‘Curtain up’ on the past – could YOU help us discover the hidden histories of the Mercury Theatre?

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The Mercury Theatre is recruiting a band of volunteers to help discover the hidden gems in our eighty-year history!

About Mercury Theatre

The Mercury Theatre was born out of the Colchester Repertory Theatre founded in 1937 and has been a significant part of the civic life of Colchester and North Essex for 80 years. Throughout its history the Mercury has gained a local, regional and national reputation for producing critically acclaimed theatre across all genres of live performance. Last year our work reached a record audience of 120,000 people. This has been complemented for many years by an extensive Learning and Participation Programme – last year engaging over 22,500 children and young people.

Over the next few years the Mercury will be undertaking capital works to its current site built in 1972. As the organisation enters a new phase in its existence, Mercury Voices will ensure that the organisation’s history is captured, can be shared for future generations and creates a sense of inspiration, ownership and community cohesion.

Mercury Voices will create an archive of the Mercury Theatre’s history, including programmes, news cuttings, set designs, scripts and other items of interest.

About Mercury Voices

Mercury Voices is a two-year project, supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Mercury Voices will create an archive of the Mercury Theatre’s history, including programmes, news cuttings, set designs, scripts and other items of interest. It will also include oral history interviews from audience members, actors, staff and others in the local community. The interviews will be captured by volunteers who will receive training in recording and editing oral histories.

The documents and artefacts collected will be digitised and stored by Essex Records Office and made available through a website. 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.

Our aim is it to create an archive, to ensure this history is not lost to future generations, and to actively engage members of the community in the theatre’s history who would otherwise think history is ‘not really something for them’.

The source material from the archive will also be available through an interactive touring exhibition, talks and educational resources for schools. It will also be brought to life by a series of drama pieces devised by our Youth Theatre Company and performed as part of a series of events celebrating the archive and the theatre’s enduring involvement in the local community.


Volunteer / Placement Opportunities

Mercury Voices is seeking volunteers to assist in this exciting new initiative to create an archive of the collection and to support a range of work on the project.

You may be interested in working in one area or across the project. There is potential to volunteer on a regular or flexible basis, or on specific areas.

These include:

Cataloguing and archiving the collection – the collection covers objects from 1937 to today. Some of the collection is at Essex Record Office, whilst some is stored at the theatre. Volunteers will be able to support a range of activity from improving documentation of the collection and sorting of material through to detailed cataloguing.  Volunteers will also assist in the creation of a collections database, by data inputting into a web based programme.

Oral histories – we aim to develop and enrich the archive with oral histories from audiences, actors and staff. Volunteers will have opportunities to conduct, record and transcribe interviews.  Volunteers must be willing to travel locally.  Expenses will be covered.

Community engagement and events – we aim to bring the heritage of the theatre to life by engaging a wide and diverse community. There will be opportunities for volunteers to support community events, school projects and youth programmes.

Exhibitions – a series of pop-up showcases and exhibitions will be developed. Volunteers will have opportunities to research and contextualise material in the collection for one-off pop-ups, showcases and touring exhibitions.

Research – opportunities include researching the history of the Mercury Theatre, as well as more specific areas of the collection.

Evaluation – an external evaluator will be recruited for the project. Volunteers will be able to support the evaluation programme by collecting and / or analysing data and feedback, to help identify the final outcomes of the project.



Training will be provided for all volunteers.

Volunteers will receive an induction into the Theatre, and their own area of work, that is relevant to the scope of their volunteering tasks.

This may include: on-the-job-training, where a member of staff shows volunteers how to do the task, and supervises them as they do it; in-house training programme, where in-depth knowledge about issues or tasks is necessary; external training with project partners at Essex Record Office, Colchester Recalled or Colchester and Ipswich Museum Services.

There are opportunities to support volunteers in achieving their Bronze, Silver and Gold Arts Award.


Location of voluntary placements

Depending on which area of activity volunteers are involved in, work may be undertaken at the Mercury Theatre, away from the theatre at locations in Colchester and surrounding areas, and at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford.  Reasonable expenses will be paid (see below).


Hours and access requirements

Volunteers’ hours vary depending on what is needed by the Theatre and what the volunteer is able to give.  These will be discussed with individuals in an informal volunteer welcome meeting.



All volunteers may have reasonable travel expenses reimbursed up to a maximum of 20 miles of mileage in total per day as per our Expenses Policy, or public transport up to a maximum of £10 per day. Volunteers working a minimum of 5 hours per day, who take lunch whilst volunteering, will be able to claim for lunch expenses up to a maximum of £5 per day. In both cases, this will be a reimbursement of monies spent and receipts must be provided. No other expenses will be covered.

The Theatre regrets that it cannot reimburse any type of expenses without original receipts, except for mileage.

Management of Volunteers

Volunteers will be managed and supported by the Head of Creative Learning and Talent, and the Project Managers.

How to apply

Please complete the Volunteer Application Form and Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form, send a letter of application outlining your interest in the project and relevant experience to: [email protected]

Applicants will be contacted by phone or email and invited to meet with the project managers to discuss their voluntary placement.


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