Who is Gordon Craig?

10 Feb 2017

Stevenage Museum shines a spotlight on a world-renowned theatrical pioneer and artist

Edward Gordon Craig, one of the most radical and influential forces on the world’s stages is to be the subject of a newly curated major exhibition at Stevenage Museum which has been made possible thanks to players of the National Lottery.

Born in Stevenage in 1872 to actress Ellen Terry and architect Edward William Godwin, 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. Stevenage Borough Council commemorated him when they named the town’s new theatre in 1975. But his revolutionary ideas and his extraordinary life also made him a controversial and divisive figure.

The new exhibition 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 Stevenage 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.

The set of rare and valuable items brought to Stevenage Museum include Craig’s inspirational designs for the stage; some of his highly-respected work as a visual artist with engraving and bookplate prints; finely illustrated books and periodicals as well as marionettes and a model theatre crafted and used by Craig as he prepared for his productions.

There’s also a brand-new website to accompany the museum’s display and to give greater national and international access to Craig’s ideas and work at www.edwardgordoncraig.co.uk.

Opening on Saturday 11 February 2017 and running for four months, the exhibition at Stevenage Museum is free to visit. It’s 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 (HLF) 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.”

A spokesperson from Eton College said: “Eton College is very happy to be able to help promote the work of Edward Gordon Craig at Stevenage Museum and in schools and colleges across the country. We are pleased to be able to lend examples of his drawings, prints and marionettes, but, above all, we are delighted that his innovative ideas about theatre production will be introduced to a fresh generation of young people.”

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.”