Below is the script from the film that accompanies this learning resource. The film can be viewed here.
Welcome to the University of Huddersfield’s archives at Heritage Quay. This film is about our Arts collections. Huddersfield has always had a lively arts scene, with lots of opportunities to participate in dance, music, theatre and opera. 150 years ago there were at least twelve theatre venues in the town. Today Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley theatre hosts arts events from national and international performers.
This picture of the Lawrence Batley theatre doesn’t look much like a theatre, because the building started life as a chapel. It was converted to a theatre in 1994.
1000 years ago, plays were performed out of doors. They weren’t like the plays of today. Sometimes actors would make a stage on the back of a wagon, and travel around to find new audiences. Gradually, plays started to move under cover – often in enclosed courtyards. 500 years ago, the first purpose built theatres appeared. These were called private theatres and needed a licence from the King to operate.
Do you remember what I said about travelling theatre – where the actors took the play to new audiences on the back of a wagon? Huddersfield has a travelling theatre nowadays. But this theatre doesn’t use a horse and cart– it travels all over England by canal. It’s called the Mikron Theatre and this is a programme from one of their shows. Mikron write the plays themselves about subjects that are important to local people.
What can you discover about theatres 500 years ago? How are they different from theatres of today?
Can you find out about other buildings which were converted to theatres? What happened to them after the theatres closed?
The Mikron and Lawrence Batley are professional theatres. This means the actors are paid. There’s another kind of theatre where the actors aren’t paid. They just love to be involved. This is called amateur theatre.
These items are from the Huddersfield Amateur Operatic Society, which was founded in 1897 and is still going strong 120 years later under a new name. In operas, the story is told through singing. The dolls are replicas of the characters from the operas. The badges were worn by theatre officials and they commemorate the year when the operas were performed.
You can find out lots more about Huddersfield’s professional and amateur arts scene at Heritage Quay.