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Professor Joan Ashworth to Stand Down as Head of Animation

The Royal College of Art announced today that Professor Joan Ashworth, Head of Animation, has decided to stand down from her current position at the RCA at the end of the year in order to focus on her filmmaking.

Joan, who joined the RCA in 1994, led the Animation programme to new heights during her tenure. In doing so she amassed international plaudits and recognition for the programme including Best Animation School at the recent Zagreb International Animation Festival, as well as for the students she taught and mentored.  Her students’ films regularly won BAFTAs, Royal Television Society Awards alongside many individual International Animation Festival Awards and Prizes. They also picked up the Jerwood Drawing Prize, Jerwood Moving Image Prizes, and Best European Documentary. Highlights include awards for Suzie Templeton, who won the Oscar for her Peter and the Wolf, in 2008 and Mikey Please, whose The Eagleman Stag won a BAFTA in 2011.  

Dr Paul Thompson said: 'I want to thank Joan for her outstanding leadership of the Animation programme over the past 21 years. As head she has transformed the programme, developing research in animation and health as well as writing for animation and continued to make her own films. Her legacy is indeed exceptional.'

Professor Joan Ashworth said: 'It has been a fabulous 21 years working with the imagination and invention of the students and staff. It has been terrifically enriching, demanding and above all, fun. I'd like to thank all the students and staff along the way for their brilliant minds.'

The College will shortly be appointing an executive search specialist to fill the position of Head of Animation. In the meantime, Tim Webb and Joe King, Senior Tutor and Tutor respectively, will continue to lead on the Animation programme. Dean of the School of Communication Professor Neville Brody and Professor Teal Triggs, Associate Dean, will continue the development of the new documentary animation pathway initiated by Joan. 

Professor Ashworth is currently in production of a documentary on Sylvia Pankhurst, ( and will also continue her research into the uses of animation in medical health and wellbeing.

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As well as guiding the Programme through a time of immense technological and industry change, Ashworth continued to emphasise development writing for animation to find a form somewhere between drawing, poetry and dreaming that could strengthen the animator/artist’s individual voice and work. Her creation of Visual Writing for Animation brought in the expertise of Will Self, Michael Rosen, John Hegley, Marina Warner and most recently Deborah Levy, and Peter Blegvad.

Staff and graduates across disciplines from Architecture, Illustration,  Animation and Sculpture came together to work on their very varied creative writing projects. This developed into a number of publications and films and also led to Marina Warner agreeing to be the first Visiting Professor to the Animation Programme.

Whilst at the College, Professor Ashworth maintained her industry relationships, creating titles and stings for TV including the Christmas on BBC1 titles, completing her multi-award winning film How Mermaids Breed (2005), and her pixillated film shot in the beautiful Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, Mushroom Thief (2010). She also developed a research cluster, Serious Animation, to explore animated documentary, archive research, and valuable medical applications as explored in her MRC funded project CHILDSPLA, a collaboration with Great Ormond St Hospital and the London School Of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.