Remembering Diana Devlin

  Our CEO Neil Constable pays tribute to Deputy Chair of the Globe Council, Diana Devlin, who has passed away this September

3 minute read

Diana Devlin met our founder, Sam Wanamaker, in January 1972. A family friend thought that Sam’s project to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside might be of interest. It was.

Diana began working for Sam that summer. She was lecturing at Goldsmiths, University of London and Sam turned to her for help. He had built a tent theatre adjacent to the current Globe site for a summer season of plays. Theatre and education were important bedfellows as far as Sam was concerned so he asked Diana to help set up and run an ambitious six-week summer school to complement the season, and then asked her to support a second summer school in 1973. It was an important beginning and one we treasure with 30 summer schools on offer last year in 2019.

A black and white photograph of a woman smiling into the camera whilst writing in a notepad

Diana Devlin, c.1980.

Diana was on successive Globe Boards until Sam asked her to become the Globe Administrator in 1985. A court case was looming which might have denied Sam access to the Globe site and quashed the project forever. Diana held the reins until the case was resolved in our favour and then stood down.

Diana helped train actors to run our Globe Theatre Guided Tours and also chaired our Museum Committee. A course in Heritage Interpretation was a natural next step and took her to Leeds Castle where she used her expertise to train guides in the art of interpreting the Castle for international visitors. Buckingham Palace took note of her success and she was responsible for the training of Palace guides for five years.

‘Sam Wanamaker, as we all know, had the vision to create a Globe on Bankside, but it was those like Diana who had the skills, energy and persistence to make it happen. But her legacy to us is not simply the timber, thatch and lime plaster we see around us in the Globe Theatre today. It is the principles, culture and attitudes by which Shakespeare’s Globe is run. Many generations we know will be grateful for her tireless energy, passion and commitment over the last four decades to help us become the international Shakespeare organisation we are today’
— Neil Constable

However, teaching and theatre were Diana’s real passions. In 1993, the year Sam died, she was appointed Head of Theatre Studies at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and taught there until 2013. She was always thrilled when her Guildhall graduates were given roles in a Globe production.

But Diana was always involved in Shakespeare’s Globe either as an adviser, board member or teacher. For over ten years, from 1995, she led popular seminars for the general public before our Read Not Dead performances. She was a member of the Globe Education Advisory Committee for several years and was a Globe Trustee when the Globe finally opened in 1997.

Four people stand smiling and laughing with each other

Diana Devlin (centre) with Sam Wanamaker, 1987.

Diana was Deputy Chair of the Globe Council since 2013. Her most recent contribution to Shakespeare’s Globe was her biography of Sam Wanamaker, Sam Wanamaker: A Global Performer, published in 2019 to mark the centenary of his birth.

Sam was the great pioneer but he needed pioneer-supporters who fully understood that Shakespeare’s Globe would have a vital role to play as a centre for theatre and education and as a visitor attraction. Diana dedicated many years of her life to serving and promoting all three. Last year she was awarded the Sam Wanamaker Award in recognition of her pioneering support of the Globe for the past 47 years.

Diana has been weaved into our fabric and history right from the start, and she will be sorely missed by all the Globe family. May she rest in peace.