Since it first opened its doors in 1865, the Theatre Royal Nottingham has survived the reign of six monarchs, two World Wars, seen the dawn of cinema, radio and television and is still a vital and much-cherished part of our community. We are now celebrating this rich history by launching a new digital archive, named Our Theatre Royal Nottingham.
With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Theatre Royal’s Creative Learning Team has worked in partnership with the University of Nottingham to document the venue’s theatrical history, aiming to make its archive more accessible. This award has enabled us to discover lost stories and memories about past productions that we can now share with our audiences via the digital archive.
The digital archive provides an opportunity to explore the Theatre Royal’s past through a unique collection of images and audio. Created by Horizon Digital Economy Research based at the University of Nottingham, users can navigate through the venue’s history, either chronologically via a timeline or by exploring themes using the ‘sets’: Pantomime, Theatre During the Wars, Onstage & Backstage and Building the Theatre. From programmes and posters, to letters and photos, internet users can now freely access this fascinating and broad-ranging archive material in one central place, www.ourtheatreroyal.org.
Some of the rare and unseen items that will appear on the website include the personal drawings and plans from architect Nick Thompson and designer Clare Ferraby that show the re-building of the venue in the 1970s; you can listen to actress Sherrie Hewson’s account of growing up in Nottingham and her first appearance on the Theatre Royal stage as a very small girl; the mischievous antics of dancer Sue Spencer, who aged 11 appeared in the 1968 Panto The Pied Piper; a first-hand account of being in the audience for Jimi Hendrix’s legendary 1967 Theatre Royal concert; plus our stalwart Thriller Season actors sharing some of their favourite and hilarious stories of theatrical mishaps.
An integral part of this project has been the recruitment and training of 65 community volunteers whose involvement has been fundamental over the past eighteen months. We would like to thank all those that have been involved in this project, from the staff, archivists and historians who have worked closely with us in the delivery of the digital archive, to our audience and participants who have kindly shared their stories and memories of our iconic venue.
As the digital archive continues to grow over the coming months, we are still welcoming new material so if you have any stories or artefacts that you wish to contribute, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. You can also get involved by joining the ‘Our Theatre Royal Nottingham’ Facebook group