Open Day

The Stories We Tell heritage festival artwork - Large text against a striped background reads 'The Stories We Tell', underneath comic book-style text reads 'Past, present and future voices from the Northcott Archive'

SUN 1 MAY – Heritage open day

Past, present and future voices from the Northcott Archive

Following over two years of exploration and community engagement with the Northcott Theatre Archive, we are very excited to host an open day of heritage-themed activities, live performances, film and exhibitions – inspired by the stories and voices of the Archive. Discover the amazing people and productions that have been a part of the Northcott’s journey to date – and explore new takes on the role of theatre in the community with the fantastic artists and local people we are working with in the present day.

Find out more about the events below.

An Antidote to Invisibility

A Film by Liberty Smith

Central to the exhibition is an installation film by Bristol-based artist and filmmaker Liberty Smith, which shares personal stories told by historically underrepresented voices in theatre. There is also a listening booth, where you can hear interesting stories and testimonies about the impact theatre and the Northcott have made on people’s lives.

10am – closing
FREE – no booking required

Photography: Liberty Smith

The Back End of the Cow and Other Stories

A promenade performance by the Northcott Young Company

The Northcott Young Company are adding their voices to the archive of the future. Our young people have been gathering stories and memories from a range of people involved in theatre in the past and present, to use as inspiration for their own brand-new show; a piece of promenade theatre that will guide audiences through the lesser-known parts of the Northcott. Who knows which stories will come to life?

11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm & 3.30pm
£7.50 (£5 concessions)

more info & book now

The Places We’ve Been

A Community-led Performance by Hannah Kumari

Taking in parts of the Northcott that an audience wouldn’t normally see, The Places We’ve Been is inspired by the theatre’s 55-year Heritage Archive, and by workshops with local community groups and professional actors. It explores the stories which have been told in the past and asks how we can better serve all members of our community in the future.

6pm & 8pm

more info & book now

Exhibition: Exploring the Archive

At the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

An exhibition of original materials from the Archive, curated by the Northcott Collection’s Archivist Caroline Walter and Curator Kathryn Johnson, will be on display at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, just a short walk from the theatre.

10am – 5pm
FREE – no booking required

Bill Douglas Museum Visitor Info
Photography: Alan Winn


Inspired by the Northcott’s Archive

To keep the whole family entertained, we’ll be running free drop-in crafts activities for all ages and abilities. All materials will be provided.

10am – 3pm

Be a part of it!

Free workshop with Hannah Kumari

Performer, writer & producer Hannah Kumari is running a series of 3 free community performance workshops inspired by black and global majority representation in the Northcott theatre’s archive.

Actors call-out!

Set fee: £800

Performer, writer and producer Hannah Kumari is looking for 3 Devon-based actors to devise a promenade piece for 2 sharings at the Northcott Theatre on May 1st, inspired by Black and Global Majority representation in the Northcott’s Heritage archive.

online talks

Dating back to 1967 the extensive Northcott archive includes posters, programmes, board minutes, photographs and many other artefacts that convey a range of perspectives of the theatre’s story so far. A number of interns have been working closely with Special Collections at the University of Exeter to identify items that resonate with them and would be compelling conversation-starters about the role of theatre now.

With the archive as a starting point, a number of events have taken place over the past two years to explore our history and spark debate about emerging themes. We hosted a number of online discussions and open Q&As to explore these themes further with a panel of artists, academics and community members. These can now be re-watched below.

Archive photography by Nicholas Toyne.

It’s been fascinating to see that many of the challenges the theatre experienced then are still relevant right now. Some of the documents we uncovered ignited a lot of debate!

Farzana Khan, Heritage Intern

The Impact of Women

The first panel took place on 5 May and looked at the impact of women on the theatre’s history – and what these stories can tell us about the experiences of women in the arts more widely. The panel will be chaired by Natalie McGrath, writer and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West, an organisation that connects individuals and communities through the telling and keeping of great and courageous stories about women’s activism that have lain undiscovered and often untold.

Find out more & re-watch

Diversity and Representation

Louisa Adjoa Parker, a writer and leader of projects exploring ethnically diverse heritages is joined by Alix Harris, Artistic Director of Beyond Face and Indra Congress Director, and Sandhya Dave, a well-known cultural champion in Exeter and beyond; a diversity and inclusion specialist leading on anti-racist work. They looked at how communities with diverse heritages including African diaspora people, South, East and South East Asian diaspora people, and recent immigrants to Exeter and Devon are represented in the theatre’s archive. How has diversity and inclusion been approached historically and what does this legacy mean for anti-racism in the South West today?

find out more and re-watch
Black and white photo of performance in a school, children sitting on the floor watching: The Celts and Their Stories 1971
© Nicholas Toyne
The Memory Tree - Green and white note cards on a cut-out tree frame

Theatres Produce Memories

In partnership with Exeter Local History Society and Exeter Memories, we will explore local history and reminiscence about former Northcott productions and projects with our local community.

Janet Gale is a key member of Exeter Local History Society and Exeter Memories, who worked at the Northcott for over 20 years. She’ll be talking to Mike Reddaway, the Northcott’s Production Manager from 1983 to 2010, who oversaw all technical aspects of more than 500 productions, and Penny Mindelsohn, who founded the ‘Exeter Northcott Youth Theatre’ and went on to become a member of the Devon County Drama Staff team, touring productions to schools.

find out more and re-watch

Accessibility and the Theatre

With Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director and CEO of Graeae Theatre, and Plymouth based Producer Dan Baker, we will discuss accessibility and the arts, particularly for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and disabled people; how this has been approached historically and what needs to change moving forward.

Find out more and re-watch
Robert Lindsay in Guys and Dolls, December 1971
© N Toyne
Northcott Theatre programme from 1971

The Role of Regional Theatre

To coincide with Exeter Fringe Festival, our Artist Development Producer Helen Bovey chaired a conversation about the Changing Role of Regional Theatre. Joining us for the first half of the conversation was Erin Walcon, Co-Director of Doorstep Arts with Alix Harris, Artistic Director of Beyond Face and Indra Congress Director. The second half of the conversation was with Mair George from Villages in Action and Ben Lyon-Ross, Talent Development Producer at Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Find out more and re-watch

The Future of Theatre

This December, the archive’s commissioning circle of local community representatives hosted an event asking “What would we like the theatre archive to contain in 50 years’ time?” to imagine and plan for what comes next. They were joined by curator Kathryn Johnson, archivist Caroline Walter and theatre curator Keith Lodwick. Together they discussed questions such as why theatre archives matter, what has been collected since the theatre opened, and how might this change in the future?

Find out more and re-watch
A photo of the Northcott's mural by Dave Bain

Made possible withHERITAGE FUND logo