Who was Edward Gordon Craig? Stevenage Museum hosts exhibition celebrating one of town’s greatest sons

Edward Gordon Craig

Edward Gordon Craig - Credit: Archant

One of the most radical and influential forces on the world’s stages will be celebrated in his home town with a free four-month exhibition which opened to the public yesterday.

Edward Gordon Craig. Picture: Eton College Library

Edward Gordon Craig. Picture: Eton College Library - Credit: Archant

Born in Stevenage in 1872 to actress Ellen Terry and architect Edward William Godwin, Edward Gordon Craig went on to make an indelible mark on theatre history.

His productions across Europe, astonishing designs and prolific writings defined him as a leading moderniser of 20th century theatre, with Stevenage Borough Council naming the town’s new theatre in 1975 in his honour.

The new exhibition at Stevenage Museum will showcase items from the extensive collections of Edward Gordon Craig’s artwork and publications held at the V&A Museum and Eton College Library, some of which have never been on display to the public before.

Staff at the museum have been working alongside a committed team of local volunteers researching Craig’s professional and personal life, as well as his parents’ link to Stevenage.

Edward Gordon Craig by George Charles Beresford. Picture: National Portrait Gallery London - www.npg

Edward Gordon Craig by George Charles Beresford. Picture: National Portrait Gallery London - www.npg.org.uk - Credit: National Portrait Gallery London

The set of rare and valuable items brought to the museum include Craig’s inspirational designs for the stage, some of his highly-respected work as a visual artist with engraving and bookplate prints, and finely illustrated books and periodicals.

Opening for the first time on Saturday between 10am and 5pm, the public can explore the exhibition during the museum’s opening hours of 10am to 4.30pm Wednesday to Friday, as well as each Saturday, through to June 3.

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The exhibition has been commissioned as part of Stevenage Arts Guild’s ‘Who is Gordon Craig?’ project which began last year to celebrate Craig’s connection with the town, 50 years after his death in 1966. The Guild received a £65,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards public events in the town, educational resources for theatre and drama teachers across the country and new online resources for everyone.

Councillor Richard Henry, executive member for children, young people and leisure at Stevenage Borough Council, said: “People from Stevenage will recognise the name and those who travel on the train will have whizzed by the theatre named in his honour, but what do any of us really know about Edward Gordon Craig? Across Europe, Craig is revered as a pioneer of theatre so it’s exciting for us at Stevenage Museum that this exhibition will attract people from far and wide as we delve into the life of one of Stevenage’s most famous sons.”

An older Edward Gordon Craig. Picture submitted by Andy Purves.

An older Edward Gordon Craig. Picture submitted by Andy Purves. - Credit: Archant

Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are delighted to support this project which is not only celebrating Gordon Craig’s life and work but also taking his story back to Stevenage – where it began.

“With crucial support from volunteers, the exhibition will ensure communities can explore the heritage of the namesake of their theatre and the legacy he had for the town and modern theatre.”

A new website to accompany the museum’s display and to give greater national and international access to Craig’s ideas is now live – take a look at www.edwardgordoncraig.co.uk.