18 October 2018 / Events

From Shakespeare to Buddy Holly – It’s All Rock ‘n’ Roll

Barrie Rutter, Actor and Founder of Northern Broadsides, Aug 2013 © Nobby Clark


Join us for the first lecture in the 2018-2019 STR Annual Lecture Series, delivered by Barrie Rutter OBE.

Born in 1946, the son of a Hull fishworker, Barrie Rutter grew up in a two-up two-down on the Hessle Road, the fishdock area of Hull, around the corner from Tom Courtney.

At school, an English teacher frogmarched him into the school play because he had “the gob for it”, and feeling at home on stage, Rutter chose his future direction. There followed a period at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama and many years in the National Youth Theatre culminating in The Apprentices’ by Peter Tierson – a role specially written for him, a practice to be repeated later in his career.

Seasons at the RSC in Stratford, London and Europe completed the 1970s. In 1980 he joined the National Theatre, a formative period. He met and worked closely with a poet who was to become his guru, Tony Harrison. Rutter performed in all three of Harrison’s adaptations, all written for the Northern voice: The Mysteries, The Orestia, and The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus.

In 1992, he assembled some of the cast of Trackers and created Northern Broadsides, thanks to a grant of £15K from Hull City Council and Yorkshire and Humberside Arts, office space in Halifax at a nominal rate from entrepreneur Sir Ernest Hall, free rehearsal space from fellow entrepreneur Jonathan Silver at his Salts Mill, and free administrative support from the Bradford Alhambra.

The company’s aesthetic, as Rutter explained, was “Northern voices, doing classical work in non-velvet spaces”. Wherever they performed, this radical new aesthetic excited the critics.

With the company’s success has come invitations from theatres and spaces nationwide. Northern Broadsides will perform anywhere from proscenium and in-the-round to castles, churches, cattle markets, train sheds, post-industrial mills and riding stables across the UK.

Since the company’s humble beginnings in 1992, it has gone from strength to strength, from surviving hand-to-mouth on a shoestring budget for years, to winning numerous awards.

After 25 years at the helm, Rutter made the decision to leave Northern Broadsides after he ‘called the Arts Council’s bluff’ in 2017. In 2018 he directed ‘The Captive Queen’ at Shakespeare’s Globe.


All lectures are free, no booking necessary.


18 October 2018




St Anne's Church Hall, 55 Dean Street, London W1D 6AF

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