Exeter Northcott Theatre has a rich history as a well-loved regional venue and its archive is a treasure trove of material relating to the history of live entertainment in the South West. These valuable records showcase the theatre as a training ground for writers, makers, and performers of note, and also reveal changing styles, attitudes, and challenges - across more than 50 years of operation.
The Northcott Theatre opened its doors in November 1967 as the first arts centre in UK to have been built on university land. It quickly built a reputation as a venue that fostered new writing talent and pushed boundaries. It also played a role in the development of the careers of actors such as Celia Imrie, Robert Lindsay, Diana Rigg, Imelda Staunton, and John Nettles.
It has a long history of community engagement, from its highly regarded Northcott Young Company to piloting performances in unconventional spaces. The theatre’s in house productions, such as its annual summertime Shakespeare in the park and Christmas pantomime, are also warmly remembered locally and documented in detail in the archive. There is a proud history of training early career theatre technicians who have gone on to become the backbone of the theatre industry in the UK and beyond.
The archive itself contains thousands of production records, photographs, scripts, programmes, posters and press clippings, giving us fascinating details about the day to day running of the theatre, the performances presented throughout its history, and its role in the local community. It is housed in the University of Exeter Special Collections to ensure its preservation and enable access for research and learning and you can access some key items digitally on this site.
This digital archive has been made possible thanks to National Lottery Players via the National Lottery Heritage Fund which funded a two year project allowing Exeter Northcott Theatre to connect Exeter communities to the Northcott Archive and, through exploring the past, help us consider the role of theatre today.