Mercury Theatre launches project to celebrate its past and record memories from the town

Mercury Voices
  • Heritage Lottery awards £80,000 to ‘Mercury Voices’ archives and oral history project
  • The Mercury Theatre will work with Essex Record Office, Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service and Colchester Recalled.

As the Mercury Theatre Colchester continues work on a major rebuilding project to secure its place in Colchester’s future, it has launched a project to safeguard and archive its past.

Thanks to an £80,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a professional archivist will be employed to work with the theatre over two years to create an archive of records and artefacts dating back to 1938.

An oral history project will record memories of the Mercury from across the community, and the project will culminate in exhibitions and performances inspired by the archive.

The Mercury’s archive materials are currently stored ad hoc across several sites.  The project will see key items transferred to the safekeeping of the Essex Record Office.

Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service will be supporting the project ensuring that the history of the Mercury and of the town is integrated into their future work of preserving Colchester’s history for generations to come.

Colchester Recalled Oral History Group will advise on recording memories of the Mercury from across the Community and its role in the cultural life of Colchester through the decades. Were you part of the campaign to build the Mercury’s current home? Do you remember visiting the Old Rep in the High Street? Were you there in 1972 for the first performance of The Recruiting Officer? We’d like to hear from you.

The Mercury would like to hear from anyone who has memories or artefacts – old programmes, posters, even props and costumes! Anyone with a memory of the Mercury should contact [email protected] and their details will be passed on to the archivist when appointed.

Mercury Voices will be a two-year project, culminating in exhibitions and performances inspired by the Archive and the community’s memories. The archive will then be accessible online for the very first time and available to access for free for future generations.

Mercury Theatre Executive Director Steve Mannix said:

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time – because we are such a part of the town, every few months people find old programmes, posters, even props and costumes and send them in to us. Now we’ll be able to look after this history properly.”

He continued:

“We’d love people to get involved with this project – until we have appointed an archivist anyone interested can email [email protected] or call 01206 573948 to express their interest.”

Cllr Tim Young said:

“This is a really exciting project for Colchester and I’m delighted that the Mercury have been successful with their funding application to the HLF so it can be brought to life. I’m sure there are lots of hidden stories that can reveal so much about our past and how those communities have shaped the Colchester we live in today; I can’t wait to hear them and, as ever, Colchester Borough Council and our Museums service will support our Arts colleagues and are delighted to be involved.”

Cllr John Spence, Essex County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Heritage, Culture and the Arts, said:

“I’m thrilled that the records from this great new initiative with the Mercury Theatre and Heritage Lottery Fund, will be collected and preserved at the Essex Record Office, enabling new access to the wonderful cultural history of this county.”

Andrew Phillips from Colchester Recalled said:

“This splendid initiative gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to record the memories of the Mercury and the old Rep of those who worked there, and of the Colchester people who went there in their thousands, for the town’s oral history archive, Colchester Recalled.”

Anyone interested in the project who would like to assist in the collection of oral history is asked to contact [email protected].

Back to Blog