Curtain up on Act Two of heritage project for Nottingham’s Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall

Theatrical stories from Nottingham’s famous Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall (TRCH) will be brought to life in a new lottery-funded project involving theatre historians from the University of Nottingham, in partnership with TRCH.

The landmark theatre and concert hall complex in the centre of Nottingham has been a beacon of cultural life in the city for 155 years, bringing both touring and homegrown performing arts to the region. Previous funding enabled TRCH to enlist a large team of heritage volunteers, conduct oral history interviews, run free public events and establish a popular new digital archive of theatre at www.ourtheatreroyal.org

The new £70,400 National Lottery Heritage Fund award has been topped up to nearly £89,000 by TRCH and Nottingham Civic Society. The funding means that previous work to showcase the theatre’s rich history will be extended to bring its backstory and heritage to the fore in a public-facing and interactive way.

RCH construction, June 1980

Crucially, the archive will be extended to include the Royal Concert Hall’s rich 38-year history. On 27 November 1982, Elton John gave the inaugural concert to mark the opening of the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. Originally titled Nottingham Festival Hall, in collaboration with its Theatre Royal neighbour, the exciting new venue was ground-breaking in its acoustic design and hailed as one of the finest concert halls in the country, putting the city on the cultural map and providing the people of Nottingham with a world-class concert hall to be proud of. After 38 years, and nearly 10 million people through the doors, the venue has a glittering history of famous names who have performed on its stage.

Elton John greets crowds at RCH, 27 Nov 1982

From the opening night with Sir Elton John, to Duran Duran, One Direction, U2, Sir Tom Jones, The Police, Roy Orbison, the Bolshoi Ballet, Victoria Wood and Bob Hope to name just a very few.

RCH Civic Opening Gala, 2 Dec 1982

Plans to extend the existing heritage offering at TRCH include:

  • Creation of a brand-new post of TRCH Heritage Officer
  • Archiving and cataloguing the heritage and history of the Royal Concert Hall, as well as continuing work on the Theatre Royal.
  • Further volunteer recruitment, plus new heritage initiatives to engage children and young people
  • Creation of new fully equipped heritage office and workspace for volunteers and researchers
  • Artist commission to create TRCH heritage timeline mural at the venue
  • Development of digital archive and other new technology
  • Free public talks and rehearsed readings, including 40th anniversary events for the Royal Concert Hall in 2022.
Professor Joanna Robinson, School of English

Professor of Drama and Performance at the University of Nottingham, Jo Robinson, said:

“The Theatre Royal and Concert Hall mean a lot to the people of Nottingham both past and present. We’ve been lucky enough to work with a fantastic group of volunteers to better understand the history and heritage of this important regional theatre. Now this new award will allow us to build on those achievements and to support and train even larger communities of volunteers to research further into the venue’s heritage, and importantly, to tell the story of the Royal Concert Hall alongside that of the Theatre Royal. I’m delighted that the University of Nottingham has been able to support this exciting project.”

RCH Mosaic 2000 Venetian tiles, Derek Hampson, 1982

David Longford, TRCH’s Creative Learning Manager, said: “We are so delighted with this award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. This has been achieved through the constant hard work and enthusiasm over the past few years of all our heritage volunteers and supporters. We would like to thank our funders for enabling us to really embed our heritage work at the venue and allowing us to now develop some very exciting future projects.”

Anne Jenkins, Director of England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are excited to support the Theatre Royal & Concert Hall in Nottingham to collect stories and involve the local community in the heritage of this grand, historic building, with money raised by National Lottery players. This project will showcase the importance of this local landmark and provide opportunities for people to explore and celebrate its history, whilst also creating stories for the future.”

The new heritage work will start immediately with the recruitment process for the Heritage Co-ordinator and the creation of the new heritage workspace at the venue. All other associated projects will then follow over the coming months and years.

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