Shakespearian, Lecturer, Writer, Publisher, Poet
Biography and Availability as a Lecturer
Roger was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1944, and though his adult life has not been spent there he still thinks of the north-east as the place where he most fully belongs. History, especially the Tudor period, was an enthusiasm from schooldays onwards, and happily he was able to study the subject at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge. After Cambridge he took another degree at the University of Reading.
With the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon
In 1967 he joined the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, with responsibility for developing its educational work. He set up the Trust’s first programmes and courses, covering Shakespeare’s life, times and works, and encompassing school groups, teachers, students and the general public. He also mounted regular exhibitions, some of which were seen subsequently in London and other venues outside Stratford.
In 1989 he was appointed Director of the Trust, a post he held until his retirement in 2007. During this time he oversaw significant improvements at the Trust’s five Shakespeare Houses, including a radical re-presentation of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, an enhanced visitor experience at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and the turning of Mary Arden’s House into a working Tudor farm. The Trust’s library, archive and museum collections were considerably strengthened, and its educational facilities and work expanded.
Other Interests and Appointments
Roger has been an active supporter of organisations connected with Shakespeare, the arts, education, and heritage matters. For ten years he was Executive Secretary of the International Shakespeare Association, and on the local front he has served as chairman of the Stratford Society and a governor of Stratford College. His current involvements include being President of the Stratford and District National Trust Association, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Deputy Lieutenant of Warwickshire, a life trustee of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and an honorary governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He holds honorary degrees from the universities of Coventry and Birmingham City.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival, etc.
In 1972 Roger assumed responsibility for organising the annual Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival, which had been founded by the Birthplace Trust in 1954. He directed the Festival for the next thirty-five years, regularly devising programmes about poets, past and present, and anthologies on specific themes. His programmes have also been presented at other British arts festivals, including Edinburgh, Hay-on-Wye and Cheltenham, and in half a dozen other countries. Actors who have taken part in his recitals include Peggy Ashcroft, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, John Gielgud, Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen and Janet Suzman.
The Celandine Press, etc.
In 1980 Roger founded the Celandine Press, which published limited editions of new work by contemporary writers, especially poets, including Charles Causley, Tony Harrison, Elizabeth Jennings, R.S.Thomas, and John Wain. The press also issued ‘A Garland for the Laureate’ to mark John Betjeman’s seventy-fifth birthday. Roger’s interest in poetry has led to other assignments, including acting as curatorial adviser to the Bodleian Library’s ‘John Betjeman and Oxford’ exhibition, in 2006.
Roger has published articles or books relating to the Shakespeare Houses, aspects of Shakespeare’s life and times, and the development of Stratford’s tourist industry. He co-edited the proceedings of two World Shakespeare Congresses: ‘Images of Shakespeare’(1988) and ‘Shakespeare and Cultural Traditions’ (1994). He also edited ‘Poems for Shakespeare’ (1977and 1978), ‘Three Poets’ (1978), and ‘Poems of Warwickshire’ (1980). Other publications include ‘A Portrait of Elizabeth I’(1978) and ‘Twenty Shakespeare Songs, with a Foreword and Commentary’ (2009).
His poetry has appeared in magazines and in two verse books, ‘Portrait of a Stratford Year’ (1985) and ‘The Seasons Difference’ (1987). A collection, ‘Thanks to Shakespeare’, is forthcoming.
Availability as a Lecturer
Roger has lectured widely in the UK and abroad, and enjoys giving talks to educational groups and societies which are interested in his interests. Topics on which he has lectured in recent times include: ‘William Shakespeare and Stratford’; ‘William Shakespeare’s Early Reputation’; ‘Americans, Shakes-peare and Stratford’ ; ‘Charles Dickens Comes to Stratford’; ‘Queen Elizabeth I’; ‘Tudor Gardens’; ‘Stratford’s Shakespearian Gardens’; ‘Tudor Recreations’, and ‘Michael Drayton: Poet of Warwickshire’.
Roger can also give lecture recitals relating to particular poets, such as John Keats, Thomas Hardy and D.H.Lawrence.
Address: Halford Lodge, Halford, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire,