Famous people from Stevenage (2) Edward Gordon Craig

The only other one appears to be the racing driver Lewis Hamilton, who was really born in Tewin, a few miles away, though some sites will tell you differently. According to the site devoted entirely to famous Stevenage people, most of the other contenders are bit players on soap operas or models, although it is not specified that the one decent footballer amongst them, Manchester United’s Ashley Young, actually came from the town.

Anyway, it can truly be said that Edward Gordon Craig (1872 – 1966), the eminent man of the theatre, designer of stage sets etcetera, was indeed born in Stevenage, long before the ancient Georgian coaching town had a bright, spanking New Town tacked onto its southern end. The illegitimate son of the famous actress Ellen Terry and architect Edward Godwin, it was almost inevitable that he would make his name as a stage designer, with his radical ideas of neutral non-representational sets and use of top-lighting. This photo (to follow) comes from the same archive of press photos featuring Herbert Read, Stephen Spender, Harold Nicholson and Desmond MacCarthy that inspired previous Jots– so one must assume that it too belongs to the Sunday Times Book Exhibition of 1936.

One extraordinary fact about Craig is that although he lived to be 94, all his most significant work was done before the age of 40—that is, before 1912. [RR]

An indignant Susan Hill answers her critics

A cri de coeur from the 18 year old debut novelist Susan Hill on the perils of sensationalist journalism and pre-publication hype can be found in the Autumn 1960 issue of the Coventry-based arts magazine Umbrella. On first reading 'A Sudden Smash of Fame' this seems an  unusually vehement complaint  for a teenaged first time author to make, but perhaps not when we consider that 1960 was the year of the ‘Lady Chatterley Trial’.

Hutchinson had accepted Hill’s debut novel The Enclosure while she was still an eighteen year old pupil at Carr’s Hill School in Coventry. Somehow the papers had sniffed out the story and all hell broke loose. The Daily Mail (quelle surprise) was the worst offender. The young author was accused of having written a ‘sex-ridden sensational novel’ ‘(Hill’s words) and the press generally was condemned for  exploiting a teenager’s naïf responses to questions from hard-bitten reporters anxious for a salacious story, and of making things up. For instance, from an innocent refusal of a cigarette one reporter had written that Hill disliked smoking. When, in reply to a question on whether she liked the novels of Francoise Sagan, Hill had replied ‘I like her style very much, but not her themes ‘, this appeared as ‘I think her themes are trite---she is finished’.

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