Theatre collections

  1. Our unique collection includes material from most theatres, past and present, with long runs of playbills and programmes for the Theatre Royal, Prince's Theatre, Palace Theatre, Opera House, the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Library Theatre. Music hall is less well represented but material is available on the Broadhead Circuit.

  2. What's available

    We hold theatre material from the mid 18th century to the present day, it contains:

    • programmes and playbills
    • posters and handbills
    • newspaper cuttings
    • scrapbooks, postcards and other memorabilia
    • photographs
    • books, periodicals and manuscripts; and 
    • architectural plans.

    Our city was also the location of the first English repertory company founded by Annie Horniman at the Gaiety Theatre. There is a substantial collection of material on this including correspondence from Annie Horniman. Amateur theatre groups and theatrical societies such as the Unnamed Society are also included.

    The Theatre collection card index we hold includes information on:
    • Actors, actresses, music hall artistes etc, 
    • Theatre, ballet and opera companies; and 
    • Titles of plays, shows and productions.

    Only actors taking major roles have been indexed (though an attempt has been made to index well known actors in early roles). 

  3. How to access

    Ask a member of staff in the Central Library search room for the theatre collection card index.

    You can also look at items from the collection in the search room, please make an appointment (with at least one day notice).

  4. Related information

    • Manchester Theatres by Terry Wyke and Nigel Rudyard 1994 - contains a general history of theatre in Manchester, an alphabetical list of theatres and a brief history of each, and a detailed guide to the contents of the collection (copies are available at the Arts Library for £6.95),
    • The Early Manchester Theatre (1750-1807) by J L Hodgkinson and R Pogson 1960; and
    • Annie Horniman: a pioneer in the theatre by Sheila Gooddie 1990.

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