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A new home for Shakespeare

02 November 2007

Cardiff University expertise is supporting a major funding application to reconstruct a playhouse described as "the most important Shakespearean theatre yet to be rebuilt" in an unexpected location.

The idea of rebuilding the first indoor theatre in England, and the only purpose-built playhouse outside London in Shakespeare’s lifetime dates from a conference organised by Professor Richard Wilson, School of English, Communication and Philosophy in 1999.

The Elizabethan playhouse is located at Prescot, Liverpool and with Professor Wilson as academic adviser the project has now reached the final stage of a £27 million ‘Big Lottery’ application to fund the reconstruction.

The application coincides with the run-up to Liverpool’s year as Cultural Capital of Europe, but would not have been possible without the rediscovery of the ‘Lancashire Shakespeare’ connections substantiated by Professor Wilson in books such as Secret Shakespeare.

Professor Wilson said: "The possibility of extending the ‘Shakespeare industry’ to Liverpool has enormous economic, cultural and educational implications for the North-West.

"Our aim is for the theatre to become a focus for the rediscovery of a crucial part of the Shakespeare story: the great touring network that carried Elizabethan actors through Britain and Europe as far as Denmark, Germany and Poland."

Through Professor Wilson’s research it emerges that the reason the playhouse was built in Prescot was that Shakespeare’s company acted for the Earl of Derby throughout the 1590s. Plays such as Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream were likely to have been staged there for the Earl.

Professor Martin Kayman, Head of the Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy said: "As academic adviser Professor Wilson has provided the narrative which underpins the ‘Big Lottery’ application, and has liaised closely with the architectural team to design the best possible reconstruction of the original playhouse for the benefit of future generations of scholars and students."

In the absence of plans, the project is to reconstruct the Cockpit in Court, a 1629 Downing Street theatre for which exact designs survive by the great architect Inigo Jones. Its reconstruction is supported by Shakespeare’s Globe as a northern venue for future Globe productions.

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ENCAP3 Shakespeare

Notes to Editors:

  1. Shakespeare North at the Cockpit was short-listed for the ‘Big Lottery’ award, and the project is now on the verge of major media attention. The reconstruction will provide a northern complement to Stratford and Southwark, and has attracted the enthusiastic support of universities across the North-West region. Under the chairmanship of the current Earl of Derby, the patrons of Shakespeare North include Cherie Blair, Helen Mirren, Phil Redmond and Patrick Stewart, as well as the Vice-Chancellors of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores Universities. The Artistic Director is David Thacker, formerly director of the Young Vic, and an Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. As the Chair of the Northern Shakespeare Trust (one of the two parent bodies, along with Knowsley Borough Council), Professor Wilson’s main role is as guardian of the intellectual and academic integrity of the project.
  2. Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of Britain’s leading research universities. Visit the University website at:
  3. The School of English, Communication and Philosophy has a world-wide reputation as a centre for research and publication in English Literature, Language Communication, Critical and Cultural Theory and Philosophy. Within English and Communication, the School has expertise across a wide range of topics, from Old Norse and Old English to post-colonialism, post-modernism and sociolinguistics. Its staff are internationally recognised and regularly cited in fields ranging as widely as: Early English culture; medieval studies; Shakespeare; Byron; Scott; Trollope; Crime fiction and criminography; Celtic literature in English; children’s literature; critical and cultural theory; feminist criticism; postmodernism; systemic, functional and computational linguistics; sociolinguistics; and cultural pragmatics. English Language and Literature was awarded the top "Grade 5" rating in the government-sponsored assessment of research quality within British universities. The teaching of language and communication has also been assessed as "Excellent" in the recent assessment of teaching quality.

Further Information:

Professor Richard Wilson (is available for interview on request)
School of English, Communication and Philosophy
Cardiff University

Emma Darling
Public Relations Office,
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 2087 4499