Call for Volunteers with Stories from The Gordon Craig

Join Stevenage Museum working with archive material from The Gordon Craig Theatre’s 43 year history.

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Our friends over at The Gordon Craig Theatre have been busy keeping an archive of posters, programmes, photographs and all sorts of interesting things since the building opened in 1975. Locked away in a room in the maze of backstage corridors, it’s been almost entirely unexplored… until now!

In 2019, with support from the Heritage Lottery FundStevenage Museum will be working with a newly recruited team of volunteers to catalogue all these bits of theatrical history and to build a full record of performances that have ever taken place at the Gordon Craig. We’re going to digitise as much of the material as we can and we’ll make an online searchable database to allow the public to delve into the archive and explore the theatre’s past.

43 years… over 100 events in an average year… that’s a lot of material to work through!  

Stevenage Museum are pleased to announce an exciting volunteering opportunity from March 2019. Get involved in cataloguing and digitising The Gordon Craig’s fascinating archive, receive database training, carry out research and interviews and go on fact-finding trips to places such as the V&A Theatre and Performance Collection and The National Theatre archives.

For anyone aged 16+

Volunteering days and times:

Wednesdays: 10am – 1pm and 1pm – 4pm

Thursdays: 4pm – 5:30pm (after school session)

Fridays: 10am – 1pm and 1pm – 4pm

Saturdays: 1pm – 4.30pm

other times are negotiable


  • Photographing and scanning archive material, including posters, programmes, flyers and photographs.
  • Uploading information to the newly created The Gordon Craig Theatre Archive database and online portal system
  • Packing and storing archive material – object handling
  • Taking part in research trips
  • Carrying out interviews and research
  • Helping to curate “Fragments from The Gordon Craig Theatre Archives” mini-exhibition as part of Stevenage Festival at The Gordon Craig Theatre in June 2019
  • Helping to curate the “Stories from The Gordon Craig” exhibition, opening at Stevenage Museum in Autumn 2019

No experience is necessary and training will be provided.

To find out more and to apply:



Pop in: Stevenage Museum, St George’s Way, Stevenage, Herts SG1 1XX

Telephone: 01438 218 881

For more information on the project:

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Launching Stories From The Gordon Craig With Some Very Special Friends

We launched the Stories From The Gordon Craig project by inviting some people with very special connections to The Gordon Craig Theatre into the archive room on Friday 25th January 2019.

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Stevenage Arts Guild’s Hilary Spiers BEM was joined by Christine Vincent, Colin Lee and Dick Hall who appeared in the Gordon Craig Theatre’s inaugural production in November 1975; Paul Laidlaw who has been treading the boards in the Gordon Craig’s pantos since 1986; Bob Bustance who managed the venue for 24 years; patron of the theatre, actress Vicki Michelle MBE and staff from Stevenage Museum and The Gordon Craig Theatre.
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Gordon Craig Theatre pantomime stalwart, Paul Laidlaw, examined press cuttings reviewing his first Stevenage appearance in the 1986/7 production of Aladdin with Bob Bustance and Christine Vincent.

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Colin Lee, Christine Vincent and Dick Hall found a poster in the archive for The Lytton Players’ productions at The Gordon Craig Theatre in 1976, in which they all appeared. 1976 was the theatre’s first full year of operation. Look for the prices of the tickets!


Paul Laidlaw found a poster for the pantomime Dick Whittington in 1987/8, in which he starred as Sarah The Cook alongside Dad’s Army’s Ian Lavender. It was his second pantomime at The Gordon Craig. Dick Hall found a programme for the very first event at the Theatre in November 1975 (prior to the Theatre’s official opening in 1976) in which he performed with The Lytton Players.

Lytton Players The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan 1975


(left to right) Christine Vincent, Lytton Players; Bob Bustance, Gordon Craig Theatre Arts Manager 1984 – 2009; Vicki Michelle MBE, actress and patron of Gordon Craig Theatre; Colin Lee, Lytton Players; Paul Laidlaw, actor and director appearing in Stevenage pantomimes since 1986; Paul Ruff, General Manager, Gordon Craig Theatre; Catherine Lomax, Artistic Director, Gordon Craig Theatre; Hilary Spiers BEM, Chair of Stevenage Arts Guild; Samantha Daisley, Stevenage Museum; Dick Hall, Lytton Players; Jo Ward, Curator, Stevenage Museum.

Introducing Sock and Buskin

We’ve been working with our friends at Hitchin based Aitch:creative to develop design elements for the Stories from The Gordon Craig project.


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Meet our talkative inverted commas, Sock and Buskin!

The ever playful team at Aitch:creative have given us a cheeky take on the ancient Greek theatre masks of comedy and tragedy that have become a recognisable symbol of drama performance.5347025606_87a53b31e2_b.jpg

Our friends over at The Gordon Craig Theatre use these masks in their logo too.

Greek tragedy was a popular and influential form of drama performed in outdoor theatres across ancient Greece from the late 6th century BCE. Plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides are still often performed today, centuries after their creation. Greek tragedy led to the development of Greek comedy and, together, these genres formed the foundation upon which all modern theatre is based.

Derived from Greek mythology, the theatrical masks became symbols of the ancient Greek muses, or protectors, Thalia and Melpomene. Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, is often depicted holding the tragic mask and wearing buskins (Latin cothurnus), a boot that actors playing tragic roles wore which elevated them above the other actors. Thalia, the muse of comedy, is similarly associated with the mask of comedy and the thin soled shoes or socks (Latin soccus) worn by actors in comedy roles.

Say hello to Sock and Buskin!

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For more information about the Stories from The Gordon Craig project and how to get involved click here.

Gordon Craig Theatre Archiving Project Wins National Lottery Support

Stevenage Arts Guild has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £60,000 for its latest project, “Stories from The Gordon Craig”, which will explore the heritage of Stevenage’s Gordon Craig Theatre.


Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the Arts Guild are working in partnership with Stevenage Museum and The Gordon Craig to reveal fascinating and inspiring stories from the theatre’s 43-year history.


A team of local volunteers will be trained to work alongside staff at the museum in cataloguing and digitising the theatre’s extensive but unexplored archive of posters, brochures, programmes, press-cuttings and photographs gathered since the arts centre’s opening in November 1975. The project aims to produce a full timeline of events at the theatre which will be freely searchable online later in 2019. HLF funds will be used to properly store the collection within the Gordon Craig complex for future reference by the public.


Work with the archive forms the backbone of this year-long project designed to celebrate the role the theatre has played in the cultural life of the town and beyond. Later in the year, there’ll be an open call to audiences and amateur and professional performers alike to contribute memories of their time at the Gordon Craig, culminating in a new free exhibition focussing on the theatre’s social history at Stevenage Museum opening in the Autumn.


Lottery funds will also support a programme of reminiscence activities for those in the area living with dementia, encouraging the sharing of happy memories of performance.



Commenting on the award, Hilary Spiers, chair of Stevenage Arts Guild said: “we’re delighted to have received this support to enable us to celebrate 44 glorious years of The Gordon Craig Theatre and really tell its story so far!  It will be great to work with the Stevenage Museum on another project and we look forward to a very productive and inspirational year.”

Councillor Richard Henry, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Leisure at Stevenage Borough Council remarked: “This project forms an important part of our 10-year Cultural Strategy as we embark on enhancing arts and heritage in Stevenage and, in particular, The Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage Festival and Stevenage Museum. It also provides opportunities for the community to explore and express personal memories about the Theatre’s pivotal role in our New Town heritage while also developing personal skills.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF, East of England said: “We are delighted to support Stevenage Arts Guild in exploring the archives of The Gordon Craig Theatre and encouraging people to share their own memories. Thanks to National Lottery players this exciting project will play a role in preserving an important part of Stevenage’s heritage.”


Stevenage Museum are keen to hear from those of all ages interested in volunteering on the project – working with the archive, cataloguing, digitising, carrying out interviews and research and helping curate exhibitions. No experience is necessary, and training will be provided.

Contact or phone the museum on 01438 218881.


For more information:

Artist wanted: Stevenage and North Herts Suffrage Stories: 100 years of votes for women.

Stevenage Museum and its partners would like to commission an artist (or artist collective) as part of the 2018/19 Suffrage Movement project that has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project will look at the Suffrage Movement as it took place in North Hertfordshire. It will look at some of the key players in the movement, such as Constance Lytton from Knebworth, and look at the reception that the movement had across North Hertfordshire. As the centenary of the first election after the First World War (December 2018) approaches, we believe it is an appropriate time to discuss this significant part of the North Hertfordshire heritage. We hope that this art project will not only help to improve local knowledge, but showcase and celebrate North Hertfordshire’s role in a national movement for change.

The commission offers an opportunity for an artist (or artist collective) to design, develop and deliver a creative project for the local people of Stevenage and North Herts. The Artist will work collaboratively with the local community (especially young people) to develop a film depicting scenes of the Suffrage Movement. This will then be projected onto buildings in the town centre.

The objectives of the project:

·         To engage the local population with the North Hertfordshire project as a whole

·         To discuss the Suffrage Movement in a local context

·         To engage volunteers with research projects, helping them to gain valuable skills.

 Budget and Artists Fee:

Artist Fee for planning, preparation and delivery of activities: £4500

Materials/equipment/consultant’s fee for the installation : £3500

Total Project Budget: £8,000

 Artist Role:

To develop the creative idea, concept and plan for the project.

To work with organisations and volunteers

To produce a film that looks at iconic themes of the Suffrage Movement

To assist with the installation of the projection

 The Film:

The film will be located in Stevenage Town Centre and North Herts Museum and Town Hall and therefore needs to be suitable for a very broad audience. It will need to be a simple but striking film. The film will be projected onto buildings, and the logistics of this will need to be considered, but we may split the delivery into content and projection if necessary.


The Artist will work collaboratively with the following groups.

– Young volunteers interested in the project

– Other community groups identified as a result of the project.

The priority audience for the project are the local people of Stevenage and North Hertfordshire. We want to engage people who had not necessarily considered the local importance of the Suffrage Movement.

Provisional Dates:

Planning, preparation and development by Artist: October-December 2018

Installation of project: December 2018

Key Contacts at Stevenage Museum:

Jo Ward, Curator,  07706 297 842 or Sam Daisley, on 01438 218 881 Wednesday to Friday.

 Process for applying:

Submit applications to:

Please include in your application:

  1. A Statement of Interest, which outlines your idea, method statement and your experience of working with volunteers collaborative projects. This should be no longer than 2 sides of A4.
  2. A CV, including details of relevant/similar projects.
  3. Contact details of two referees who know your work and working methods.
  4. A selection of 3 examples of your work (image or video).
  5. A website address if you have one.

Expressions of interest will be accepted via email or paper copy. Artists will be selected on the basis of:

  • An expressed understanding of the brief
  • Strength of creative concept
  • Experience of creating film/projection projects
  • Experience of working with volunteers
  • Experience and skills in delivering workshops with a range of audiences
  • Understanding of the local communities’ need

New Towns, Our Town – Heritage Volunteers wanted

P2818The Independent Cinema Office (ICO) is seeking volunteers for a new project ‘New Towns, Our Town – Stories on Screen’ which will celebrate the unique history and heritage of the first four New Towns – Crawley, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage.

At the time of their development there was considerable interest in and high aspirations for the New Town movement. As well as attracting considerable media attention, the Development Corporations themselves were keen to document their progress, choosing to record much of this on film. For decades these films have been kept in various film archives with limited public access. The films reveal a fascinating insight into the development of the Towns, with footage from the 1940s to present day showcasing how these areas have changed over time.

Thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, this project will bring the films together and enable people to engage with and enjoy this material once more, seeing familiar places – and perhaps faces! – on the big screen.

The ICO are seeking Project Volunteers to assist with community screenings and record oral history testimonies in Stevenage. This is a fantastic opportunity for someone with an interest in local history and hearing people’s stories and memories first-hand. No previous experience is necessary – Project Volunteers will receive bespoke, high-quality training through which you will gain valuable and transferable skills that can be utilised in future volunteering and/or employment opportunities. All reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed.

What’s Involved?

Assisting at public screenings of material in Stevenage town centre to promote the project.
Facilitating screenings of the material for local community groups and identifying individuals who would like to be interviewed for the project.
Arranging and recording oral history interviews that capture people’s memories of moving to/living in Stevenage, and summarising key points covered in interviews.
Training & Support:
‘Lives in Focus’: Recording Oral History Interviews on Video – an introduction to oral history interviewing and some of the issues around oral history, life stories and memory, followed by the principles and techniques of recording, editing and distributing oral history on video.
‘Screening our Memories’: Using Archive Film as a Reminiscence Tool – an introduction to using archive film for reminiscence in community settings.

Time Commitment:
Volunteers will be expected to commit a minimum of 9 days to this project, but we welcome applications from those who can contribute more. Note – attendance at training sessions on 28 and 29 November is essential.

If you are interested in taking part in this exciting project, or would like further information, please contact by 25th October 2018.

If you wish to have an informal conversation about this role please call Jemma Buckley on 020 7079 5950.

Suffrage stories, Stevenage and North Herts – interns wanted!

We are looking for two interns working on average one day a week for six months to help us deliver this exciting project. The rate of pay is £8 an hour and the hours are flexible but some Tuesdays and occasional weekend or evening work may be required.

Here’s what you will be doing:

Editorial intern

This role would suit someone who is interested in pursuing a career in publishing. We need someone to assist in the proof reading and editing of a collection of articles telling local suffrage stories. The successful candidate will also liaise with the designers and printers to produce a professional final product and then help with the launch.

Here are the skills and experience you will need:

  • An interest in working in publishing or editing
  • Excellent communication skills, particularly in the written form
  • An understanding of equality and diversity and how to welcome all volunteers, whatever their needs and background
  • Good organisational skills
  • An eye for detail
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to work to deadlines and under pressure
  • Good IT skills
  • Experience of editing and proof-reading

Museum intern

This role is more general and would suit someone interested in a career in the museum sector. We need someone to assist the project officer and the partner organisations to deliver the Suffrage Stories project. This includes: working with young volunteers; research for blog posts; updating social media (Twitter and Facebook); helping with exhibitions; staffing galleries and running a handling table during busy periods and helping organise and deliver events.

Here are the skills and experience you will need:

  • An interest in working in museums
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and in person
  • An understanding of equality and diversity and how to welcome all volunteers and visitors, whatever their needs and background
  • Good organisational skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently
  • Confident, friendly nature and ability to interact with a number of different museum visitors and users
  • Good IT skills, particularly the use of social media
  • Experience of working a front of house or visitor services role, such as retail or tourism
  • For this role we will carry out a DBS check

To apply

The deadline is Friday 10 August at 5pm. Please send us a CV along with a brief (maximum 300 words) covering letter explaining why you would like the job and what you think you would bring to the role.

Email it to

We will be in touch during the following week to arrange interviews.

To find out a bit more about the project, visit our previous post, Suffrage stories

Suffrage stories, Stevenage and North Herts

Stevenage Museum, working with North Herts Museum, Knebworth House, the Garden City Collection and YC Hertfordshire, have received National Lottery support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Stevenage and North Herts Suffrage Stories: 100 years of votes for women. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project focuses on the local stories of women’s campaign for the vote.

The project will look at key players in the national movement who have links with the area, like Lady Constance Lytton of Knebworth House, alongside other local women of all ages and backgrounds who joined the fight for the right to vote: Elizabeth Impey of Hitchin, and Rachel Peace, who used the alias Jane Short and lodged in Letchworth are just two of the fascinating stories that will be explored . There will be exhibitions at North Herts. Museum and Stevenage Museum, with many related events.

Young people aged 14-24 will have the opportunity to get involved in research including trips to Knebworth House archive, the Museum of London and the Women’s Library at the London School of Economics over the summer. They will write exhibition text and articles and share their findings via social media. In the autumn they will work with an artist to devise an installation what will light up the town centre in Stevenage and the Town Hall in Hitchin, the latter a building that hosted many public meetings calling for votes for women; speakers like Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst addressed the audience while outside police horses held back an angry crowd who were opposed.

Wczesne powiązania Stevenage z Polską

Stevenage Muzeum badało polaczenia miasta z Polską i obecnie gości wystawę „Polskie Wycinanki” z Muzeum Horniman (do 3 Marca 2018).

Shephalbury Manor w krótkim czasie po zbudowaniu w 1865r.

Podczas II Wojny Światowej, Shephalbury Manor był domem rekonwalescencyjnym dla Polskich oficerów. Po wojnie, w 1950 r., został otwarty jako szkoła z internatem aby edukować i być domem dla Polskich osieroconych dzieci. Z czasem dzieci Polskich uchodźców również zaczęły uczęszczać do tej szkoły.

Klasa w Polskiej szkole Shephalbury w 1954r.

Szkoła była prowadzona przez Komitet ds. Edukacji Polaków w Wielkiej Brytanii i była finansowana przez Ministra Edukacji. Kiedy szkoła została otwarta 1go Marca 1950r, trzydzieścioro dzieci w wieku od 5 do 11 lat zostało przeniesionych z National Assistance Board Camp (Narodowe Asystujące Obozy) dla sierot wojennych w Cheshire. Do 1954r uczęszczało tu 93 dzieci. Wszystkie lekcje przeprowadzane były w języku angielskim łącznie z przedmiotami takimi jak pisanie, matematyka i historia i wielu uczniów uczęszczało później do szkoły gramatycznej. Jednakże, jak wyjaśnił dyrektor szkoły Pan Jaworski, postęp akademicki nie był jedynym obowiązkiem szkoły: „Musimy dać tym dzieciom dobre serce i ciepłą atmosferę”, powiedział, „To ma być nie tylko dobra szkoła, and również ma być dobrym domem”.

Grupa dzieci w Polski Szkole, Shephalbury Manor, znanych jak Krakowscy Tancerze, zdjęcie zrobine we wczesnych latach ’50.



Polish connections

The museum is currently hosting an exhibition of Polish Papercuts from the Horniman Museum (on until 3 March 2018) and we’ve been exploring the town’s Polish connections.

Shephalbury Manor soon after it was built in 1865.

During the Second World War, Shephalbury Manor was a convalescent home for Polish officers. After the war, in 1950, it opened as a boarding school to house and educate Polish orphans. Later the children of Polish refugees also attended the school.

A classroom at the Polish School in Shephalbury in 1954.

The school was run by the committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain and financed by the Ministry of Education. When the school opened on 1 March 1950 thirty children aged 5 to 11 were brought from a National Assistance Board camp for war orphans in Cheshire. By 1954 93 children attended. All lessons were conducted in English with subjects including writing, arithmetic and history and many of the children later went on to grammar schools. But as the head teacher Mr Jaworski explained, academic progress was not the school’s only duty. “We must give the children good heart and a warm atmosphere” he said. “It must not only be a good school, it must be a good home, also.”

The Polish school closed in the late 1950s and it seems Mr Jaworski succeeded as many of the children who attended have happy memories of their time at the school. The house became a boarding school for children from London with behavioural problems, then  it stood empty for a while before the Coptic Church took it over.

A group of children at the Polish School, Shepalbury Manor, known as the Krakov Dancers, taken in the early 1950s.