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The Mercury Theatre Colchester is set to hold a celebration event on Monday 25 March to mark the completion of a two-year long archiving project, collecting the theatre’s 80 years of history.
The project, titled Mercury Voices, began in January 2017 and was made possible by financial support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Mercury Voices has successfully brought the theatre’s rich archival collection together for the first time in a comprehensive record, ensuring this history is not lost to future generations.
The archive includes a complete series of show programmes from 1937 through to today, as well as news cuttings, scripts, costume designs and production photographs, showcasing the evolution in the productions presented and the developments in design that have occurred over the years.
In addition, partners of the project, Colchester Recalled, have developed a series of in-depth oral histories about the theatre. Through conversations with audience members, actors, staff and other members of the local community, these oral histories and transcriptions offer a wealth of information about the theatre and how it has changed over time.
The collection will be safely stored by Mercury Voices partners, the Essex Record Office, and made available through the SEAX website at www.essexarchivesonline.co.uk
For the duration of the project, the Mercury Voices team have actively engaged with a wide range of people who have contributed by making donations and sharing their memories, creating a sense of inspiration, ownership and community cohesion for all involved.
A dedicated team of volunteers provided their skills and expertise throughout, sorting and cataloguing the collection, researching and developing exhibitions and learning resources, recording and transcribing oral history recordings, and helping at events, giving an incredible combined 2,031 hours of their time.
To date, the project has been shared with over 10,000 people through a series of talks and exhibitions which have toured around Essex Libraries. Two learning resource packs have been developed for schools, with creative ideas and activities to embed the theatre’s history across the curriculum.
The collection has also been brought to life through drama pieces devised by the Mercury’s Youth Theatre and performed as part of a series of events celebrating the archive and the theatre’s enduring involvement in the local community.
The theatre’s staff and volunteers, with their newly acquired archiving skills, will continue to add to the archive as part of the theatre’s day-to-day operations.
The Mercury Voices Celebration Event will invite those involved in the project to come together on Monday 25 March 2019, in recognition of the success of this project.