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Historic images of Ian McKellen and Judi Dench as Cambridge Arts Theatre gets £100,000 to preserve its history


By Adrian Curtis


These are some of the historic images in Cambridge Arts Theatre's archive, which will be preserved after a £100,000 grant from the National Lottery.

Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Ian Mckellen. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021914)
Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Ian Mckellen. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021914)

They show actors such as Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy performing on the stage.

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.

Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Tom Hiddleston, Juliet Stevenson, Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins are also among those who have performed at the theatre.

Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Idomeneo King of Crete 1939. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021910)
Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Idomeneo King of Crete 1939. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021910)

Margot Fonteyn danced her first Swan Lake there, while Harold Pinter's famous play, The Birthday Party, was premeried there.

The collection includes 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.

Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, going through the archive. Picture: Keith Heppell. (13754684)
Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, going through the archive. Picture: Keith Heppell. (13754684)

“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.”

Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Bill Nighy. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021912)
Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Bill Nighy. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021912)

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.

Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Trevor Nunn. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021913)
Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, Trevor Nunn. Picture: Keith Heppell. (14021913)

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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