Unity Theatre collection

Scope and Content

The collection includes scripts, press cuttings, minutes, festival programmes, correspondence and financial statements.

Part of the collection relates to the 1960s and the relationship between the Unity Theatre Trust and the Unity Theatre Society.

Administrative / Biographical History

Unity Theatre developed from workers' drama groups in the 1930s. From the beginning Unity saw itself as the people's theatre. Many of its productions sought to dramatise the lives and struggles of ordinary working people. Its aims were to bring theatre to the masses and in doing so help in the struggles for world peace and better social and economic order. Unity was a product of the turbulent 1930s and the rising threat of Fascism. It had strong links with the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Left Book Club Theatre Guild.

By the outbreak of World War II there were 250 branches loosely linked with the Left Book Club Theatre Guild. After the war 50 branches became more closely organised into the Unity Theatre Society Limited which was largely amateur. Local branches of Unity Theatres provided venues for left-wing theatre. However by the 1960s the movement went into decline as the abolition of licensing meant that mainstream theatres could more readily meet the demand for radical productions.


The arrangement reflects the original filing system and has been arranged chronologically

Access Information

Access by appointment.

Acquisition Information

The Unity Theatre Collection was deposited in the National Museum of Labour History when the museum was located in Limehouse, London. The exact date of deposit is not known. In 1990 People's History Museum (formerly National Museum of Labour History) moved to Manchester. The collection is now held at the Labour History Archives and Study Centre, which is based at the head office of the People's History Museum and managed by the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.


Collection level description created by Janette Martin.

Other Finding Aids

A file list of the Unity Theatre collection is available for consultation at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre.

Separated Material

Unity Theatre ephemera and photographs are also held by the People's History Museum in Manchester.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Prior written permission must be obtained from the Archive for publication or reproduction of any material within the Archive. Please contact the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, 103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD Tel.: +44 (0)161 834 5343.

Appraisal Information

No appraisal, destruction or scheduling has taken place.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

A large collection of material from the Merseyside Unity Theatre, 1937-1987, is held at the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, Maritime Archives and Library. Records of the London Unity Theatre, 1931-1970 are held at the V & A Theatre Museum. The minutes of the Unity Theatre School, St. Pancras are held at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.


The Story of Unity Theatre, by Colin Chambers (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1989)