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Year 10 scholars Marcus and Nellie triumph as joint winners of the national Royal Opera House (ROH) Design Challenge 2020-21 in the ‘secondary school’ category. Their win secures a first for the College and its creative arts provision. This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the ROH Design Challenge and only the second year the College has run the competition.

royal opera house design challenge joint winners marcus and nellieThe Design Challenge is the ROH’s flagship theatre design course / challenge, covering the national curriculum for art and design at both secondary and further and higher education level. At secondary level, the challenge offers set design and costume design pathways. Students are encouraged to think creatively in the classroom and engage in learning independently. All winners and highly commended students are invited to the Royal Opera House, London, to collect their prizes, have a backstage tour and spend some time in one of the production departments to get a real insight into the day-to-day working life of the professional ROH staff.

The exhibition of the winning work, including Marcus’ and Nellie’s winning costume design entries, will be on public display in the Linbury Foyer at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden from 24 September 2021 (covid restrictions dependent).

In giving their feedback to Marcus and Nellie, the panel of judges stated:

The panel were impressed by the detailed process that both designers had gone through and how they both adapted to the circumstances this year inventively. Nellie explained her process and interpretation of the director’s vision with great clarity. Marcus showed an equally detailed process and a real depth of understanding of the characters his designs were for.


The ROH Design Challenge panel congratulated all entrants when they announced on their website the winners in each category:

Huge congratulations to all the students who took on Design Challenge this year, and also to the teachers, schools and colleges who made it possible. The judges have deliberated and found that the creativity and quality of work has set the benchmark high this year. They also found many thoughtful and inspired approaches to the director’s visions.

The ROH’s Head of Scenic Art added her enthusiasm for the annual challenge:

Judging Design Challenge is one of my favourite milestones of the year.

Emma Troubridge, ROH Head of Scenic Art

Another panel member said:

I have been so impressed by the standard and level of creativity from the young people across the country in this year’s Design Challenge. Congratulations to all who took part, and I look forward to meeting the winners.

Amy McGann, Head of National Programmes

thomas guthrie talks with pupils about their royal opera house design challenge entry piecesThis year’s Design Challenge centred on the opera Carmen and Eastbourne College was honoured to be able to welcome award-winning British stage director, musician, writer, and artistic director of the charity Music and Theatre for All, Thomas Guthrie to The Birley Centre to view all of the pupil entries.