Fire, water and pink togas - stories from working in our historical Costume Workshop in Stratford-upon-Avon.
This week we’re closing the doors of our Costume Workshop in Waterside Stratford-upon-Avon. We’ve been making costumes on the site since the 1950s but the building isn’t fit for purpose so we have moved the team to a temporary site in Stratford while work to restore and redevelop the heritage Grade II listed building takes place.
Our Costume team shared some of their good and bad memories of working in the building:
- Nature taking over: A tree grows through the roof in Men's Costume, with branches poking through the windows. For several years a blackbird nested in the entrance passage - when the eggs hatched the team had to be careful moving costumes in and out, and pick up baby blackbirds from the floor. Every year a red admiral butterfly flies through one sash window, through the dyeing room and out through the other window.
- Fire: “Everyone in Costume is safe, but the Wardrobe is on fire.” A lightbulb sparked a fire in the Costume Workshop attic and this was how director Adrian Noble heard the news that the building’s attic was in flames, with some finished costumes for his A Midsummer Night’s Dream inside. The Fire Service managed to save everything.
- Water: When Stratford was hit with heavy flooding (Easter 1998) the water came up through the passage into the building and through Men's Costume - one staff member came into work in waders. If rain is forecast the team make sure their worktables are clear at the end of the day, as the water will come through the skylights, down onto the costumes below.
- Pink togas: When the red and cream togas (pictured) were cleaned after the first dress rehearsal of Julius Caesar, some of the red border fabric had stained the cream fabric pink. The team had to unpick the red borders from each of the togas, return them to their original colour and then work very quickly replacing the original red fabric with a more colourfast one, in time for the first performance.
There is still £1.3 million left to raise towards the £8.7 million project, which will help us continue to create stunning costumes for you and audiences to enjoy. We need your involvement and ask you to choose an area to support from underwear to armour, from jewellery to shoes. Find out more and make a donation at our Stitch In Time website.