Emma Cons Plaque Restoration

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Today, exactly 88 years after it was unveiled by the late Queen Mother who was mobbed in the street, we have unveiled the restored memorial plaque in honour of the theatre’s benefactress Emma Cons. You may have seen the plaque on the north western corner of the building when visiting the theatre but, until today, you will have been unable to read it as the inscription had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer legible.

Emma Cons was a renowned social reformer who hated the demon drink and from 1880 to 1912 she ran the theatre as a “purified” variety and concert hall with a working man’s coffee house where the foyers now are. Never once in her 32 years there did she put on a play, but without her the theatre would have been pulled down like so many south of the Thames. She was succeeded by her niece Lilian Baylis, and it was she who from 1912 to 1937 established The Old Vic as an opera house and London’s principal Shakespeare theatre. Without either Emma Cons or Lilian Baylis The Old Vic could not have been what it is today.

Forming part of a scheme of works to restore and renew the exterior of the theatre ahead of our birthday next year, this project was supported by the Heritage of London Trust. Today they joined our Chief Executive, Sally Greene, Chairman of The Old Vic Endowment Trust, Jonathan Norbury and members of The Old Vic 12 to celebrate.

The inscription reads:
Emma Cons, Founder of ‘The Vic’, Alderman of the First London County Council. Born 1837. Died 1912. Lover of beauty, and pupil of Ruskin, she yet gave up the life of an artist for social work, so deeply did she sympathise with those who lack many of the good things of life. To improve housing for working men and women, to provide wholesome and joyous recreation at a low price, to promote education, to protect infant life, and to bring a human touch to th e children in the industrial schools of her day. To such beneficent ends she gave her very self. Large-hearted and clear-sighted, courageous, tenacious of purpose and of great personal modesty, her selfless appeal drew out the best in others and was a constant inspiration for service to all with whom she was associated.

The plaque was restored with funding from the Heritage of London Trust with additional support from The Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.

But why not come and see it for yourself? Tweet us your pictures at @oldvictheatre #OV200

Philanthropy has always been in the bones of our building. Thanks to Emma Cons and her vision, The Old Vic became a beacon of positive social change. We want to continue Emma’s spirit, and to do this we need today’s visionaries to keep us going for the next 200 years. Donate today or remember us in your will to leave a lasting legacy.

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