Lunchtime Lecture - Sarah Siddons: the first celebrity actress

9 May 2024

Regular hours

Thu, 09 May
13:00 – 14:00

Cost of entry

£10 (£8 Members / concessions)

Save Event: Lunchtime Lecture - Sarah Siddons: the first celebrity actress

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Celebrating the legendary actress Sarah Siddons and the first biography about her in over 50 years, join Jo Willett to uncover previously unpublished sources and reveal new insights into Sarah’s marriage, life and career.


Fittingly for a superstar known in her lifetime as Britain’s greatest tragic actress, there are 42 portraits of Sarah in the Gallery’s Collection.

Adored by theatre audiences, writers, artists and the royal family alike, Sarah grasped the importance of her image. She made sure that every leading portrait painter captured her likeness, so that engravings could be sold to her adoring public.

In an 18-century world of vicious satire and gossip, Sarah battled to manage her reputation, taking pains to portray herself as respectable and happily married.

At this lunchtime lecture, Jo will reveal her story that is not only one of rags to riches fame, but of a pioneering woman who redefined the world of theatre.


Jo Willett was a television drama producer for many years. She is the proud recipient of a BAFTA, a Royal Television Society Award and an International Emmy.

Her first book, The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu, about the woman who brought smallpox inoculation to the west, was published during the Covid crisis in April 2021. Her second biography, Sarah Siddons: The First Celebrity Actress is published in May 2024. She lives in Dorset and London.

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