Radius about us

RADIUS: a brief history

Radius is an ecumenical charity which promotes the performance and study of religious drama, widely defined as “drama that illuminates the human condition”. Most but not all members are Christians.

Founded in 1929 by Olive Stephenson and Francis Younghusband, Radius (or the Religious Drama Society, as it then was) drew early inspiration from the work of its first President, Bishop George Bell of Chichester, who as Dean of Canterbury revived the Canterbury Festival. Bishop Bell persuaded T S Eliot to write Murder in the Cathedral and introduced him to E Martin Browne, who directed all Eliot's plays and succeeded Bishop Bell as Radius's President. Browne was the driving force behind the highly successful wartime touring company The Pilgrim Players. During these early years Radius's governing body included such well-known names as the actresses Athene Seyler and Sybil Thorndike and the playwright Dorothy L Sayers.

Christopher Fry's verse drama A Sleep of Prisoners was commissioned by the society for the Festival of Britain in 1951, but in the post-war years Radius gradually became less centralised and more ecumenical. The society’s third President was Bishop Colin James of Wakefield, reflecting Radius’s strong presence in the North of England under the leadership of Pamela Keily who was awarded the MBE for her services to religious drama in the North. Among the writers who wrote plays for the Northern Committee were the poets Norman Nicholson and Anne Ridler. The society's fourth President was Bishop Peter Firth of Malmesbury, who was Director of Religious Broadcasting in Manchester for many years, and our current President is the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles. Radius's Vice-Presidents are drawn from the major Christian denominations.  Our scripts reflect a diversity of religious opinion and commitment.

Radius has always campaigned for the highest possible standards of performance in religious drama. The fact that good production standards are now taken for granted among many worshippers owes a great deal to Radius’s work over the years. Now run from the homes of volunteers, Radius provides resources to members through:

  • A collection of playscripts

  • An assessment service for authors

  • Training courses

  • A quarterly Magazine/Newsletter for its members.

Dame Judi Dench, one of our Patrons, started her career in the York Mystery Plays revived by E Martin Browne in 1951. Radius members draw inspiration from the work of all those who have achieved the highest standards in the theatre and who have felt that the society deserved their support.