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Sir Ian McKellen unveils Rose Theatre blue plaque

London SE1 website team

Sir Ian McKellen has unveiled a blue plaque to mark the site of the Rose Theatre in Bankside's Park Street.

Rose plaque
Sir Ian unveils the plaque

Sir Ian said: "I well remember getting the phone call ... saying 'you've got to get down to the south bank – they've discovered the Rose' – even as I say those words now, my heart is beating a little faster – and I came down and on this rather empty site I was allowed to walk around actually on the stage area ...

Sir Ian speaks about the importance of the site

"Very rapidly the world heard about the Rose and it became a people's affair and the goings-on in this street to save this site were of major historical importance in the relationship of the people of this borough and this city and the people who on our behalf make decisions."

Southwark Council leader Nick Stanton spoke enthusiasticly about the blue plaque scheme

"The street of course was crowded for weeks on end and there were great celebrations on this site – and it was all done you know not with any nostalgia, it's not looking back at the Rose's importance, it's part of our lives now – not just part of our heritage but part of what makes a good theatre."

"...certainly I find it more interesting than the ersatz Globe or indeed the poor old Globe itself, buried under that grade II listed building so that we'll never actually know what's going on there, making this even more precious."

Members of New Renaissance Dancers entertained guests waiting for the ceremony, which was delayed by more than 40 minutes

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Professor Stanley Wells said: "The Rose was an absolutely wonderful find when it was first excavated in 1987 and as you know a lot of theatrical people including Sir Ian and Dane Judi Dench and Peggy Ashcroft and Dustin Hoffman all protested against the idea that the further excavation might not be permitted. It was permitted and as a result we have learned a great deal about the theatre tradition."

Harvey Sheldon of the Rose Theatre Trust added: "Thanks to the financial contribution made by the London Borough of Southwark we are now ready to prepare an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money that will enable the remains to be displayed to the public and to be used as a venue for contemporary educational and cultural events. We hope to submit an outline bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund by the end of 2006."

Sheldon added that it was the trust's intention that by the time the 2012 Olympics come to London, the Rose will become again one of the leading cultural attractions.
• Sir Ian McKellen can currently be seen in Aladdin at The Old Vic
• Rose Theatre Exhibition

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