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Archives of the Footlights Dramatic Club, 1883 - 2019

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/FOOT

Scope and Contents

The Footlights archives are extensive, thanks to the efforts of Dr H.C. Porter, Senior Treasurer, 1962-77, Senior Archivist, 1978-2003. Since his death in 2003, regular transfers of records are the responsibility of the Junior Archivist. Records of Club administration survive alongside material relating to productions and performances, such as scripts, photographs, posters and programmes. Dr Porter added to the primary sources with his own and others' historical research material. This ranges from photocopies and notes of related records elsewhere to newscuttings tracing celebrated members' careers after Cambridge.


  • Creation: 1883 - 2019


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (

Conditions Governing Use

A significant proportion of the visual material (photographs, posters etc.) in the Footlights archives is still in copyright. The copyright owner's permission must be obtained before a copy can be made by the Library's Digital Content Unit of any visual material, except for evaluation copies for commercial reproduction or publication.

Permission must additionally be obtained to use copies of Footlights material of all kinds in any publication. Requests to publish photographic reproductions of any part of the Footlights archives supplied directly by the Library's Digital Content Unit must be submitted via an online reproduction request form. Requests to publish text should be addressed to the Keeper of Archives and Modern Manuscripts. Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Permission in both cases should also be obtained from the President of the Footlights Dramatic Club.

Biographical / Historical

The first production of the Footlights Dramatic Club was in May Week 1883, when a group of undergraduates put on a musical comedy - a burlesque - called 'Orlando Furioso' by William Barnes Rhodes. The early shows were productions of existing musical comedies and farces, but from 1892, the Club began the unbroken tradition of presenting an original show for May Week, composed thereafter of any combination of burlesque, comedy sketches, satire, songs and instrumental music. Since the mid 1980s, the Club has in addition produced a Spring revue. In between revues, Club members have experimented with new material at informal performances called Smokers. The May Week revue first transferred to London in 1910. Since the 1950s, it has been usual to follow the Cambridge run with performances in London, the South East and the Midlands, at the Edinburgh Festival and occasionally overseas, latterly known as 'the tour'. Revues have also been recorded for radio and television. In 1970 the Footlights put on the first of what has become the annual pantomime. Women first appeared in a production in 1932 and again in 1957. From 1959 they were regular players, and accorded full Club membership in 1964. In Cambridge, May Week performances were given at the New Theatre from 1883 until the opening of the Arts Theatre in 1936. They continued at the Arts until 1992 when the ADC Theatre became their regular home. The Club has rented rooms at the following addresses: 62 Sidney Street, 1886-95; 68 Bridge Street, 1895-6; 8 Corn Exchange Street, 1896-1914; 17 Corn Exchange Street, 1919-39; Falcon Yard, off Petty Cury, 1960-72; Union Society cellars, Round Church Street, 1978-99. For a history of the Club see Robert Hewison, Footlights! One hundred years of Cambridge comedy (Methuen: London, 1983). The copies in the University Library have the following classmarks: Cam.b.983.2; 415.b.98.34.


13 linear metre(s) : paper, photograph, microform, acrylic paint board

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

As an adjunct to the archive, Dr Porter compiled several indices to productions and players. These have been catalogued as FOOT 3/16/1-3.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The vast majority of the archives, 1883-2003, were presented to the University Archives as a gift in the will of Dr H.C. Porter, Senior Archivist, and were transferred to the University Library on 9 February 2004. Further records of Club activity were transferred by the Junior Archivist as follows: 2003-5 on 15 Feb. 2005; 2004-5 on 9 Dec. 2005; 2005-11 on 25 Feb. 2011; 2013-14 on 26 Jan. 2015; 2018-19 on 25 June 2019.

Two programmes (catalogued as FOOT 2/8/36A, 37(addnl)) were presented by E.R.L. Lewis, East Lothian, on 15 July 2004. Dr Peter Raby of Homerton College, former Senior Treasurer, transferred the following material on 12 December 2007: FOOT 1/2/9A, 1/7 (addnl), 1/10 (addnl), 1/17-18; 3/1/52-3 (addnl). Mr D'Arcy Orders, President in 1948, presented the following items on 17 April 2008: FOOT 2/1/6A; 2/1/8; 2/1/15A-16; 2/4/4 (addnl), 2/9/73/20-2, 3/1/10 (addnl). Dr Daniel Morgenstern, former Senior Treasurer, presented the following material on 10 January 2011: 1/6 (addnl), 1/2/9A, 1/7/2, 1/10 (addnl), 1/18 (addnl), 1/19-20; 2/1/39 (addnl), 39A, 40 (addnl), 40A, 44A; 2/5/80 (addnl); 2/8/130 (addnl), 132 (addnl), 134 (addnl), 134A, 135A, 138 (addnl), 141 (addnl), 143 (addnl), 156 (addnl). Ms Jacqueline Williams presented FOOT 2/9/63A on 29 Oct. 2014. Mr Nick Armstrong presented the photograph catalogued as FOOT 2/9/58 (addnl) on 9 April 2015. Orlando Gibbs, Homerton College, transferred FOOT 2/1/62 on 23 June 2017. Jesus College Archives presented the programme catalogued as FOOT 2/8/32A on 28 August 2018. Matthew Mitchell transferred FOOT 1/20/1B-C on 13 May 2019.


Transfers of administrative and productions records are made intermittently by the Junior Archivist.


This online catalogue was completed in June 2004 and expanded on multiple occasions thereafter.


Footlights Dramatic Club

Finding aid date

2004-02-10 11:40:49+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom