1964: Stratford Festival Theatre
Famously, a programme about Stratford Festival Theatre in Canada inspired Leslie Evershed-Martin to found a theatre in Chichester. Stratford and Chichester are cities with a similar size, demographic and location - both are just over an one outside major cities London and Toronto. After hearing the programme, Evershed-Martin flew to Canada to meet director Tyrone Guthrie and discuss the founding of CFT, thus beginning our unique connection. Both theatres were built with a similar design and a thrust stage - the first of its kind in the UK in 400 years. Stratford even provided planks of Canadian maple wood for the Theatre's first stage and, in return, were presented with a Loving Cup (seen below) to mark the friendship.
Two years later in 1964, Stratford Festival Players embarked on a $100,000 tour to Chichester with three productions: Timon of Athens, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Love's Labour's Lost, the latter attended by the Queen Mother for a gala performance on 25 April. The success of the tour made international news, coinciding with Shakespeare's 400th birthday. Cast member William Hutt noted "Thank god [...] the English critics have judged us on our merits and never been patronising." Canadian Prime Minister wrote "Canada is proud of your contribution to the 400th anniversary celebrations of Shakespeare's birth."
In 2022, the relationship continued with a number of joint anniversary projects as Stratford celebrate their 70th season alongside CFT's 60th. This included Visionary Stages - an immersive virtual event featuring Stratford's Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino in conversation with Daniel Evans.