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News from Special Collections: Introducing the Newly Catalogued Papers of George Devine

AHC Research

Archivist Olivia Weekes introduces the newly catalogued papers of George Devine CBE, a prominent member of the British Theatre industry from the early 1930s until his death in 1966, the catalogue is now live and ready for consultation in the Research Centre.

George Devine’s career in theatre was wide-ranging and included acting, directing, managing and teaching. He was instrumental in the development and management of multiple theatre training schools, these provided progressive and alternative training for theatre professionals, both in performance and backstage roles.

In 1936, Devine co-founded the London Theatre Studio, alongside Michel Saint-Denis, Marius Goring and Glen Byam-Shaw. Notable alumni of the London Theatre School include Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov and Yvonne Mitchell. The London theatre studio closed in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War.

After the war he, alongside founding director Saint-Denis and fellow associate director Byam Shaw, opened the Old Vic Centre. This was formed of the Old Vic Theatre School and the Young Vic Theatre Company and aimed to train younger people in performing arts. These schools ran for several years until 1952 when the scheme was closed.

Papers of George Devine in situ in the store. Image credit Leeds University Library

Devine was then heavily involved with the founding of the English Stage Company in 1955. His aim was to give a platform to new and exciting playwrights of stage works. This put the English Stage Company at the forefront of innovative British theatre and gave it a firm place in the history of British Performance. Under Devine’s direction the theatre nurtured playwrights such as Arnold Wesker, Edward Bond, Ann Jellicoe and John Osborne. Devine was instrumental in establishing the English Stage Company in The Royal Court Theatre in 1956, a building it still occupies. George Devine remained artistic director of The English Stage Company until 1965, when his health forced him to resign.

Front cover of a notebook in the collection BC MS 20c Theatre Devine/2/11. Image credit Leeds University Library

The collection consists of administrative paperwork and photographs relating to the theatre training schools, the English Stage Company and the Royal Court Theatre alongside personal papers documenting individual projects through correspondence, notebooks and diaries. It exists as a fascinating insight into the history of British theatre, with a special focus on the English Stage Company and Theatre education.

These papers are now available for research and consultation in Leeds University Special Collections Research Centre, click here to view online catalogue- Papers of George Devine.


Please contact the Research Centre Team in Brotherton Special Collections to book an appointment, for more information see our Plan a visit page on the Special Collections website- Plan a Visit.

To find out more about the theatre and performance collections we hold at the University of Leeds Special Collections, see our subject theme page on the Special Collections website.