Stoke-on-Trent Theatres on the BBC (The BBC Genome Project)

The BBC’s Genome project has recently launched, giving researchers access TV and Radio schedules from the launch of the BBC in 1923, gleaned from the pages of the Radio Times. Like the digitised newspaper resources I utilised to write Old Theatres in the Potteries, these have thrown up a mass of information regarding our local theatre history.

The ground-breaking performances at the Victoria Theatre, Hartshill reached a national audience not only through ABC TV, but on the BBC.

Jock on the Go, adapted by Peter Terson from the work by Arnold Bennett, was broadcast on the fledgling BBC Two on 9th September 1967. Joyce Cheeseman’s adaptation of Anna of the Five Towns was broadcast on Radio 4 on 21st February 1970, and Peter Terson’s The 1861 Whitby Lifeboat Disaster came on 23rd September 1972. Fight for Shelton Bar was taped at BBC Pebble Mill for broadcast on the 18th November 1974 as part of the Second City Firsts series.

The Victoria Theatre, and Peter Cheeseman, featured on numerous arts documentaries including 2nd House, The Arts This Week, Review, Omnibus, New Release, and Woman’s Hour.

Surprisingly, in the early days of radio the Theatre Royal, Hanley was often to be found on the airwaves. The BBC’s Midland Regional Programme broadcast variety live from the theatre on 28th November 1935:

This is the second broadcast from this theatre in the autumn programme. For many decades the Theatre Royal has been the centre of entertainment in The Potteries. It is independently owned and was recently redecorated and reseated throughout. There is now accommodation for an audience of 1,700. The site of what is the present stage was at one time occupied by an eighteenth century Methodist chapel. Among the artists listeners are to hear tonight are those tremendous favourites, Florrie Ford, and Bennett and McNaughton.

The Regional Programme returned several times over the following years, including the 15th May and 4th August 1936. A christmas special aired on 25th January 1936 called Pantomime Parade, where excerpts of that years show Humpty Dumpty were broadcast, along with Cinderella from the Coventry Hippodrome, and Puss in Boots from the Theatre Royal, Birmingham.

Relayed from the Theatre Royal,Hanley
The cast includes Anita,Reg Redcliffe with his xylophone, Terry’s Juveniles
Book by J. Hickory Wood
Music by Gordon Stewart
Produced by Prince Littler

The broadcast of 9th November 1937 gives the following details:

This theatre, which is independently owned, is the principal centre of entertainment for the Potteries, and draws its audiences from a large district. An early Methodist chapel formerly occupied part of the site. There have been broadcasts from the theatre at regular intervals since North Staffordshire was included in the Midland Region.

Interestedly, whilst the Sadler’s Well’s Opera Company were touring the UK during the war, ;The Barber of Seville was broadcast live from the Theatre Royal on the BBC Home Service on 23rd May 1942.

Act I of Rossini’s opera, performed in Edward J. Dent ‘s translation by the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company, from the Theatre Royal, Hanley. Conducted by Herbert Menges, and produced by Powell Lloyd

Nothing more appears to have been broadcast from the theatre until 17th September 1987 when Ken Dodd brought his Palace of Laughter to the building, broadcast on BBC Radio 2.


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