Theatre of War: PTUC works with the Kings Theatre, Portsmouth, on WW1 port town leisure

Port Towns and Urban Cultures is delighted to be working in partnership with the Kings Theatre.  With the help of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Gateways to the First World War public engagement centre Katrina Henderson, Learning and Community Engagement Officer, was put in touch with Gateways collaborators Professor Brad Beaven and Dr Melanie Bassett from the University of Portsmouth (PTUC), who both have expertise in Edwardian leisure and the First World War; and Dr Helen Brookes of the University of Kent, who has led research into the history of theatre. Through this consultation on their bid the theatre successfully received £9,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) First World War: then and now programme for their ‘Theatre of War – The Kings Theatre Heritage Project.’

Professor Beaven and Drs Bassett and Brookes will form part of a consultation team to provide support and expertise throughout the project. The University of Portsmouth also have a number of students volunteering on the project in order to aid their own employability skills.

Commenting on the award, Katrina Henderson, Learning and Community Engagement Officer said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and can’t wait to get started on the project. I am excited about getting local people from Portsmouth enthused about the historical importance of the Kings Theatre and its role during First World War. We hope that lots of great stories come to light which we can share with the wider community.”


Theatre of War

The project will focus on the social context of World War One and the role of a provincial theatre in a busy military port town. The Kings Theatre remained open throughout the war, providing solace and comfort and a chance to forget about the horrors of war for a few hours. Residents of the city as well and troops and nurses temporarily stationed in the city were entertained by some of the biggest stars of the period, yet little has been recorded of its time prior and during the war. Thanks to National Lottery players, the heritage of the theatre during this period will now be better interpreted.

The research will have two distinct outcomes. The first will be the creation of an in-house and a pop-up exhibition on the role of the Kings Theatre during the First World War. The second will be to employ industry professionals to help the pupils of St George’s Beneficial School to make a documentary film. The exhibition and film will be launched at a special celebratory event later in the year. The project will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about the Theatre during WW1.


Volunteers Needed

To mark the Centenary of the First World War, the project will enable local people in Portsmouth  to come together to preserve the  memories and heritage of the people who lived through the First World War.  Volunteers will collect photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and photos of keepsakes, as well as family tales passed down to help them build a clearer picture of what life was really like.

Gateways are also providing funding to facilitate large-scale digital crowd sourcing. It is hoped we can attract volunteers from far and wide to become researchers on the project and to share in making this little-known history of the First World War come to life

The Kings Theatre are looking for volunteers to take part in this exciting new project see the flier and download the application form for more details, or refer to the theatre website:



Theatre of War volunteer application







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