The Library Theatre 1963 onwards

The Library Theatre went from strength to strength and in 1963 Patrick Stewart appeared in ‘Billy Liar’  before going to Hollywood and gaining world wide fame in ‘Star Treck’.

In 1965, 1966 and 1967 they put on many folk music concerts, starring such great names for the folk world such as Jackie and Bridie , Ash Lawrence; the Folk Four; Harry Boardman;  The Clogger’s, Harvey Kershaw,  The Oldham Tinkers, the Moston Brook Clog Dancers,  Jim Mainland, Lena Slack and The Spinners as this was one of the big music trends of the day.

‘Rare Records’  who were the iconic world famous music shop of Manchester, they put on lunch-time music shows.

In 1967 the Library Theatre put on the play A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney,  it was one of my favourite play’s set in our beloved Salford. They made the film in 1961 and starred Rita Tushingham  and Dora Bryan



Again in that year Roger Tonge appeared in a different play, he later went on to gain fame in ‘Crossroads’ one of  our early soaps as Noele Gordon character Meg Richardson’s son, Sandy.

In 1970 The Scaffold appeared I find it strange that such a theatre as the Library which was famous for its serious plays should put on these music performances,

In 1971 Manchester Polytechnic Theatre Department put on a series of plays featuring their students at that time.  Included in that year were several who went on to become famous stars such as Amanda Burton, , Richard Griffiths, Bernard Hill, John Thompson, David Thelfall, Julie WaltersSue Cleaver, Kevin Kennedy, Elizabeth Estensen and Jeff Hordley have all ended up as top Soap Opera Stars and Steve Coogan, Jenny Éclair and Debra Stephenson as comedians as well as actors.  What a scoop for Manchester Polytechnic !!

In 1974 Alan Rickman appeared in the panto Babes in the Wood. Other famous names that also appeared were Liam Neeson in 1974, Meg Johnson in 1979 and Miranda Richardson in 1980, Roy Barraclough, Sue Johnstone ( she was bottom of the bill) and John Jardine in 1982

In 1989 they put on a play by Sue Townsend called ‘Ten Tiny fingers , Nine Tiny Toes’ , it starred Brian Capron and Ian Mercer who went on to gain fame in Coronation St.  In 2004 they put on a play entitled ‘Beyond Belief, Scenes from The Shipman Inquiry‘  which I can’t believe was so long ago as it is still a vivid memory for me as at that time I lived in Mottram where the Shipman family lived.

The cafe in the basement of Manchester Central Library had a wonderful cosy atmosphere of its own which was adjoining the theatre. Sadly this has now gone as has the Library Theatre to a new home, ‘Home’ 

Marilyn Shalks

19 Responses

    • Thank you so much Petra,I really am glad that you are enjoying my posts and I will continue hopefully to keep up the interesting facts

  1. There was a fabulous production of Sweeney Todd at the Library, where they sold hot oies in the interval. The audience were so close to the stage that several ladies in the front rows got fake blood spattered over them. It looked wonderful streaked through a blue rinse. The manager had to pay their dry cleaning bills.

    • Thanks for your info, I have more stuff on the library theatre that I haven’t yet written about, so please do keep reading my blogs on the theatres of Manchester

  2. Have you any information on the summer workshops they ran. I attended a couple of them in the sixties. One was a version of lysistrata.

    • Hi Pat,

      I’m not sure at the moment as I cannot access the archive records for the Library theatre from home. I’m sure I remember there is something about them in the programmes and playbill collection. When we get back to some sort of normality I will try and find out for you
      Sorry about that


  3. I was in that production of Sweeney playing Pirelli the “High C” tenor rival of Sweeney. Fabulous cast, great memories

    • Hi Billy

      Wow, how amazing, really interesting news , if you have a copy of a playbill or programme for this show I would love you to send me a picture of it, if you can scan it. Central Library Archives + don’t have copies of all the playbills and programmes and I would love to see who was in. Are you still working in the theatre or are you retired.

      Kind regards


    • Hi Billy

      Sadly there wasn’t a programme or playbill in Manchester Archives + for that show. How sad, it would have been great to be able to connect you. did you appear in any other productions in Manchester?

      Really interested to discover

      Kind regards


      • Hi Marilyn, I did My Fair Lady at the Opera House, Evita same venue, Sweeney again in 89 at Wythenshawe. I have the programmes of all

        • How amazing , have you catalogued all your programmes that you were in . A nice gentleman in Poynton contacted me as he wanted to know whether I wanted his and his mother’s collection of theatre programmes. I now have them they are amazing and there are some from the 1920’s Very nostalgic. The only thing I find sad is that quite of lot of theatres did not put the year of the show on the programme but thankfully they left their theatre tickets in some of the programmes so it helps. At present I am still cataloging these programmes so I haven’t had time to write any new blogs but I definitely will

  4. Hi Marilyn – thanks for this blog! I’m doing some research into a reading by the American poet Allen Ginsberg did at the Library Theatre on 5th June 1979. I’m trying to trace anyone who was there and any other info about the reading.
    Do you know who was the event manager around 1979? And where can I access the Library Theatre Archives?
    Interestingly Ginsberg’s guitarist at that gig (and for many years), Steven Taylor, was born in Gorton, Manchester, before his family emigrated to the USA when he was 10. I have an image of the ad for the gig and a review if you want to see it and post it. I can email.
    If anyone reading this was there please let me know. Thanks!

    • Hi Roger

      Thanks for your nice comments. Allen Ginsberg is definitely a name I know of but I don’t actually know a great deal about him. have a vague recollection that he was involved in the Vietnam protests in America. Please let me know when you have something I can read about him

      Kind regards


  5. oh and i did booth singing for Pirates of Penzance(broadway version) at the Opera House with Bonnie, and appeared Opera House many times when I was with the D’Oyly Carte Opera.

    • Hi Billy
      Were you professional or purely amateur? My husband has appeared in Evita at the Lowry, the Opera house and the Palace Theatre. He was not singing but in the walking on chorus. He appeared in Evita with Marti Pellow

  6. Wonderful blog!! I worked at the Library Theatre in Stage Management from 1992-1996. Wonderful times, privileged to have worked on many amazing productions from in house directors Roger Haines Chris Honer Sue Sutton Mayo.

    • Hi, So glad you enjoyed you enjoyed the blog. I loved the Library theatre, it was so quirky and so intimate, in the basemen of Central Library. I haven’t ventured to Home yet but they don’t seem to do much in the way of theatre work mainly films. I presume that you must have worked some of todays top actors at the start of their careers.
      If you know of any groups or clubs who have speakers I give talks about the Manchester Theatres, their stars and their history.
      One more, thank you for your lovely comments

  7. Was Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite performed in the Manchster Library Theatre around 1970. Also, did the Liverpool Poets appear there.

    • Hi Steve, sorry I can’t help you as I am not sure about them as all the programmes that I have seen are in Manchester Central Library archives+ collection. If you contact them they should be able to able to help you if they have those particular progammes in their collection

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