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Christmas cheer for Brenda

By Staff Reporter

West Belfast’s Brenda Winter-Palmer, a full-time lecturer in Drama at Queen’s, has swapped her costumes for a doctoral robe as she graduated with a PhD in Drama from the university.

The actress is currently in rehearsals for the role of Emilie Beattie in the recording of BBC Radio Ulster’s Christmas Special ‘It’s William Caulfield, So It Is!’ Brenda came to the academic life after a thirty-year career as an actress, writer and director in theatre, film and television.

She was a founder member of Charabanc, the legendary women’s theatre company which launched the writing career of Marie Jones. She also founded and was the first artistic director of Replay, the North’s foremost educational theatre company. She has appeared in all the major theatres here and has numerous film and television credits to her name.

“I decided to do the MA in drama just for fun and really enjoyed every minute of the course,” said Brenda, who returned to education in 2006. “

I was then persuaded by my supervisor and mentor Professor Anna McMullan to do a PhD – something I never thought would be within my capabilities. Three years into my course I was offered a job as a lecturer in Drama Studies. I didn’t think twice about taking it. At 55, as most of my friends were looking forward to retirement, I was taking on a whole new career. They thought I was mad. But I looked on it as just the natural extension of what I had done all my life.

“Doing the PhD has helped me understand better all the things that I did instinctively as a theatre practitioner. Now I can pass on some of the skills I have learned to my students. It has all been such a life-enhancing experience.

To return to studying at doctoral level in your fifties is a challenge but the rewards for me have been terrific.” It’s William Caulfield So It Is! will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday, December 22 at 12.03pm and then on Saturday, December 29 also at 12.03pm. Brenda celebrated her graduation alongside her husband Richard and four year-old grandson Thomas – who now calls Brenda “Doctor Nanny”.

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