Celebrating Patrick Spottiswoode

  Today we recognise the work of Patrick Spottiswoode, who, after dedicating 36 years to Shakespeare’s Globe, is stepping down as our long-serving Director and Founder of Globe Education

7 minute read

On 25 April 1984, Patrick Spottiswoode started his job at the Globe. He had been interviewed by Diana Devlin and was going to take a year out of his doctoral studies but ended up staying over 36 years. Over that time, he founded and developed an Education department that not only rivals theatres worldwide but also any Education department in a cultural organisation. This is not just in terms of its size but more importantly in its varied and inspiring approach to learning.

A black and white photograph of four people wearing hard hats on a construction site.

Patrick with Charlotte Wanamaker on the building site of the Globe Theatre.

Two men lay brick foundations.

Patrick helps lay the brick foundations of the Globe Theatre.

Our CEO, Neil Constable, describes Patrick’s early involvement:

“Thirteen years before the completion of the Globe, a period when the future of the project, always uncertain, was in jeopardy, Patrick was one of a small team dedicated to keeping alive Sam Wanamaker’s dream of a reconstructed Globe Theatre at the heart of an educational and artistic centre in Southwark. Back in the mid-1980s he ran and was instrumental in establishing the ‘Bear Gardens Museum of the Shakespearean Stage’, at the Trust’s old headquarters on Bear Gardens, half way between the brick foundations of the original Globe and the concrete shell surrounding the foundations of what was to be its reconstruction on Bankside. Here, he helped to keep the project visible – organising exhibitions, talks, concerts, readings and other performances in studio spaces within the museum and on a recycled reconstruction of the stage of the 17th-century Cockpit Theatre.

A sketch of an office.

Patrick’s office in Bear Gardens, 10 February 1987, sketched by June Everett.

Three people lift a sign saying Globe Education Centre up a ladder.

Patrick helps install the Globe Education Centre sign in 1994.

Out of these modest origins, in which Patrick was one of a very small team who did everything to keep the Globe project alive – from building maintenance to front-of-house to running the museum shop – grew a programme of lectures and workshops for schools and universities which laid the foundations of Globe Education, formally established in 1989.”

Patrick has inspired countless young people and adults with his innovative approach to education as the ‘soul of lively action’ (John Marston, The Malcontent) in which the experience of performance lies at the heart of discovering Shakespeare and his contemporaries. In contrast to many people’s first encounter with Shakespeare through the dry, rote learning of text in school or the unimaginative education packs that Education departments churn out, Globe Education was and continues to be thought-provoking, challenging and collaborative. Before lockdown, we enjoyed annual visits of over 130,000 students to the Globe but the impact of Patrick’s work is felt internationally.

Two actors kiss on stage, on a platform that extends into the audience in the yard

Patrick is responsible for the amazing partnership with Deutsche Bank which led to Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank, an annual production created especially for young people and students. The Merchant of Venice was our production in 2014. Photographer: Amit Lennon.

It is impossible to encompass all of Patrick’s achievements but a few highlights will give a sense of the breadth and diversity. Patrick is responsible for the amazing partnership with Deutsche Bank which led to Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank from 2007, an annual production aimed at schools that offers free tickets for all London and Birmingham state schools; the local connection is kept alight through our annual Our Theatre production, Concert for Winter and our Youth Theatre group; the funding for the decoration of the Heavens of the Globe stage was conceived as a massive education project called Globelink, organized with Lynn Williams and Jackie Haighton; there have been a myriad of annual festivals ranging from Shakespeare and Islam; the development of our internationally famous Lively Action established with Rosemary Linnell, Jeanne Strickland, Fiona Banks and continued through Georghia Ellinas and Lucy Cuthbertson, shows young people how Shakespeare can come alive through performance and the development of a Higher Education and Research department, led by Professor Farah Karim-Cooper, which is a leader in scholarly trailblazing on Shakespeare and his contemporaries, most recently shown in the third Shakespeare and Race festival.

A procession of people walk outside a building site

Patrick leads the Globelink procession in 1993.

A group of five people gather on stage, holding a plaque.

Patrick with Mark Rylance for Our Theatre in 1998.

Patrick has influenced all parts of the Globe in ways that are not readily known or apparent. For example, he was the person who introduced Claire van Kampen (Head of Music 1995-2005) and Mark Rylance (Artistic Director, 1995-2005) to the project and from the outset he began collecting books for what would become Shakespeare’s Globe Library & Archive. His knowledge of rare books and early modern plays has created an incredible collection. One of the most extraordinary gifts came from the Tate Library, Brixton in 1987. Patrick tells the remarkable story of how this came about:

“A Librarian faxed me with an offer of some copies of original books and plays. The Library needed to make space for videos. Some would not be of interest, he advised, because they were copies of plays from the late 17th century. I drove to Brixton and collected 2 tea chests of books, which I took home. I started unpacking the boxes and found some beautifully bound theatre history books in excellent condition. I then found some quartos. Original quartos – about 30 of them – of late 17th century plays in heinous municipal library bindings. But they were not copies, they were originals – or original copies. But the prize was a 1622 quarto of a play called Herod and Antipater – also rebound badly. Gold dust. Published the same year as Othello…and rarer than an Othello quarto, I believe.”

A man holds a script, gesturing out to an audience.

Patrick in our Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Apart from the vision of Sam Wanamaker, Patrick’s approach to education was based on two mentors. The first was Ronald Watkins (1904-2001) whom he met in 1985 when Watkins’ gave an inspirational lecture cum performance on the Cockpit stage at Bear Gardens. Watkins had retired from Harrow School where he had set up an Elizabethan style theatre in its Speech Room. Patrick decided to make recordings of Watkins’ lectures and he recalls how he “would drive to Harrow one Sunday every month for supper and a pep talk. On every visit Ronnie would start by asking, “do you still believe in the Cause?” It was listening to Ronnie that converted me into becoming a Globe missionary. Ronnie opened my eyes, for the first time, to the importance of the architecture. I became a Globe-aholic.” Patrick’s passion for the Cause has never diminished and it has motivated incalculable others to become Globe missionaries.

His second mentor was Martin Wright, who taught Patrick at Warwick University. Wright demonstrated the value of understanding the context and performance of little-known plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, which led to Patrick’s idea for Re-Discovering Plays in 1995, later known as Read Not Dead. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Globe project was trying to combat the relentless cynicism and hostility that dismissed the project as a Disneyesque Shakespearean theme park and needed to show it was a serious, research based initiative. Patrick also wanted to pull away from Shakespeare-centricity. Read Not Dead’s format invites actors to rehearse an unseen play in the morning and perform/read the play to an audience in the afternoon. Many actors have taken part including Julian Glover in the first performance of Nathan Field’s Amends for Ladies. The second production was Westward Ho! featuring Prunella Scales, her husband Tim West and son Samuel West and the series is still going strong 25 years later.

Two actors pretend to fight on stage

Read Not Dead, our project to perform the ‘unknown’ plays of the early modern period, was born in 1995 from an idea by Patrick Spottiswoode.

Patrick, known for his expert punning and charismatic storytelling, kept the Globe Education team buoyed up during lockdown with a series of daily recollections about his experiences at the Globe, called ‘Ed-defying’. In one of them he recounts a tour he gave to the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in 1997:

“At the end of the tour the Bishop with great warmth said “Thank you. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful how you have remembered the Globe”. I felt crushed. An hour of nervous exhaustion for that? But then the follow-up…”meaning it is a wonderful act of re-membering as opposed to dis-membering”. I recalled the Ghost of Hamlet’s injunction to his son to ‘Remember me’. Perhaps he doesn’t only mean ‘don’t forget me, boy’ but also demands for the past to be ‘re-membered’.”

As Patrick retires as Director and Founder of Globe Education we are at the end of an era. We are fortunate that Patrick will continue in an honorary role as Founder Director, Globe Education and as a Senior Research Fellow to assist with the Globe project going forward.

“We will lose a much-treasured friend and colleague but I feel confident that Patrick in his new roles will continue to play a much valued and important part in our lives and successes.” We will certainly ‘re-member’ him and keep alive his insightful approaches to education.”

— Neil Constable

A crowd of people watch as a man leads a group of young actors on to a stage.

Patrick leads the participants of the Sam Wanamaker Festival onto the Globe Theatre stage in 2018. Photographer: Cesare Di Giglio.

You approach the presence
Of a most worthy learned gentleman.
This little isle holds not a truer friend
Unto the arts.

— Sir Thomas More


With thanks to Mel Chetwood.