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Dawn Sawyer writes on Raymond Boyce's work on the Globe Theatre Hangings

New Zealand became involved in the international Globe project when, in 1983, a member of the Wellington Shakespeare Society (WSS) read in a Times Supplement that the Globe was being rebuilt.

Contact with the Arts Council of England who gave us Sam Wanamaker’s contact details. Very soon after, a rich and warm relationship was established with the charismatic Sam Wanamaker and his PA Marina Blodget. Excited that 12,000 miles away, a small society of some 100 members would want to contribute to his dream, Sam eagerly accepted our offer of hangings to adorn the frons scenae.

Raymond Boyce was the designer with whom the Wellington Shakespeare Society sought advice who brought up the most realistic issues, suggestions and recommendations. As a result, Dawn Sanders, Project Manager of the Globe Theatre Hangings Project, appointed him as the Executive Designer in 1986. A rigorous consultation process followed in which decisions had to be made as to what would be depicted on the Hangings, how they would be made and by whom. Once the subject matter of Venus and Adonis from Shakespeare’s most famous poem, and Atlas and Hercules had been decided, Dr Boyce made a model of the Globe and how the Hangings could be used at the back of its stage.

Following a British Council supported trip to meet with Pentagon, the architects of the Globe, and the Academic Committee, late in 1986, Dr Boyce sent small scale designs for approval. They were approved except for slight modifications which were made to the listings on the Adonis Hanging and a ‘spin’ of the globe borne by Atlas, which placed New Zealand firmly in the centre of it!

Following a year of further design work while the Project Manager sourced funds, support and logistical arrangements, Dr Boyce, Edith Ryan from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council and Dawn Sanders addressed the Biennial Conference of the Association of New Zealand Embroiderers’ Guilds in Nelson. Luke-warm at first, especially about the concept of working to someone else’s designs (and a man’s at that!), the embroiderers gradually came on board.

In 1989 Kath Des Forges was appointed the Creative Director. The triumvirate worked tirelessly. Dr Boyce created full size cartoons of the Hangings. At the beginning of 1990 with assistance from the QEII Arts Council and Air New Zealand, a Workshop, was held for the embroiderers to be initiated on the project further, select the motifs they wishes to take for their Guilds to work on, traced them form the cartoons and took colour swatches of fabrics and mohair wool yarn, donated by Ruth Mary Beach of Strand Natural Fibres.

Three months later they returned with samplers of their ‘slips’ which were viewed by Dr Boyce and Kath Des Forges. The final design styles and elements were decided, contracts drawn up for each by the Dawn Sanders and the embroiderers left to complete their contributions to the Hangings. In fact, as more wanted to be involved by the second Workshop, Dr Boyce had to rush home and design extra bugs and birds and buildings to enable all to participate!

The completed slips were sent back to the central workrooms at former Erksine College in Wellington, kindly made available by the Hiberian Society, in time for Sam Wanamaker’s visit to New Zealand in August 1990. Invited to feature in many parts of an Elizabethan Festival planned by Dawn Sanders to enhance the profile of the international project, New Zealand’s contribution, and raise much needed funds to make it all happen, many of the embroiderers met with the flabbergasted Sam Wanamaker.

The process, which involved 500 embroiderers throughout the country, is recorded in the book, Very Public Hangings, by Dawn Sanders, member of WSS and (voluntary) Globe Theatre Hangings Project Manager. A copy of this book, an accompanying model book by Dawn and Hangings Executive Designer, Dr Raymond Boyce, a large cut-out model and video comprised an Education Kit sent to all secondary schools throughout New Zealand. Creative Director, Kath Des Forges, oversaw the work of the embroiderers.

The involvement of New Zealand in the Globe reconstruction project and subsequently includes:

  • Completion of the four embroidered & appliqued Hangings (a $1.3 million project ) by 23 April 1991
  • Two-year national tour of the Hangings to exhibit New Zealanders’ work and promote the Globe reconstruction 23 April 1991- 21 April 93
  • One year international tour of the Hangings to Australia, USA & Canada 23 April 1993 - 22 April 1994
  • Official handing over and unveiling of the Hangings to HRH Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip with HE Governor General of NZ, Dame Catherine Tizard and 600 invited guests at the partially completed Globe
  • International Shakespeare Globe Centre then organised a UK tour of the Hangings for a year, after which they were shown in various buildings in London, including Unilever House, Foreign Press Association, and others, finishing at NZ House where they remained until official opening of the Globe in 1997. They remain a prominent feature of the Globe Exhibition.

At the conclusion of Sam Wanamaker’s time in New Zealand, in a meeting with Dawn and Raymond, Sam again applied pressure for the establishment of a Shakespeare Globe Centre in New Zealand.

When Dawn founded this in 1991, with much enthusiasm and support from many sectors, Dr Boyce was appointed a Patron. As a result of his involvement in the project, he was also invited to design and oversee the creation of the Guildhall project of a hanging illustrating James Cooks’ visits to New Zealand.

Subsequently Dr Boyce was also consulted by the UK designer of the wrought iron gates leading up from the walkway by the Thames onto the Piazza of the Globe as to what motifs might be on these! Based on the extensive research he did, assisted by Valerie Carson, Curator at the Museum of New Zealand, and others, Raymond was able to give many informed suggestions. Four New Zealand artist blacksmiths went on to be involved.

Undoubtedly, Dr Boyce has done much to literally put New Zealand on the map.

Dawn Sanders