The Poor Priests’ Hospital in Stour Street, formerly Canterbury Heritage Museum, will become the home of The Marlowe Kit from Monday (25 September), providing a new space to explore and celebrate the city’s rich literary heritage.
It’s a fresh start for one of the city’s most historic buildings as The Marlowe begins to use it to host a wide range of creative and heritage activities, events and performances celebrating Kent’s stories and storytellers.
The Marlowe Kit’s programme will feature a mix of theatre, exhibitions, music, poetry, conversations, creative workshops and storytelling.
Its name reflects the theatre’s namesake Christopher Marlowe, who was also known as Kit. Marlowe’s history and the place he occupies in the development of British drama will be celebrated using some of Canterbury’s collections to explore his life, times, work and legacy.
Canterbury and the county’s story will also be told through exhibits like the Joseph Conrad collection which features the contents of the writer’s study from the last five years of his life, along with his typewriter.
There will be new displays in the Great Hall and the collections will also be used in the development of an escape room, designed to excite and engage younger audiences.
A digital facility will record and archive responses and knowledge about the city and its collections, creating a rich and accessible treasure trove of stories for visitors to explore and contribute to.
The theatre’s creative workshops and youth theatre will move into The Marlowe Kit from Monday (25 September). Work to develop the other projects will then continue and the whole building will open to the public in October 2018.
Meanwhile, some much-loved items, including Bagpuss and Rupert Bear, will be moving to the People and Places Gallery at the Beaney, where they can be enjoyed free of charge.
The Beaney will also become home to the Canterbury Cross. Recently named as one of the 100 objects that made Kent, the exhibit will be the star of a new Kingdom of Kent display in the Explorers and Collectors Gallery. Roman exhibits will move to the Roman Museum.
Chairman of Canterbury City Council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said: “We are very excited about the transformation of Canterbury’s cultural offer, with a particular focus on one of the country’s greatest playwrights and the chance to make so much more of items in our collections at the Poor Priests’ Hospital, the Roman Museum and at the Beaney.
“At the forefront of this project has been our desire to see more people of all ages accessing our collections, learning about Canterbury’s history and creating inspiring new stories.
“We’re looking forward to seeing this develop in the years to come.”
The project has been jointly developed by the city council’s teams in the Museums and Galleries Service and at The Marlowe Theatre, supported by funding from the national Great Places scheme.
Marlowe Theatre General Manager Paula Gillespie said: “The Marlowe is privileged to be delving into the treasure box of Canterbury’s heritage collections to tell the stories of the city and its storytellers and to inspire new writing and creativity.
“The support of the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Great Places Scheme funding is vital in helping us to develop exciting new ways to share these stories.
“The Marlowe Kit will evolve over time as we develop and test our ideas and we’re looking forward to welcoming our audiences, visitors and young people on the journey when we open to the public.”
Director of Museums and Galleries Jo Jones said: “During the last five years, families have become a key audience for the Beaney.
“One of our ambitions is to develop this through the creation of a new family gallery but in the meantime we are pleased to welcome Bagpuss and his friends to the Beaney where many more people will get to see them.”