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Cambridge theatre lands £100,000 grant to safeguard its 80-year heritage

A Cambridge theatre, which has played host to many of Britain’s top actors, has received a £100,000 grant from the National Lottery to safeguard its heritage.

The Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured the grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the cataloguing of the Theatre’s historic archive.

The project, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, is titled ‘Behind the Scenes: Saving and Sharing the Heritage of Cambridge Arts Theatre’ and will unite and safeguard over 80 years of the Theatre’s history.

Cambridge Arts Theatre auditorium (13717186)
Cambridge Arts Theatre auditorium (13717186)

The theatre has played host to many of Britain’s most renowned actors such as Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Tom Hiddleston, Juliet Stevenson, Jonathan Pryce, and Eileen Atkins.

A dazzling variety of cultural milestones have taken place at the Theatre, from Margot Fonteyn dancing her first Swan Lake to Harold Pinter's premiere of The Birthday Party.

The collection holds unique items relating to many of the theatrical legends who have graced our stage, including unseen photographs, signed posters, scripts, press cuttings, and hand-painted costume designs.

Dave Murphy, chief executive at the Trust said: “We are honoured and hugely grateful that heritage fund has recognised the historical significance of Cambridge Arts Theatre both within our local community and the wider theatrical landscape.

“This is a great opportunity to bring over 80 years of theatrical heritage to life and learn more about the people that have made, and continue to make, this Theatre special.”

Anne Jenkins, director of National Lottery Heritage Fund in the Midland and East, added: “The historic archive is a treasure trove of items relating to Britain’s rich theatrical heritage, with many a famous face treading the boards at the theatre. We’re delighted that our funding will safeguard these wonderful objects to inspire the UK’s next generation of thespians and theatre enthusiasts.”

1936 INTERIOR (13718141)
1936 INTERIOR (13718141)

The collection is currently split between the theatre and the V&A, which holds the UK’s national collection of performing arts.

The theatre is working in partnership with the V&A’s Theatre & Performance department to unite the collection in Cambridge where it will be catalogued with the help of local volunteers.

Upon completion, the collection will be permanently housed in the V&A’s new collections and research centre in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as part of its V&A East project, opening in 2023.

Accessible to the public, the centre will give visitors behind-the-scenes insight into how the museum cares, conserves and displays its collection, reinventing the idea of a museum store.

Ramona Riedzewski, head of collections management, department of theatre and performance, V&A said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for a unique regional theatre to gain a greater understanding of its historical and cultural significance, and celebrate over 80 years of promoting the performing arts within its local community.”

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