It was in the mid-eighties that I first became involved with the Shakespearean theatre, as one of the first ‘Friends of Shakespeare’s Globe’ - even before the builders started digging a massive hole in the ground. This of course was to become the undercroft of the world-renowned Shakespeare`s Globe on Bankside, inspired by the late Sam Wanamaker.
Sam had a knack of persuading people to organise (or take part in) fund-raising events, and he was aware of the importance of keeping the Globe`s progress in the public eye. The first big event I attended was in 1987 when HRH the Duke of Edinburgh performed the Ground Breaking Ceremony by unveiling of the last oak construction post (timber from the Windsor Estate).
Following on from this, I became involved with numerous fund-raising events such as producing (and performing in) concerts in converted warehouse, (now
demolished) which was used as the temporary Globe offices, exhibition centre and ‘Elizabethan theatre’ in the Bear Gardens - just around the corner from where the Globe now stands.
In 1988 I acquired a splendid ‘Queen Elizabeth’ costume and was asked to do numerous fund-raising appearances at events to mark the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada and had to make the famous ‘Tilbury Speech’.
It was around this time (during International Shakespeare Week) that I was also asked to appear in costume on the Globe site, when Sam, aided by ‘Friend-of the Globe’ Mr Stanley Shakespeare, gathered together over 500 other Shakespeares from all over the country (and USA) for a special event, and Alleyn Old Boy Julian Glover gave the “O for a Muse of Fire” speech to the delighted audience - and the TV cameras!
In 1989, the well-preserved archaeology of the Rose was discovered during excavations of the site to re-develop a new office block - just a stone`s throw from the Globe site. Sam was quick to latch onto this news as a wonderful opportunity to share the spotlight! So when the ‘Save the Rose’ campaign was launched, he asked me to don my Queen Elizabeth costume and take an entourage of costumed actors (including one dressed as ‘Shakespeare’) to parade down Park Street, accompanied by a Tudor-style band, and of course we caught the attention of the BBC`s TV news cameras! The campaign became a major international news story, and several celebrities from the theatre world such as Lord Olivier, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench, gave their support.
Not long after this occasion Sam invited me to work for him one day a week, helping to organise fund-raising events at the Globe. One of my first jobs was organising the background music when Dame Judi came to lay a foundation stone. I remember seeing her wearing a hard hat (don`t forget, it was a building site!) and she was ushered into a mechanical digger, and having received prior instructions, proceeded to lift the foundation stone into position, but unfortunately must have pressed the wrong button, and promptly knocked over a couple of barriers! However, she did manage to complete her task successfully - to much applause from the spectators!
In 1992 HRH Prince Edward was invited to unveil the first of the bays, which had been built in the workshop and flat-packed for its journey to the Globe site. I was deputed to organise the music, a balloon release and water display from the Fire Brigade`s boat on the Thames. The balloons were due to be released at 12 noon to coincide with the unveiling, and that was the cue for the fire brigade to turn their hose pipes on. Unfortunately, no-one had considered the state of the tide in the river, and by mid-day it was at its lowest ebb! The men in the fire boat realised this, so they put on an extra spurt which could then be seen above the high river wall which divided the Globe site from the bankside. Sadly though, it wasn`t appreciated by the distinguished guests standing below the river level inside the Globe site; they all thought it was raining and put up their umbrellas! Well, don`t blame me; it was Sam`s idea!
Another royal event for which I supplied a fanfare, was when HRH Princess Michael of Kent came to see a performance on the temporary stage of The Merry Wives of Windsor by a German theatre company - in German. Nothing went wrong on that occasion!
Around this time there was a plan afoot to build a helicopter pad above Cannon Street Station, to ferry City businessmen to and from Heathrow Airport, which would mean frequent flying over the Globe at low altitude - and a great deal of noisy interruption. Sam wasn`t having any of this, so he instigated a campaign to fight the plan. A consultative meeting was held at the Guildhall between the officials and the protesters, which included a large contingency of Equity members, and Sam phoned me and asked me to don my costume again and bring along some colleagues (in costume) as he was arranging for the press and TV cameras to be at the Guildhall. So we got changed in the Bear Gardens offices and walked over Southwark Bridge to the Guildhall, and guess what, people passing by didn`t bat an eyelid at seeing a group of characters in period costume strolling nonchalantly along the pavement! Well, this is London, and anything can happen! I`m glad to say though, that all our efforts paid off and we managed to stop the helicopter pad from being built.
It was in 1990, while chatting to Sam one day about when I used to sing madrigals at college, he suggested that I should form a madrigal group and we could do fund-raising performances, and he said he would arrange for us to have some period costumes, as he had a friend who worked in the wardrobe at the National Theatre. So that`s how The Friends` Musick started. It`s had a number of varying titles since then, and the old costumes have now been ‘retired’ (well, most of them!).
In the early 90s the BBC launched its first National Music Day, and The Friends` Musick did a live broadcast from the stage of the ‘Elizabethan theatre’ in the Bear Gardens, and in subsequent years I organised an annual Festival of Early Music (later to be performed on the temporary stage on the Globe site), plus an exhibition of period musical instruments made by the students at the College of Furniture.
Even in those days, when the Globe was still a hole in the ground, it wasn`t all Early Music being performed there. Knowing that Sam was a jazz enthusiast, I decided to put on a jazz concert one afternoon, with two leading players, my husband Dave Gelly (sax) and the late Campbell Burnap (trombone) and rhythm section. Sam, ever - mindful of the publicity, got an Evening Standard photographer to take shots of them before the concert in hard hats standing on the scaffolding with their instruments - and a fine view of St Paul`s Cathedral in the background! Thus, the first-ever jazz concert was launched at the Globe.
In July 1993 Sam was awarded an honorary CBE for his work in reconstructing the Globe, although of course there was still a great deal more to be done. At that time it was not widely known that Sam was suffering from prostate cancer, and he died in December of that year. After his death, the scene began to change and the ‘Big Business Boys’ started to move in. I soon became aware that they weren`t interested in ‘small’ fund-raising efforts, and some of us began to feel marginalised, so we decided to reduce our efforts. One of the last big events I helped to organise was an Advent Carol Service at Southwark Cathedral in 1996, in aid of the Globe and Cancer Research. The music was provided by Alleyn`s School Orchestra, The Friends` Musick, and a recorder consort. Seasonal songs were performed in costume and lit candles were carried as we moved around the cathedral.
The last event that I took part in (but didn`t have any part in organising) was The Festival of Firsts in 1997 when HM the Queen came to open the Globe. My choir was invited to sing madrigals in the Piazza (the yard surrounding the theatre), and I had a special invitation to attend the Opening Ceremony. Some scenes from Henry V were performed onstage and at one point Jane Lapotaire, dressed as the first Queen Elizabeth, entered on a white horse into the groundlings’ area and with a Shakespeare speech, proceeded to address Her Majesty who was sitting in one of the ‘Gentlemens` Rooms’ in the Middle Gallery. While Jane was giving her speech, her horse started to get a bit restless and began to ‘clip-clop’- causing some of us who were standing nearby to move away to a safe distance! As a result, I lost concentration, so to this day I still can`t remember what that speech was about! Nevertheless, all`s well that ends well, and judging by the tumultuous applause and cheering, the Grand Opening by the Queen proved to be a great success, and I`m sure Sam would have been so proud.