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The Jerwood Library of Performing Arts

Denise Silverster-Carr on the history of this unique resource for research.

In August 1939 Mary Ellis was starring in The Dancing Years at Drury Lane, John Gielgud was appearing in matinee performances of The Importance of Being Earnest and Lupino Lane was doing the ‘Lambeth Walk’ in Me and My Girl at the Victoria Palace. By September 4th, they were all out of work. London theatres, even the Windmill which boasted ‘we never closed’, lowered their curtains at the outbreak of the Second World War, though within a few weeks they were back in business.

This is information I gleaned in the Jerwood Library of Performing Arts while researching wartime theatre.

It is also where I discovered that musicians could compare Sir John Barbirolli’s style of conducting Elgar’s Symphony No 1, Opus 55, with that of other conductors. His annotated score, as well as a beautifully bound presentation copy signed by every member of the orchestra, is among the thousands of scores and sound recordings in the library.

The Jerwood Library of Performing Arts, a new institution in the magnificent setting of the King Charles Court of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, comprises two important resources: Trinity College of Music’s extensive library and the eclectic Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection, which was once destined to be a part of the National Theatre until Peter Hall decided otherwise. It is the only library in the country devoted solely to the performing arts, and is one of a number of artistic enterprises funded by the foundation set up in 1977 by John Jerwood, a wealthy trader in cultured pearls, and Alan Grieve, his legal advisor. Initially the foundation’s aim was to support music and educational projects but since Jerwood’s death in 1991 Grieve and a small staff have given capital grants to a widening circle of galleries, theatres, a sculpture park and other creative endeavours, many of which now bear the Jerwood name.

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