Cantilevers, Christopher Stevens
Project Architect on the 1962 Christopher Stevens talks about the day the props were removed from the building and the cantilevers had to support the building by themselves
Lending a hand in the Box Office, Patricia Kemp
Former Usherette and Head of Front of House in the Minerva Theatre Patricia Kemp describes lending a hand in the Box Office before the process was computerised
Wardrobe huts, Eileen Norris
Former Assistant Stage Manager Eileen Norris explains how CFT housed it’s Wardrobe department in the early years
Laurence Olivier and Door 6, Val Leggate
Usherette Val Leggate describes working front of house in the 1960s and how Laurence Olivier wanted things done
Wobbling windows, Christopher Stevens
Project Architect on the 1962 build Christopher Stevens talks about how he and his team dealt with problems with the building
Prompt corner, Rosemary Chapman
Assistant Stage Manager during the 1969 season Rosemary Chapman explains where she would sit during a performance to prompt any actors who forgot their lines
Collapsing seats, Christopher Stevens
Christopher Stevens talks about issues they had with the seating in the auditorium during the first season
Joyce Grenfell, Eileen Norris
Former Assistant Stage Manager Eileen Norris describes meeting Joyce Grenfell in a rather unusual situation
Email [email protected] for access to the full oral history interviews or click the files below to read the available summaries.
All interviews were recorded between 2013 and 2015, CFT digital archive
Photograph of the newly completed auditorium showing seats and fully loaded rigging as well as the corner of the state of the art control room situated at the back of the auditorium. One of the vomitoriums can also be seen – an entrance into the auditorium used by cast as well as members of the audience. Vomitoriums are a key feature of auditoriums containing a thrust stage.
This is the first scrapbook in a series collected by Chichester Festival Theatre’s founder, Leslie Evershed-Martin. He started collecting ephemera in the run up to the Theatre’s opening and continued until his death in 1991. This particular scrapbook is one of two which provide a personal insight into the opening of the Theatre in 1962. They are presented as seen in their physical form.
Highlights include a personal telegram from Vivien Leigh and the Queen.
Click here to download a comprehensive and fully searchable contents page for this scrapbook.
This artist’s impression of what Chichester Festival Theatre would look like was created before it was built. This card was used as a Christmas card by Leslie Evershed-Martin and was put by him into one of his scrapbooks.
As part of early fundraising initiatives, people were encouraged to buy a bag of cement to help build Chichester Festival Theatre, concrete being a key material used in the original building. There was a display in the Chichester Festival Theatre shop at the Market Cross in the centre of Chichester. When someone brought a bag of cement they were given a card like this one to pass to a friend.
These postcards were sold in the Chichester Festival Theatre shop – an initiative set up by the Theatre Society initially to help raise funds for the building of the Theatre. This one shows the exterior of the Theatre from ground level. One of the large plains of concrete supporting the building on either side can clearly be seen. These would later be swallowed up by extensions.
Photograph showing an aerial perspective on the working Festival Theatre from the back and side. The ramp system needed to move sets in and out of the first floor auditorium can be seen as can the temporary huts erected to provide extra storage and wardrobe space. An empty Northgate carpark can also be seen as can St Paul’s Church in the background.
H21.8 x W23.8cm, Photographer Reg Wilson, date unknown
Photograph of the original architects model of Chichester Festival Theatre presented by Powell and Moya to Leslie Evershed-Martin in November 1959. This model became an integral part of the efforts to garner support for the project, traveling with Evershed-Martin to a succession of meetings and events over the coming three years.
Chichester Festival Theatre in construction, showing the structure of the ceiling, suspension cables and rigging as well as the stage, the original semi-permanent set in the Juliet balcony and the top level band stand nearing completion as well as ladders up into the rigging.
Chichester Festival Theatre in construction, showing the structure of the ceiling, suspension cables and rigging as well as the stage, the original semi-permanent set in the Juliet balcony and the top level band stand as well as the limited amount of backstage space.
Jean Skaptason came to Chichester to work in Festival Theatre’s costume workshop in 1962. She later joined the fledgling National Theatre company and came back to Chichester throughout the partnership between the Festival Theatre and the National Theatre under Laurence Olivier’s leadership. In these clips she looks back on working life in those first few years including working pressures, living arrangements and the relationship the Theatre had with the rest of Chichester.
Jean Skaptason by Karen Robinson 10 Dec 2013. Email [email protected] for access to the full oral history interview or click the file below to read a summary.
Gerard Soothill’s parents were among founding members of the Festival Theatre Society, a society formed to help raise the funds needed to get the Theatre built and who were then given priority booking for theatre tickets. In this clip he looks back on the early societys efforts to raise funds in 1961 and 1962.
Gerard Soothill by Alex Habgood 29 Jan 2014. Email [email protected] for access to the full oral history interview or click the file below to read a summary.
Leslie Williams was breaking new ground in theatre education in the early 60s when he first came across Leslie Evershed-Martin and his plans to build a theatre in Chichester. In this clip he looks back on this moment.
Leslie Williams by Karen Robinson 20 Aug 2014. Email [email protected] for access to the full oral history interview.
Eileen Norris came to Chichester Festival Theatre as an aspiring director who wanted to witness Laurence Olivier work with great actors. She was employed nominally as an assistant stage manager but quickly became involved in helping to solve many of the problems faced by the fledgling Theatre over the course of its first few seasons, such as how to feed the cast and crew on a budget and how to help audience members out of their seats if they need medical assistance during a production.
In these clips she describes what she learned watching Olivier work on The Chances and The Broken Heart.
Eileen Norris by Rib Davis 20 Jun 2014. Email [email protected] for access to the full oral history interview or click the file below to read a summary.
Alison Anderson’s parents were next-door neighbours and good friends of Leslie and Carol Evershed-Martin and were enthusiastic supporters of the plans to found and build Chichester Festival Theatre. In these clips Alison Anderson reflects on the impression that the Evershed-Martins made on her as a child.
Allison Anderson by Gill Bushby 04 Sep 2014. Email [email protected] for access to the full oral history interview or click the file below to read a summary.
This is an extract from super 8 film taken by founding members of the Theatre Society, Mr and Mrs Gibbons, showing key events from the Theatre’s founding and early years. This clip shows moments from Chichester Festival Theatre’s opening night including members of the audience arriving and interior shots of the foyer and auditorium.
Opening night, 5 July 1962, CFT digital archive
This is an extract from super 8 film taken by founding members of the Theatre Society, Mr and Mrs Gibbons, showing key events from the Theatre’s founding and early years. This clip shows members of the cast of Chichester Festival Theatre’s first production The Chances getting ready in their dressing rooms alongside moments from a dress rehearsal.
This is an extract from super 8 film taken by founding members of the Theatre Society, Mr and Mrs Gibbons, showing key events from the Theatre’s founding and early years. This clip shows moments from Chichester Festival Theatre’s Topping Out ceremony – an event that marks the building reaching its highest point. This clip includes views of the Festival Theatre under construction and shots of Artistic Director, Laurence Olivier and the Theatre’s founder, Leslie Evershed-Martin giving speeches.
Topping Out Ceremony, 23 November 1961, CFT digital archive
Chichester Festival Theatre in construction, showing the installation of the pre-cast concrete that would form the back half of the auditorium. This would be cantilevered over the entrance to the foyer below, fully supported by rings of concrete that would later be installed around the sides of the auditorium. Once the building was complete the wooden props (such as the large pillar that can be seen in this photo) were removed and the building allowed to adjust under its own weight.
Chichester Festival Theatre in construction, looking into the as yet roofless auditorium. The empty area for the stage can clearly be seen and behind this, the small amount of backstage space available in the first years of the Theatre’s history.
Chichester Festival Theatre in construction, showing the empty area for the stage, the concrete bandstand directly above this, spaces for two balconies for seating at either side, the outside of the cantilevered top half of the auditorium overhanging the entrance to the foyer below.
Leslie Evershed-Martin, Chichester Festival Theatre’s founder, making a speech at the topping out ceremony for the new Festival Theatre building. (When the build reaches its highest point). To his right is Mary Bessborough whose husband, Eric (The Earl of Bessborough) was on the original board.