spell on GODA Council in the mid 1980's Rona immediately put me at ease and made me welcome. Over coffee she would recall stories from festivals, especially Ireland where she made many visits and enjoyed their generous hospitality. I met up with her again at our AGM in the mid 1990's when meetings were held in the Board Room of the National Theatre (delusions of
grandeur ) however Rona had her feet firmly on the ground and helped steer us through some difficult organisational problems.
During her time with GODA she also worked for The Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama ( STSD ) both in the UK and adjudicating abroad and for a time was Chairperson of both organisations - amazing commitment. She was given a Fellowship from STSD and of course became an Honorory Member of GODA when she retired in 1997.
Her book 'Festivals and Adjudication' was published in 1975 and later skillfully revised by Colin Dolley. It rightly became recommended reading for those applying for GODA Membership and I will close this appreciation with an extract from the book :
“The professional adjudicator must assess carefully, have high standards, and stick to them. He/she must sift the grain from the chaff and all the time give constructive criticism.”
This is what Rona did and tempered her adjudications with such style and wit –
a very special lady.