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Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust (SGT) has been set up by a group of arts and heritage organisations to maintain the Guildhall of St George in King’s Lynn as a working theatre and to re-establish the complex of buildings, which surrounds it, as an arts centre for the community.
The medieval guildhall dating from 1406 has been a working theatre for six centuries, making it the oldest working theatre in the UK by 300 years, and it is important that tradition continues. Academics are confident that Shakespeare would have played there as part of the company which came to Lynn in 1592.
The building is owned by the National Trust and leased to the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. In the Fifties it became the centre of the annual King’s Lynn Festival and for decades was a thriving arts centre. More recently the guildhall has become simply a hall for hire and is in great need of repair and renovation.
Fearing that closure was inevitable, Lynn Arts Culture and Heritage (LArCH) was formed in an attempt to encourage investment and reuse of the theatre and several galleries at the complex. Last autumn, learning that a wealthy individual wished to take over the guildhall and turn it into a gallery to house his art collection and alarmed that this could spell the end to live theatre, LArCH established the Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust. It is now in discussion with the National Trust and the borough council, aiming to form a comprehensive arts centre for community use and to ensure regular use of the guildhall as a working theatre.
Now the monumental task is to raise money – for the guildhall itself, which is in serious need of repair and refurbishment, and to re-establish the arts centre to provide performance, educational and learning opportunities for all and the visual arts. Initially this means raising £50,000 and then £5m for modernisation and re-development.
SGT cannot do this alone, it needs the help of the entire community. If we are successful, King’s Lynn will have a formidable arts centre and the town will be on the national and international map as a centre for Shakespeare and his works.
You can help achieve all this simply by joining the West Norfolk Wins Lottery and, at the same time, benefit from the chance of winning too. Good luck to you.
- Tim FitzHigham, Trustee, Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust.
"As a Norfolk man, I have kept a keen and supportive eye on developments at St George's Guildhall over recent years. The work of LArCH and now Shakespeare's Guildhall Trust is a vital step towards ensuring we keep this incredible theatre working. I have many fond memories of the Guildhall and I hope to create many more in the future. Please support the trust in its endeavours."
- Stephen Fry.
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