In 1994, the Theatre was saddened by the loss of its founder Leslie Evershed-Martin. Born in Clapham in 1903, Leslie trained as an optician and settled in Chichester in the 1920s. A prominent member of the local community, he founded The Chichester Players Amateur Dramatic society in 1933, was a dedicated Rotarian, and Mayor of Chichester twice. He was known to be "mulish" and stubborn in his ideas but dared to dream, with a skill for mobilising the support of others - from local council to Hollywood stars - helping him bring Chichester Festival Theatre to life.
After founding the Theatre, he and his wife Carol always paid for their seats, always E33 and E34, coming to every production except one. In the prologue to Evershed-Martin's book The Impossible Theatre, Laurence Olivier wrote: "To put it simply, I started it off, John Clements made it good, future directors may swing its fortune this way or that, but the credit for the fact that the place exists at all will always belong to the man who wrote the book that follows".
Story of how Chichester Festival Theatre began, by Leslie Evershed-Martin
Exchanging gifts in the CFT foyer 1962
Leslie Evershed-Martin began the CFT tradition of gifting items on press night to the cast and company of a production. In this unique silent colour film by Roger Gibbons, Sir Laurence Olivier is given a Loving Cup as a representative of the cast of Uncle Vanya. In return, Leslie and his wife receive a silver cigarette box.