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Tyne Theatre calendar

Setting the scene: Tyne Theatre performance calendar to be created

Published on: 29 July 2022

A team of local volunteers, led by a Newcastle University expert, is to create a calendar of historical Tyne Theatre and Opera House performances.


Using advertisements and reviews in local newspapers and more than 1,000 programmes and posters held at Newcastle City Library, the group will build a calendar of every performance which took place between the theatre opening in 1867 and its transformation into the Stoll Picture Theatre in 1919.

The team will identify specific performances whose musical scores and/or scripts survive so that they might be recreated in the Theatre by students from Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham universities, once restoration work is completed. The three universities will contribute expertise in theatre history, music and architecture to the scheme.

The Tyne Theatre and Opera House was recently awarded £242,00 funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which will also fund the restoration of its original Victorian stage machinery.  It will also fund investigating options for restoring the original ‘Grand Salon,’ which was built as an extension to the theatre in 1892 by the owner Joseph Cowen for the lessee Sir Augustus Harris – the owner of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. This space was originally a large front-of-house space with balconies and was also known for a while as the Westgate Music Hall.

Programme for The Dictator courtesy of Newcastle City Libraries


Dr Shail, a Senior Lecturer in Film at Newcastle University, has been researching history of local venues, including the Tyne Theatre, for several years. “We won’t be starting this project from scratch: we’ll be building on a huge body of research already done by one of the Theatre’s volunteers, Martin Collins,” he explains. “We’ll be identifying at least 3,500 performances in total, and in as much detail as possible, from the performance’s cast and crew through its scenography to the titles of the incidental music - which was often re-used from popular classical pieces.

He added: “Doing one’s thing as a cultural history nerd seldom comes with opportunities for recreating your object of study. It will take a few years and even more funding to get the Theatre to the point where this can be done, but we’ll need this 51½-year performance calendar when we get there.”


The restoration project will run for twelve months during which time the work will encompass not only the restoration of the existing stage machinery but also the acquisition of “missing” machinery which has been in store for over forty years. The theatre will be looking for community involvement from carpenters and joiners interested in helping with this exciting restoration work.

Michael Wilmot, Chairman of the Tyne Theatre & Opera House Preservation Trust, says: “This grant is the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey to restore the theatre back to its former glory and in doing so creating a building unlike any other the theatre in the British Isles. For many years we have not been able to operate the historic stage machinery and we have also been desperate for new front of house spaces – The National Heritage Lottery Fund have placed their confidence in us to deliver a unique project and that is precisely what we intend to do.”

The project has been developed by Theatresearch historic theatre consultants under the leadership of Dr David Wilmore who began his professional career at the Tyne Theatre more than 40 years ago.


Press release adapted with thanks to Tyne Theatre and Opera House.


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