Lottery cash will tell the story of pioneer who gave his name to venue

Theatrical pioneer Edward Gordon Craig

Theatrical pioneer Edward Gordon Craig - Credit: Archant

It’s the town’s biggest arts venue and a familiar leisure destination for many from Stevenage and further afield – but few punters would be able to tell you where the Gordon Craig Theatre gets it name from.

But that’s something that a new project backed by lottery cash aims to put right, as Stevenage celebrates 70 years as a new town.

The theatre itself marked its 40th anniversary last year, and takes its name from the theatrical pioneer with strong links to the town.

Project manager Andy Purves, who has been working with Stevenage Arts Guild to put together the successful bid for lottery cash, said this week: “Despite Craig being an important figure in the history of theatre, 93 per cent of a sample of audience members at the theatre told us they knew nothing or only very little about Craig.

“Only 24 per cent of those surveyed knew Craig was born in Stevenage, while 88 per cent of the community thought that the town would benefit from activities celebrating his life and legacy.

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“This year sees the 50th anniversary of Craig’s death in France at the age of 94.

“His work and his writings have influenced many of the later 20th century’s innovators, and it is said that many of the ideas that he developed were not realised on the stage until the 1980s.

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“The generation of theatre-makers who Craig so vividly inspired then are now too passing out of prominence, and there is a great risk of Craig’s ideas being lost to history.”

The son of Ellen Terry, one of the most revered actresses of the English stage, and architect Edward William Godwin, Edward Gordon Craig was born in the town in 1872.

The £65,000 funding securing from the Heritage Lottery Fund will see the arts guild team working in partnership with Stevenage Museum.

The project includes a free three-month exhibition at the St George’s Way heritage base, involving both professionals and volunteers in curation and production.

A team of 22 volunteers will ve recruited, including a dozen teenagers, and local groups including the University of the Third Age and the Stevenage Society for Local History.

Events including lectures and workshops are on the timetable, particularly around the 50th anniversary of Craig’s death in July, and the funding will also allow extra hours for museum staff to help co-ordinate the programme.

The exhibition will eventually become a permanent display in the theatre foyer space, and there will also be a resource pack for schools aimed at drama and theatre studies students.

Anyone interested in knowing more about the volunteer opportunities can get in touch with Andy by email at

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