Happy 60th Birthday Belgrade Theatre!
As Coventry begins preparations for its year as UK City of Culture in 2021, the Belgrade Theatre is also celebrating a major milestone in 2018 as it marks its 60th anniversary today (Thursday 27 March).
Coinciding with World Theatre Day, the date marks the beginning of a packed programme of exciting shows and events for the year ahead, highlighting the Theatre’s rich history at the creative and cultural heart of the city, as well as looking forward to the central role it will continue to play in Coventry’s future.
Since becoming the UK’s first civic theatre to open after World War II in 1958, the Belgrade Theatre has had plenty to celebrate, enjoying considerable renown both locally and nationally for its eclectic mix of home-produced and touring shows. Through an ongoing process of development, it has continued to expand and diversify its offerings, via such changes as the construction of its B2 studio, which marked its own 10th anniversary in 2017.
Over the years, it has helped launch the careers of several leading lights of the stage and screen, including Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Trevor Nunn, Richard Briers, Rosemary Leach and David Suchet, to name a few.
On a local level, the Belgrade has built a reputation as a hub for nurturing homegrown talent, with some alumni such as Clive Owen going on to enjoy international acclaim. More recently, the Belgrade’s Springboard and Critical Mass schemes have provided an invaluable platform for emerging writers, performers and other creatives in Coventry to present their work in a professional context.
From the beginning, the Belgrade’s ethos has always been to stand proudly at the heart of everything that Coventry is and does, catering to hugely varied audiences, and cultivating close relationships with communities throughout the region. Through a combination of groundbreaking education and outreach work – historically including the pioneering Theatre in Education programme – and a huge variety of youth and community drama groups, it works with countless children and adults across the region, providing them with early and often life-changing experiences of theatre.
Among the fruits of this community work to take place as part of the Belgrade birthday celebrations will be an ambitious performance takeover of the neighbouring Coventry Evening Telegraph Building, titled Read All About It. Running from 10-14 July, this mini-festival will bring together professional performers from Mercurial Dance with the Belgrade’s own youth and community groups as part of a large-scale immersive experience drawing on real-life stories from the city.
The Belgrade Theatre is a registered charity, and relies on financial support from individual and corporate donors as well as trusts and foundations in order to fund its community work. This March, in honour of its 60th birthday, it’s asking audiences to add a voluntary donation of 60p to ticket purchases to help ensure projects such as Read All About It are able to continue.
Birthday celebrations will get into full swing next season, with a glittering Diamond Anniversary Gala and some exciting home-produced shows planned for the autumn. But before that, look out for exciting announcements and events in spring and summer, including a birthday quiz and live BBC broadcast on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire on the day itself.
For more information about the Belgrade’s history and current initiatives, visit www.belgrade.co.uk/about-us.
For details on the theatre’s charity status and how you can show your support, visit www.belgrade.co.uk/support-us.