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The Rose Slowly Grows on Bankside

A bold, exciting vision to transform part of London’s Bankside by making the site of The Rose Playhouse – the birthplace of English theatre – into a global centre of Elizabethan culture is to be unveiled.

The Rose, which staged early productions of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Marlowe, is the only complete remaining site of a sixteenth-century theatre on Bankside and is situated below an office block occupied by WPP, the British advertising multinational. 

Since 1989, when the theatre was first discovered, the Rose Theatre Trust, selflessly led by Chair Harvey Sheldon and his team of advisors, scholars, and volunteers has done a brilliant job of ensuring that the fragile structure is sensitively preserved and that it gained Scheduled Ancient Monument Status.

Now the Trust, which includes former local MP Sir Simon Hughes, is starting another chapter with the appointment, as Harvey’s successor, of Professor Kathy Dacre – previously the driving force behind the creation of the £30 million Shakespeare North Playhouse in Knowsley, Liverpool – is among eight new trustees from broader and more diverse backgrounds.

Their challenge, as well as raising vital funds to continue preservation and exploration work, will be to transform the surrounding space into a flourishing venue for performances, exhibitions, community activities, and links to local schools and colleges to promote Elizabethan theatre studies.

The eminent theatre architect Nick Helm, who designed Shakespeare North Playhouse, near the site of England’s first indoor theatre where Shakespeare’s company is believed to have performed, will continue his association of more than a decade with the Trust.

International Rose Ambassadors are being appointed to raise awareness and funds and the first ambassador from the US has already agreed to a substantial donation. Meanwhile, the Trust will accelerate its events programme with its UK Friends and increase its activity through social and other media to spread news about the project and to help with fund-raising. 

Professor Dacre said:  “Harvey Sheldon has done a magnificent job in preserving the Rose for the United Kingdom. Now we want to capitalise on that by making it a national and international centre celebrating Elizabethan culture – an extraordinarily fertile period of artistic activity.”

It’s no coincidence that the latest news from the Rose Playhouse Bankside is released around St. Crispin’s Day, a day famous for Henry V’s exhortation of “we happy few” at Agincourt in Shakespeare’s play. Everyone involved in the Rose Theatre Trust is now steeling themselves for a gentler but determined campaign of events and fundraising over the next 12 months. 

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