Shakespeare in Love with St George’s Guildhall King’s Lynn?

Interior or St. George's Guildhall, the oldest working theatre in the UK.
Interior or St. George’s Guildhall, the oldest working theatre in the UK, during Public Meeting of Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust.

Is it true that Shakespeare, himself,  graced the stage of St. George’s Guildhall Theatre in 1592? Hard to believe when looking at this Grade I listed building in need of much love, care and renovation. But yes, it is true!

It is “known in Shakespearian academic community that Shakespeare performed in King’s Lynn. We are very clear about this. There is new researchby Professor Matthew Woodcock of the UEA. He will be talking about it at the Shakespeare Festival. Shakespeare Guildhall Trust has done further researh to flesh out theories and there are academics within the Shakespearian world who have been researching this link for years, who know that not just Shakespeare came here. All of the key players in Elizabethan theatre and if any of you have watched Shakespeare in Love every single player that performed in that performed here in this theatre and that’s worth knowing about. It’s Robert Armin, it’s Richard Tarlton, it’s William Kemp. Big Elizabethan actors and comics.” Tim FitzHigham

But the first documented theatrical use of St. George’s Guildhall goes back to 1442. This makes it the oldest working theatre in the UK by hundreds of years.

It is in this building that a packed crowd sat on Sunday 27 January 2019 listening to Tim FitzHigham telling us all about the Shakespeare connection and Ivor Rowlands giving us a brief history of the building and its uses in the past.

The aims and visions of the recently formed Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust bring a buzz of excitement to the full house. The pride of the potential jewel that King’s Lynn is starts to be felt.

We should also be proud of the long history of royal patronage from Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary who paid money to refurbish theatre in the 50s, the Queen mother, a patron for 50 years and through to Lady Fermoy, grandmother of Diana Princess of Wales, patron of the King’s Lynn Festival. Prince Charles stated on Radio 3 over Christmas his love of music started watching performances on the Guildhall stage. We shouldn’t underestimate the value of living history.

It is not just the theatre that the Trust is talking about, it is the whole arts complex and it must work as a whole. it is the theatre, though, that has the potential to bring the venue to the international level. The interest in Shakespeare worldwide is phenomenal.

The vision presented by FitzHigham, “We would like to unlock the full financial and marketing potential of it being the oldest theatre, the oldest working theatre and the oldest theatrical space in the UK. If you go to google and put into google, ‘What is the oldest theatre in the UK?’ and a lot of people do, I suspect primarily from abroad, this doesn’t even come up in the top 10 and that needs changing because it’s older than all the rest of them by 100s of years. Now clearly people are interested in going to visit the oldest theatre in the UK but if you don’t tell them that this is it they’re not going to come.”

The Trust plan to maintain all groups that are current users of the complex. “It would be mad not to do that.” says FitzHigham. Work with schools, colleges and an international summer school are being talked about. There needs to be access for all.

For this vision, funding is needed. In the short term a feasibility study for the development needs to be realised. The costs are set at £50-100k. In the medium term £5-10m will be needed to transform the complex.

If you can help the trust in any way, financial or otherwise, please send an email to

The trustees of the Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust are (left to right):
Nick Balaam, Chair King’s Lynn Preservation Trust, Heritage Management Consultant.
Veronica Sekules, Director of GroundWork Gallery, Author and Art Historian.
Ivor Rowlands, Company Director, King’s Lynn Town Guide, West Norfolk Tourism Forum.
Tim FitzHigham, FRSA FRGS, Actor, Explorer, Comedian, Theatre Producer.
Adrian Parker, Friends of St Nicholas Chapel, Retired Planning Consultant.
Michael Hankinson, International Music Director and Composer.

To conclude, the aims of the Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust

  • Promote the knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment of performance and visual arts through the use of St George’s Guildhall, King’s Lynn.
  • Celebrate and continue its 600 years’ history as a living arts venue.
  • Provide educational and learning opportunities for all.

Background information regarding the Arts Centre and LArCH
Link to EDP recording of Public Meeting on facebook
Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust
Shakespeare Festival

Esther Boehm

Groundbreaking Sculpture

Fisheater, Lynn Chadwick, 1951

Figure Totem Beast: Sculpture in Britain in the 1950s is the name of a current exhibition at Tate Britain. It is noteworthy because the sculptures were made in the time after the Second World War where a growing optimism of a more humane society was contrasted with the fears of nuclear development in the Cold War. These opposing elements are explored through pieces in isolation, with couples or in groups. The pieces are dynamic and full of energy.

Lynn Chadwick, Conjunction, 1953

New methods and materials of working 3 dimensionally and carving through space were used and developed. Prominent was the use of welding and iron.

Lynn Chadwick learnt to weld in order to execute The Fisheater. An enormous skeletal free-standing mobile. One of his first. The lunging part of the sculpture is both sinister and beautiful with its graceful and delicate moving elements.

In Conjunction, Chadwick uses the new technique forming the outline of planes with welded metal and filling them with a plaster/iron mix now rusted to give the desired effect. It is also one of his first depictions of the human couple.

The Unknown Political Prisoner
Part of the display consists of entries to an international competition to design a monument to ‘The Unknown Political Prisoner’. Organised by London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1952, 3,500 artists from 57 countries entered. Although there was no apparent political bias, no entries came from east block countries.

Reg Butler, Working Model for ‘The Unknown Political Prisoner’ 1955-56

The Grand Prize went to Reg Butler. His planned 300 foot monument rising from a rock foundation was never realised.

Entries by Bernhard Heiliger (West Germany),  Luciano Minguzzi (Italy) and F.E. MacWilliam (Britain) were short-listed. The maquettes can be seen in the exhibition. A compelling maquette by Geoffrey Clarke is also shown. However, he entered a different model into the competition.

Human experience is transferred into animals creating symbolic totems in works by Elisabeth Frink, Henry Moore and others.

This exhibition is a wide ranging, thoughtful, exceptional collection of 3 dimensional work that is well worth exploring and absolutely essential for anyone interested in sculpture, British or otherwise.

Tate Britain until 4 February 2019
Find out more.

Smashing Success at Heritage Open Day

What a day! Perhaps it was the sunshine on 16 September that contributed to the wonderful good feeling on Heritage Open Day. Regardless, we were thrilled with the enthusiasm and turn out.

In the Shakespeare Barn, Michele Summers’ greeting and explanation of activities got everyone into the creative mood.

A good place to start was silk painting with Helena Anderson. Although slated as a demonstration, Helena gave the opportunity for anyone to try their hand.

With Tom Sharp, a figure could be modelled out of plasticine and added to the ever growing table of creations. There were no bounds to the individuality of all who created a figure.

Jo Halpin Jones demonstrated how a heritage photo could be restored digitally. Who would have thought that a crease or blemish on an old photo could vanish within minutes.

Tony Walsh was our on-site photographer. He was also on hand to give any technical support needed.

Oil painter, Maxine Byron, demonstrated her craft. She brought along students she is tutoring through the Stroke Association. I was impressed with what was achieved in a relatively short time and with no previous painting experience.

Helen and John Walker not only provided a workshop but gave anyone who passed their table the opportunity to create a small mosaic. A sense of accomplishment was obvious in the participants.

Kit Price Moss followed suit with her Printmaking Without a Press workshop.  Here experimentation yielded many varied works.

The final hands-on activity was our Heritage Banners. Anyone who had a photo or selfie taken in context of the Heritage Open Day could have it printed and add it to a banner using a PVA transfer process. I was grateful for the help and creative support of Stina Burger, Helen Breach and Lesley Williams.

Because the process is more time consuming than the day allowed, the finished banners will be shown at the Autumn Exhibition of the West Norfolk Artists Association (WNAA) at the Fermoy Gallery from 10-24 November. A video of Tom’s photo documentation of  Plasticine Mash-Up and the silk painting of balloons created by the public with Helena Anderson will also be shown.

After all to do in the Shakespeare Barn was done, it was just a short walk to see the exhibition in the Fermoy Gallery. All artists participating in the event were able to show their work. Cynthia Jackson and Ann Pointing were there to greet visitors. This was a taster of things to come at our Autumn Exhibition.

Members of the WNAA in partnership with KL Festival set out to draw attention to the former Arts Centre, specifically, the Fermoy Gallery and Shakespeare Barn. Our belief that the Arts Centre is a vital aspect of the community was our driving force. This was confirmed on the day. Anyone who had stated that the community of King’s Lynn was not interested in ART was proved wrong. What impressed us most was that families came in and tried everything on offer with vigour and enthusiasm. What a rewarding experience!

Esther Boehm


In Partnership with

Supported by

Banner supplied by Mr. Signs, King’s Lynn

The Legacy of Kettle’s Yard

1. House extension, downstairs Showing Italo Valenti’s collages (1964) and Lucie Rie’s bowl ‘The Wave’ (1971)

Looking at the origins of Kettle’s Yard in 1957, it is hard to imagine the legacy it has become. Although Jim Ede would have preferred a stately home, he was offered 4 tiny condemned slum dwellings from the president of the Cambridge Preservation Society.

The actual origins predate this. On first appearance it was his meeting Ben and Winifred Nicholson in about 1924 while he was an assistant at the Tate Gallery. In fact, it was a visit to the Louvre at 13 years of age and access to the Free Library at the Fitzwilliam at 15 where his love of early Italian painting began and started him on his collector’s journey.

This collection is also a personal journey of circumstance and chance meetings. It was Ben Nicholson who introduced Ede to contemporary art. He was able to purchase unsold Nicholson paintings for the price of the canvas and frame for the price of one to three pounds when he could afford it. Some, Nicholson gave him.

In 1926 his position at the Tate brought him into contact with Alfred Wallis. Again, he bought as many paintings as he could afford.

His collection of work from the estate Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was acquired “for a song” because nobody else wanted it.

Now the collection contains work by over 100 artists also including Joan Miró, Constantin Brancusi, Naum Gabo, Christopher Wood, Barbara Hepworth, David Jones, Henry Moore and Italo Valenti (one of my personal favourites).

I’m amazed at the forsight and humanity of Jim Ede. Ede describes Kettle’s Yard as “a continuing way of life from the last 50 years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculptures, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability which more and more we need to recognise if we are not to be swamped by all that is so rapidly opening up before us.” These words are as relevant today as when they were written. Maybe moreso.

The atmosphere of the house is exceptional through the mix of art and found objects. Through Ede’s nature collections we are reminded that this space is personal, home. The library is Ede’s actual library. All books are available to study. This in keeping with the open house tradition.

From 1957 to 1973 when the Ede’s lived there, their home was open to visitors every afternoon. Kettle’s Yard, today, continues in this spirit. It is a place to spend hours of discovery and well worth visiting again and again. A wonderful place to use and be.

In the new gallery Antony Gormley SUBJECT uses the space and architecture to show 5 works into which we are drawn, become participants or maybe even the subject (?).

It’s well worth watching the BBC documentary, imagine … Anthony Gormley: Being Human to gain tremendous insight into Gormley’s life and work. (Shown Thursday to Sunday.)

Antony Gormley SUBJECT runs until 27 August.

Kettle’s Yard
University of Cambridge
Castle Street

+44 (0)1223 748 100

Visit Kettle’s Yard website for more information.

Esther Boehm

Further photo information:
3. House cottages, downstairs Jim Ede’s bedroom table
4. House extension, upstairs Designed by Sir Leslie Martin, opened in 1970
7. Showing the Buddha from the Prang Sam Yot Temple, Lopburi, Thailand (13th or 14th century) and works by Mario Sironi, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Ben Nicholson
8. House extension, upstairs showing Winifred Nicholson’s ‘Roman Road’ (1927)
10. Installation view Antony Gormley SUBJECT © Antony Gormley
11. INFINTE CUBE © Antony Gormley

Photos 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 & 8 © Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge
Photos 3, 7 & 8 by Paul Allitt
Photos 5, 6 & 9 by Helena Anderson
Photos 10 & 11 by Benjamin Westoby

Spots, Spots and Still More Spots …

Damien Hirst, Myth and Legend, by the entrance to the hall at HOUGHTON HALL, NORFOLK
Photo by Pete Huggins

The first Damien Hirst piece, Sensation, is encountred while driving to the carpark. From the car it look looks like something from an amusement park or fun fair. Looking like brightly coloured plastic. On closer inspection, it appears to be a magnification of a section of skin complete with hairs.

This concept is carried through several works. Myth (unicorn) and Legend (Pegasus) are built with clean precision but at the same time highly stylised. The ‘outer skin’ is painted white, a stark contrast to areas where the skin is ‘peeled away’ to reveal the insides horrifyingly red with touches of pink and yellow.

The same graphic depiction of this scientific disecting into parts of the figures is seen in the oversized torso Temple and the massively grotesque The Virgin Mother. In the gift shop, you can recognise the same general feel in the type of anatomy books which inspired Hirst.

Damien Hirst, The Virgin Mother, in the Pleasure Grounds at HOUGHTON HALL, NORFOLK
Photo by Pete Huggins

The monochrome works may be subtle as far as colour goes but definitely not in content. Anatomy of an Angel in Cararra marble, carved with mechanical precision exposes sections of the anatomy to the bone. Wretched War – The Dream is Dead in silver shows a decapitated pregnant woman with baby exposed in the womb as already seen in The Virgin Mother. Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain in black is poignant at first glance but the use of scalpel and tailor’s scissors give an unexpected twist on a theme already blatantly conveyed by Marco d’Agrate in 1562.

Also on the grounds are Charity the oversized replica of a collection box in the shape of a sweet girl with a leg brace has been ripped open with a crowbar, coins strewn on the ground and The Hat Makes the Man after Max Ernst’s collage of 1920.

In the house, all Walpole and Cholmondeley family portraits were removed from the stately rooms of Houghton Hall and replaced with Hirst’s Colour Space painings. A total of 46 paintings are being displayed for the first time at Houghton. We were told by the guides that these were selected from the 300 paintings in the series made with the help of assistants.

The red walls of the Saloon provides an excellent backdrop for the first 8 paintings on display. What is striking about the paintings is the complete contrast to the sculptures outdoors. The dots are happy.  They are taken out of the rigid grid of the earlier Spot paintings. They interact. They make you smile.

Damien Hirst, Colour Space series, in the Saloon at HOUGHTON HALL, NORFOLK
Photo by Pete Huggins

Hirst says of his work: “I originally wanted the spots to look like they were painted by a human trying to paint like a machine. Colour Space is going back to the human element, so instead you have the fallibility of the human hand in the drips and inconsistencies. There are still no two exact colours that repeat in each painting, which is really important to me. I think of them as cells under a microscope. It felt right to show them somewhere historic rather than in a conventional gallery space and Houghton’s perfect. It feels totally right.”

Damien Hirst, Space, Time, Form, Matter, Substance, Change and Motion and Observe, Identify, Reason, Analyse, Measure, Modify and Reproduce, in The Stone Hall at HOUGHTON HALL, NORFOLK
Photo by Pete Huggins

Space, Time, Form, Matter, Substance, Change and Motion and Observe, Identify, Reason, Analyse, Measure, Modify and Reproduce are a kinetic translation of the spots into three dimensions. The balls dance randomly through the box for the 5 minutes when air is blown through. Then they rest and then the cycle begins again.

One of the many very helpful guides told me, “There is one thing about this exhibition, everyone is smiling. Some because they think it’s a joke and others because they really love the work.”

It’s well worth the visit to Houghton Hall to make up your own mind. The exhibition runs until 18 July. The outdoor sculptures will remain until September.

Visit the Houghton Hall website for more informaiton and booking.

All images ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018