Half Moon Theatre gets Heritage Lottery cash to delve into its past

Half Moon Theatre at Limehouse [photos: Tim James]

Half Moon Theatre at Limehouse [photos: Tim James] - Credit: Half Moon

A project delving into the history of the famous Half Mood youth theatre in East London has landed a £46,000 windfall from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Half Moon Theatre at Limehouse [photos: Tim James]

Half Moon Theatre at Limehouse [photos: Tim James] - Credit: Half Moon

The project is to shed light on the heritage and role that the theatre played in the East End and the development of theatre from 1972 to the present day.

“Half Moon is well known in the East End since the 1970s,” Heritage Lottery Fund’s Stuart Hobley said.

“Young people will gain skills by digging into archives as they create a record of that period and have the chance to sharpen their own acting abilities.”

The activity programme gives public access to the theatre’s records for the first time through research, archiving, digitisation and a touring exhibition.


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Half Moon’s Youth theatres also have the chance to perform some of the iconic plays developed at the theatre.

Young people aged 11 to 25 can gain skills in research and interviewing, as well as recording memories on film from members of the public and from theatre professionals.

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Half Moon’s director Chris Elwell said: “The Heritage Lottery funding and the theatre’s alumni will allow us to explore the history of Half Moon to share it with a new generation.

“We are working with young people, organisations and individuals in the weeks and months ahead to make sure the community is involved with the project and our theatre.”

Half Moon is now looking for more people to get involved, record their stories and search for old programmes, photographs, posters and artefacts from the theatre’s history that began at Alie Street in Whitechapel, before moving out to the Mile End Road, then finally to its present location, what was once the Limehouse Board of Guardians at White Horse Road.

Half Moon was founded in 1972 in a disused synagogue in Alie Street and moved to an old Methodist chapel in Stepney Green, which was later refurbished into a modern theatre.

Half Moon was known during this period for work such as Berkoff’s Sink the Belgrano!, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! and Frances de la Tour as a female Hamlet.

Anyone wanting to get involved in the archive project can email history@halfmoon.org.uk.

The name ‘Half Moon’ is taken from a tiny alley in Whitechapel that ran alongside the disused Alie Street Synagogue that had been converted into new Alie Street Theatre. It was suggested as a more appealing alternative name by a journalist on the local weekly newspaper at the time.

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