Theatre Royal Nottingham launches new digital archive

 1929 Theatre Royal  Empire (002)
23 Oct 2018 13:57:37.627

PA 210/18

The Theatre Royal’s fascinating 153-year history is now available to explore online via thanks to National Lottery players and the University of Nottingham.

Over the past two years, the Theatre Royal’s Creative Learning Team has worked in partnership with the University of Nottingham on a major archive and heritage project entitled Our Theatre Royal Nottingham: Its Stories, People & Heritage, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Today (23 October), the team launch an innovative new digital archive documenting 153 years of theatrical history at the venue.

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Working alongside professional archivists, researchers and trainers, 65 community  volunteers have transformed the venue’s existing archive room, discovering lost stories, programmes, posters, letters and photos, delved deep into Theatre Royal research across Nottingham and recorded interviews with many people connected to this iconic theatre.   Internet users can now freely access this fascinating and broad-ranging archive material in one central place,

Supported by the work of researchers at the University of Nottingham, the Theatre Royal’s new digital archive guides users through the venue’s history, either chronologically via a timeline or by exploring broader themes such as PantomimeTheatre During the WarsOnstage & Backstage and Building the Theatre

As well as historic posters, programmes, playbills, letters and postcards from the late 19th century onwards, many of the hundreds of items already uploaded to the website are rare and previously unseen.  Just a handful of examples include personal drawings and plans from the architect and designer who undertook the massive re-building of the venue in the 1970s; handwritten comments from a 1930s visitor’s book for theatrical digs; a first-hand account of being in the audience for Jimi Hendrix’s legendary 1967 Theatre Royal concert; and actors sharing their backstage stories and anecdotes.  The digital archive allows users to explore these fascinating artefacts and to delve deeper via related links on each website page.

David Longford, Creative Learning Manager at the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, has led the archive project from the start.  He said; “The Theatre Royal’s 150th anniversary in 2015 kick-started our much-needed heritage programme and I am delighted to be able to launch our theatre’s digital archive today.  Our intention was always to make this resource more than just a chronological history of the Theatre Royal, but rather an opportunity for us to tell stories about our past and for people to explore our history through the many related links on the site.  I cannot thank enough all the volunteers, staff and supporters who have helped us bring our digital archive to life, and the Heritage Lottery Fund for the award, made possible by National Lottery players. Our aim is for the archive to grow and grow as we continually upload more material.  There will be plenty more for users to see and listen to on each return visit.”

Jo Robinson, Associate Professor in Drama and Performance in the School of English at the University of Nottingham, has published work on the early years of the venue and has helped the Theatre Royal develop and support a new volunteer-led approach to researching the theatre’s history.

She said: “The University of Nottingham is delighted to support this wonderful project alongside the Heritage Lottery Fund. The archive draws on not just the hard work and research of our volunteers but also their local knowledge, personal stories and passion for the venue - it’s been a wonderful experience to work with such an enthusiastic and committed team.”

Jonathan Platt, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East Midlands, said; I’m really pleased that, thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, we have been able to help the Theatre Royal explore its important part in Nottingham’s history.  It is great to see so many volunteers involved in making its archive available to the public.  The recording of people’s stories, anecdotes and memories brings the archive to life, adding a personal connection.

— Ends —

Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Globelynx fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at University Park campus. For further information please contact a member of the Communications team on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email or see the Globelynx website for how to register for this service.

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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


Story credits

More information is available from Dr Jo Robinson at

Charlotte Anscombe – Media Relations Manager (Arts and Social Sciences)

Email:  Phone:+44 (0)115 74 84 417 Location: University Park

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