Edward Gordon Craig – 50 Years On
31st Jul 2016
Our theatre is named after him… but who was Edward Gordon Craig?
50 years after his death (almost to the date), Stevenage Arts Guild, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, celebrated the life and work of the town’s forgotten son who became a radical and visionary theatrical pioneer.
A day of fascinating talks, demonstrations and discussions on the man, his extraordinary parents and his inspiring visions for the “art of the theatre”.
Christopher Baugh FRSA, FHEA
Emeritus Professor of Performance & Technology at University of Leeds
Penny Francis MBE
Honorary Fellow of Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, puppetry practitioner
Professor Katharine Cockin FEA, PFHEA, FRSA
University of Hull, biographer of Edith Craig, Edith Craig and the Theatres of Art (2017) and editor of The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry (2010-).
Teacher and theatre practitioner, the last assistant to Craig and his “unofficial” pupil
Questions and Answers
- David Brind, former Scenic Artist at Royal Opera House, Lecturer in Art and Design
- Dr Rachel Hann, Lecturer in Scenography at University of Surrey
Arts Guild to bring fascinating speakers to Stevenage on July 31st to celebrate the town’s forgotten son.
Stevenage’s theatre is named after him but… Who is Gordon Craig?
50 years, almost to the date, after Craig’s death, Stevenage Arts Guild think it’s time to find out!
When Stevenage’s theatre was built in 1975, there was one very obvious choice of who to name the town’s new cultural and entertainment centre after. The borough architect and the local council did not have to look far away for their inspiration – about a mile, in fact.
One of the theatre world’s most influential, radical and visionary thinkers was born in 1872 in Orchard Road (then Railway Street) in Stevenage. Edward Gordon Craig, son of actress Ellen Terry and architect Edward Godwin, went on to became a leading force in the development of 20th century performance – a true theatrical pioneer.
Yet, despite Craig’s undeniable impact on the theatre of today, many of those who visit or live in Stevenage, or even speed by on a train catching glimpses of the town’s theatre, find themselves asking, “who is Gordon Craig?” 50 years after Craig’s death in 1966, Stevenage Arts Guild think it’s time to find out!
“2016 seemed a perfect time to celebrate Craig’s life and work and his connection with Stevenage”, said chair of Stevenage Arts Guild, Hilary Spiers. The Guild, which aims to encourage, sustain and co-ordinate the artistic endeavours of the people of Stevenage, received a grant of £65k from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the “Who is Gordon Craig?” project earlier in the year.
The project’s first event, “Craig: 50 Years On”, is being held at the Gordon Craig Theatre on Sunday 31st July from midday until 6pm.
“It’s an opportunity for Stevenage to get better acquainted with its forgotten son”, said project manager Andy Purves. “We’ve all got lots of questions: “Who was he? What did he do? Why is he worth remembering 50 years after his death? What’s behind the Stevenage connection? What was he like, as a person? What legacy did he leave behind?” We’re gathering some fascinating speakers to answer our questions on the man himself, his parents and his inspiring visions for theatre.”
Christopher Baugh, a former set designer and emeritus professor of performance and technology, will open proceedings on the 31st July and discuss Craig’s radical take on theatre and scenic design. Penny Francis, who was awarded an MBE for services to puppetry in 1998, will help unpick Craig’s fascination with marionettes. Professor Katharine Cockin, as biographer of Edward Gordon Craig’s sister Edith and editor of The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry, is waiting to share her insight on this extraordinary family. Harvey Grossman, a friend, assistant and “unofficial” pupil of Craig’s will share his first-hand experiences of the theatre’s eponym with the people of Stevenage on the day too.
The day’s events will be chaired by Dr Rachel Hann (Lecturer in Scenography at the Guildford School of Acting, University of Surrey) who will be no stranger to the venue – Rachel grew up in Stevenage, attended Nobel School and trod the boards of the Gordon Craig with the Youth Theatre in the late 90s. Rachel went on to study drama and specialise in the study of performance design. Rachel said: “I’m very keen to support this great initiative in my home town. The work and ideas of Craig have informed my own professional career immeasurably. While initially only known to me as a place name, at university and now in my research, Craig remains a distinct influence on my daily life as an academic. I always take delight in telling my international colleagues that I was part of the Gordon Craig Youth Theatre – it never fails to impress!”
Professor Christopher Baugh also has a local connection – he designed several productions for Spectrum Young People’s Theatre Company, based at the Gordon Craig Theatre from 1985, where he worked closely with then theatre manager and chief technician, Bob Bustance. Christopher went on to become chair of Spectrum’s board of directors.
The programme will include presentation of Stevenage Arts Guild’s awards to local young people with a passion, ambition and outstanding talent in the arts. Around 15 grants are awarded yearly by the Guild, which go to fund a specific element of development or training, for example, towards the cost of buying a new instrument or art materials; music or dance lessons; competition fees or promoting and exhibiting work. This year, the Guild are particularly thrilled to be presenting the specially created “2016 Edward Gordon Craig” award to a highly deserving local young actor.
Hilary Spiers of Stevenage Arts Guild said: “Craig was an enigmatic figure – we think there are some very interesting stories to uncover here. We hope the day will be a fascinating and joyous celebration of this intriguing man, his heritage and his extraordinary contribution to theatre… he could be described as the town’s forgotten son but hopefully not for very much longer.”
For more information on the free event on Sunday 31st July at the Gordon Craig Theatre and the rest of the project’s activities visit www.whoisgordoncraig.co.uk