Memory Lane: The opening curtain for the New Theatre

Ruth Wilson, Michael Longhurst, Carrie Cracknell, Theo James - just some of the illustrious names who have trodden the boards in our beloved New Theatre. But if not for one industrious and forward-thinking student back in the 1960s however, they may have had no boards to tread at all. Peter Roper (Agriculture/Horticulture, 1971) shares his memories of how he helped establish the theatre in its current location.


The late 1960’s and early 70’s were an exciting time to be at university, with many social and cultural changes starting around that time. The great thing about university was that it exposed me to all sorts of interests, and people, that I never knew about – it was an amazing opportunity.

My student union activities were also engrossing, and I remember attending the NUS National Conference at Liverpool with Jack Straw as President. I never expected that the work on initially renovating the New Theatre would be so long-lived, although of course further improvements were made, especially to the foyer area, later. In later life I was project manager for much larger £m projects, and more recently built my own house, maybe I should have read Architecture and not Agriculture!

The project wasn’t just one of planning and liaison with the University – it was practical as well. For example, I remember installing the emergency lighting system myself, during vacation and weekends. The University Surveyors department were helpful and encouraging throughout, bearing in mind I was just a 21 year-old undergraduate. They put a lot of work in to make the project a success.

I joined Tech Committee as a fresher, and moved onto managing the theatre after doing stage lighting, lighting and sound for hall parties, doing lighting for the opera (staged in the Great Hall in Trent Building – Das Liebesverbot by Richard Wagner). There was a lot of political student in-fighting at this time, as well as the university’s first “sit-in” and other troubles. Later I was a “Student Guild” representative at Sutton Bonington Faculty of Agriculture, and also had a seat on the University Senate Board.

Share your Memory Lane story!

Were you a member of a band? Maybe you found love on campus? Whatever your memory, we would love to hear it and maybe it will appear on these pages! Email and put 'Memory Lane' in the subject line.