Culture and communication

Golden years

The Theatre Royal opened in 1865. It’s a much-loved Nottingham landmark and a presence in many lives across the generations.

"As a fellow historian, it was wonderful to see them fascinated by the acts of research and curation."
Dr Jo Robinson

The heritage lottery-funded project ‘Our Theatre Royal: its stories, people and heritage’ helped the theatre to develop a new volunteer- led approach to researching its history and create a digital archive.

With support from professional archivists, oral historians and researchers, our community volunteers discovered lost stories, programmes, posters, letters and photos, and recorded many interviews.

Among our discoveries were the schedules and colour cards used during the restoration of the Theatre Royal – gold leaf features in its iconic ceiling as well as signage.

At, our new discoveries are brought together with material from archives across the city and made available digitally for the first time.

We had more than 55 active volunteers, with 16 receiving training from the East Midlands Oral History Archive and others working to catalogue archives, run public talks and exhibitions, carry out independent research and help with the digital development. For our volunteers, this was an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge. As a fellow historian, it was wonderful to see them fascinated by the acts of research and curation “to delve into people’s lives”.

The project, which was jointly led by David Longford, Creative Learning Manager, Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, has informed my approaches to research and the co-creation of knowledge. An award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council is supporting my further work with UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature to explore this model of citizen scholarship.

Jo Robinson

Dr Jo Robinson is a former Associate Professor in Drama and Performance, School of English at the University of Nottingham. She is now Head of School and Professor of Theatre and Performance in the School of English Literature, Language and Lingustics at Newcastle University. 

Follow her on Twitter for more updates about her research.

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