My research shows that Irene Mawer founded the Institute of Mime in 1933, in England.  I have discovered only one source of information relating to the Institute of Mime, and apart from that – the trail is cold. 

Have you heard of the Institute of Mime – do you have any further sources of information, if so, please contact me.

Here are details from a pamphlet dated 1939:

Irene Mawer was President.
The Secretary was Miss Nora Gimson (as at 1939).

Council members (as at 1939):
Freda, Countess of Listowel
Miss Katherine L Johnston, MA, FRHS (Ass Girton College, Cambridge)
Mr Martin Browne
Mr Leslie French
Mr John Laurie
Mrs Olive Errock
Mrs Corbett Ashby
Mr Nugent Monck
Mr Walter Ripman, MA
Mrs Robley Browne

Notable (at least in my opinion!) among these Council members is John Laurie who will live forever in the hearts of many a British person, as the doom-laden Private Frazer in the 1970s TV comedy series, “Dad’s Army”.  “We’re doomed, doomed…”

John Laurie was also listed as a member of the first committee (1933), along with Dorothy Glover (see Part Two).

Patrons (as at 1939):
The Lord Bishop of Chichester
Lady Dickens
Sir Frank Benson
Sir Barry Jackson
Dame Sybil Thorndike
Dr Anna Broman
Mr Lewis Casson
Mr John Gielgud
Miss Stansfield (Principal, Bedford Training College)
Mrs Eva Hubback, MA
Mr Maurice Jacobson, B MUS (Lond)
Sir Granville Bantock, MA, D MUS (Edin)
Sir Cedric Hardwicke
Sir Adrian Boult, DCL D MUS
Mr Kenneth Barnes, MA, FRCM
Miss Elsie Fogarty, CBE, LRAM
Miss Ruby Ginner, Pres GDA
Miss Jean Sterling Mackinlay
Mr Harcourt Williams
Mr Laurence Binyon
Mr J Compton, MA

To encourage interest in the Art, and to standardize (sic) a technique applicable to the requirements of Education and of the Arts in this country. 

To form a panel of qualified teachers, producers and lecturers; helping teachers to find work and helping students to find teachers.

To organise public examinations and performances. 

To enlarge the scope of an art form which provides a sound technical basis for the development of individual and communal dramatic instinct. 

To co-ordinate as far as possible, the varied interests, artistic, educational, and social, which are already apparent, and to co-operate with existing organizations (sic) of various forms of drama and of movement.

By 1939 the Institute of mime had organised at least seven performances in London and Birmingham (mainly focused on Education; and L’Enfant Prodigue).  The Times newspaper in 1934 (possibly 7 June 1934 – which would make it almost exactly one year after the foundation of the Institute of Mime) states that the Institute of Mime presented “L’Enfant Prodigue” at the Westminster Theatre (which I believe was on Palace Street, in the Westminster district of London and was demolished in 2002).  The production was in aid of the foundation fund of the Institute of Mime.  (I have not been able to find out anything further about this foundation fund.) 

Members of the Institute of Mime had given innumerable lecture-demonstrations by 1939, for many different organisations each of whom recognised the credibility of the Institute of Mime, including the Womens Institutes (The WI); the Girl Guides; The Froebel Society; the Central Association for Mental Welfare; H M Prison Holloway, etc, etc.

These lecture-demonstrations appear to have had a focus on education and an example of such a lecture-demonstration of mime can be seen from a flyer advertising an event at the Rudolph (sic) Steiner Hall, London.  Billed as Institute of Mime “Mime in Art and Education”. Saturday 7 November 1936. 2.30pm & 8.15pm.

The work of the Institute of Mime was taught by members at: RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art); the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art (Elsie Fogerty); The Incorporated London Academy of Music; The Women’s League of Health and Beauty Headquarters; H M Prison Holloway, various regular schools as well as dance and theatre schools.

Examinations were held twice per year (in January and July), for which fees were payable.

The syllabus is the same as my own training and I recognise many of the exercises.

The regulation music was available in Dorothy Glover’s book “Music and Mime” published by J. Curwen & Sons, Ltd. 1936.”  I wonder if this is the same music which I have on some cassette tapes, given to me by my own teacher in the early 1980s?  At some point I will find the “Music and Mime” book and then ask someone to play the music for me.  I hope I will recognise it.  I am expecting it might be the same music.  (I hope the technology to play cassette tapes will still be available in a year or so, to enable me to do this!)

*************NB.  December 2020.  I am no longer certain that the Dorothy Glover who was the lover of Graham Green is the same woman who was the musician associated with Ginner-Mawer.  I am conducting further research.********* As an aside, Dorothy Glover worked as a theatre costume designer in the West End of London.  She lived in Bloomsbury’s Mecklenburg Square.  During the blitz of World War Two she worked as a fire watcher with her lover, the novelist Graham Greene.  There is an extremely interesting article by Paul French, which tells about Dorothy Glover’s relationship with Graham Greene during World War Two and their shared passion for Victorian detective novels: 

But to return to Irene Mawer, the set text for use by members of the Institute of Mime was Irene Mawer’s own book, “The Art of Mime”.

Among the papers left at the time of Miss Mawer’s death is an anonymous typescript which sounds as if it was written by Miss Mawer, or someone close to her, just at the moment when she moved to Edgbaston (1954).  It reads “…Institute of Mime, of which the public examinations gave place to the LRAM (Mime) which was developed by one of Miss Mawer’s teachers”.  Sadly, my knowledge is not yet at a level where I know what this means – so if you can help me, please do contact me. 

In an effort to unravel the mystery of this quote, I have written to the Royal Academy of Music to see if LRAM (Mime) refers to them.  I think that the  “L” might stand for Licentiate (ie, the person has passed the relevant exam).  At the moment (July 2020), the Royal Academy of Music has not been able to find any reference to Irene Mawer for me. I have been advised that there might be further information, but the documents haven’t been digitally scanned yet.  Corona Virus, is of course also causing delays.  With luck, we may find the answer later in the year.

I have tried to follow-up some of the other leads in this article, without great success.  For example, Holloway Prison closed in 2016.  I did email their contact address in 2019 but didn’t receive an acknowledgement.  I have tried to locate their archives – which seem to be in the National Archives – but either my search skills are lacking, or Irene-related items are not locatable or don’t exist.

The National Archives problem also popped up when I tried to check the archives of the Girl Guide Association.

RADA, too, are hampered by Corona Virus, though I may have some good luck if I contact them again in the autumn.  Girton College, Cambridge are not taking any enquiries during Corona Virus.

I received a helpful reply from Rudolf Steiner House in July 2020, but again, due to Corona Virus the Librarian is currently on furlough. And possibly a similar situation with the mental health charity, MIND;  I wonder if they might be the forerunner of the Central Association for Mental Welfare.

I have endeavored to contact the Froebel Society to see if they have any archives reaching back to the 1930s and have been advised to contact the archivist of the relevant collections housed at Roehampton University.  I have contacted ‘Flexercise’ which is the descendant of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty; and finally, I have emailed what is now the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (incorporating the Webber-Douglas School of Acting and Singing).  Fingers crossed!

On a different note, for collectors of old books out there – please have a look and see if you own “Music and Mime” by Dorothy Glover.  Do let me know!

Earlier in this piece, when I wrote of Dorothy Glover I linked to an article describing her love of detective mystery novels.  This is a fitting end to today’s blog post, as the Institute of Mime has not revealed its secrets to me.  I do not know what became of it or why it failed.  The mystery remains to be solved…


This is the final section of the two part article about The Institute of Mime.

The intention of this page is to raise awareness of Miss Mawer.  To ensure she is noticed by the algorithms, please follow/share/like/comment, etc.  This really is helping and the page is popping up when people Google Irene Mawer. Thank you.

Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

Janet Fizz Curtis is trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement and is now writing a book about the life of Irene Mawer.

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