126 paintbrushes, 36 Mannequins and an anvil...
"This is a perfect example of collaborative working which will give the RSC the opportunity to train the next generation of costume makers as well as encouraging more people to visit Stratford-upon-Avon.”
The restoration of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Costume Workshop in Stratford-upon-Avon has been completed thanks to support from across the world - and locally a £1million grant from The Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
The RSC has long been a key driver of Warwickshire's vibrant tourism sector and is strongly placed to remain so after the pandemic following the redevelopment of its historic costume workshop.
The Centre boasts the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre and the future of costume-making on the historical site has now been secured through a mix of public and private support.
Over 30,000 people from around the world supported the Stitch In Time fundraising campaign, alongside funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Local Growth Fund. With gifts from other trusts, foundations, companies and individuals, £8.7 million was raised for the restoration and redevelopment.
The 30-strong team of costume makers has moved back into the new workshop which has more space and daylight and is now equipped to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities to retain the costume-making skills and crafts locally.
For the first time, the Costume Workshop will be open to visitors to witness the skills used every day to create RSC costumes and to see the restored Grade II listed buildings that now sit alongside newly created spaces. Guided tours are expected to start in 2022.
The restoration will help ensure that the RSC and surrounding local businesses, continue to benefit from many visitors.
Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director said: “Thank you to all who have supported the restoration and redevelopment of our Costume Workshop. The team creates amazing costumes every year but were doing so in conditions not fit for purpose.
"Costumes are integral to an actor’s performance and to them becoming the character they are to play. As Judi Dench said, ‘no matter how much rehearsal time you have, you cannot get fully into the part until you are in costume’.
“We make, repair and recycle hundreds of costume pieces each year, which are seen by audiences around the world. Costumes have been made on this site continuously since at least the 1940s, and the workshop now has the costume-making facilities to secure the legacy of our costume-making skills and the heritage buildings that house them.”
The Costume Workshop team had to relocate for two years whilst the restoration and redevelopment took place. This involved packing and moving a vast variety of stock including over 1,700 reels of thread, 3,500 pairs of shoes, 126 paintbrushes, 97 hat blocks, 36 Mannequins, 45 sewing machines, seven tailor's hams and an anvil.
All items are now in the new Costume Workshop which is home to many specialist skills, and crafts including men’s and women’s costume-making, millinery and jewellery, dyeing and costume painting, costume props and footwear.
The workshop sits opposite the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres on the site of the 1887 Memorial Theatre Scene Dock, which is now the new entrance to the building.
Helen Peters, Board Director and Chair of the CWLEP’s culture and tourism business group, added: “The £1 million awarded from the Local Growth Fund will enable the public to access the costume workshop for the first time which will be a major boost to tourism in the town as we all recover from the pandemic.
“The CWLEP Strategic Reset Framework is focused on encouraging enterprise and innovation to drive forward the economy and this is a perfect example of collaborative working which will give the RSC the opportunity to train the next generation of costume makers as well as encouraging more people to visit Stratford-upon-Avon.”