The Library Theatre 1947 to 1963

As you entered Shakespeare Hall which is the foyer of the Manchester Central Library to attend a play, a  musical or  other type of entertainment put on at Manchester’s Library Theatre, you can look in total awe at the wonderful windows such as the one below.


This very special theatre was built in the basement of Manchester’s wonderful Central Library.  It wasn’t actually built as a theatre but as a lecture theatre but very quickly discovered its true vocation  in life.  It was a very intimate theatre  which held only 312 seats.

Above is the wonderful rendition of ‘Dirty Old Town by Ewen MacColl, who was born in Salford; he appeared in 1947 in a play he had written ‘Operation Olive Branch’ and was directed by Joan Littlewood.  An interesting fact was that his real name was James Henry Miller.  In the 1940’s several budding actors appeared there and went on to gain fame. Amongst them was Alfie BassAlfred Burke, Eric Messiter who devised the Radio 4 programme ‘Just a Minute’ and Tony Britton. In interesting little fact about him is that he is the father of Fern Britton, surprise, surprise!!

This playbill for ‘Queen Elizabeth’ (unfortunately is a little faded) due to its age, was timed to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.

In the 1950’s Diana Cilento, , Jeremy Brett, Frank Windsor (Z Cars),  appeared in Rep. also two of Coronation Street’s all time favourites appeared, Daphne Oxenford, Eileen Derbyshire and Jean AlexanderDavid Scase both acted and directed as did  Sir Peter Hall.  What an array of talent!!

In the 1962 the play ‘Fairytales of New York‘ was brought to life at the Library theatre and the fact that it is sung by Kirsty MacColl, (daughter of Ewan MacColl) and the Pogues ties it in nicely to our ‘Manchester’

John Noakes of ‘Blue Peter’ fame appeared in Shakespeare’s  ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ along side Colin Welland and Ken Farrington.  Patrick Stewart of ‘Star Trek’ fame appeared in ‘Billy Liar’, very bizarre!!


Marilyn Shalks

5 Responses

  1. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different page and thought
    I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m
    following you. Look forward to looking over your web page

  2. Do you have any pointers for writing articles?
    That’s where I constantly battle as well as I just wind up
    staring empty screen for long period of time.

    • Hi Janie, not really, just that my mind buzzies from the information that I have as I love theatre and the volunteering that I do in Manchester Central Library archives+, when they asked me to catalogue their collection of theatre programmes and playbills I couldn’t believe my luck when I first started. My daughter said just write down everything that’s in your head then neaten it up which I have done, so just keep trying and suddenly it will happen

  3. How I envy you your volunteering project. I volunteered at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records office for many and have recently retired. How I miss it. However I am currently participating in a U3A project re: theatre histories so am finding your site invaliable.

    • Hi Norma

      How amazing is that, Just because we’re retired doesn’t mean that we are of no use to anyone. I love theatre and am lucky enough to be able to do this work. Keep the good work up and let me know if I can help you with any information about any of the acts or stars as I usually have more info than I can put in my blogs.

      Kind regards


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