The Birth of The Irving Society

Our chairman Michael Sharvell-Martin has said that the first talk of an Irving Society was during the centenary exhibition at the Royal National Theatre in 1995. This was Curated by Brien Chitty the Society’s Secretary who perhaps had other matters on his mind at the time, not to recollect this specifically. But what our Hon. Sec. does remember is early in 1996, standing one evening with Michael in Wellington Street and staring at the Lyceum shrouded in scaffolding and canvas and wondering if the miracle was about to happen.

“There ought to be an Irving Society,” said Brien. “Now is the time.” “Well get on with it then,” retorted Michael. So he did. Michael agreed to be Acting Chairman and Brien as Acting Secretary drafted a letter which Michael signed and which eventually appeared in The Stage, inviting support. Between them the two founders gathered several other sympathisers to form a working party. They held an exploratory meeting. There was no doubt that the idea of an Irving Society appealed.

Brien remembers writing a letter to The Stage more than ten years earlier and then being quietly put off the idea when a member of The Society for Theatre Research explained the enormity of the task he was taking on single handed. But now he is retired and sharing the responsibility. He had kept the responses from that earlier letter to The Stage. And it was time to move forward. A date was fixed for an inaugural meeting, and an extensive mailing list built up, which resulted in 48 people turning up at the Theatre Museum on October 13th 1996. So The Irving Society was born 91 years to the day when the great actor died at Bradford

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