Negro Theatre Workshop archive collection

June 29, 2021

The Negro Theatre Workshop (NTW) was established in London in 1961 with the aim of producing dramas, revues and musicals. As an ensemble of professional and amateur actors, directors and writers, the NTW performed original works to give black artists experience and writers a chance to see their work performed, as well as developing and improving standards amongst black artists and technicians in every branch of theatre.

Founding members included Pearl Connor-Mogotsi together with Lloyd Reckord, Bari Johnson, Horace James, George Brown, Bobby Naidoo, Nina Baden-Semper, Tony Cyrus and Ena Cabayo. The NTW had an impressive list of Patrons including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Joan Littlewood, Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Learie Constantine. Major figures in show business such as Sidney Poitier, Spike Milligan and Tony Richardson also supported the NTW.

A number of productions, many touring, were organised between December 1964 and December 1965. These included Bethlehem Blues, The Dark Disciples and The Prodigal Son. Many productions were performed in churches throughout London because they offered their facilities free of charge. In January 1966, The Prodigal Son was performed at Lewisham Town Hall and Hackney's Baths Hall; and a BBC television production of The Dark Disciples, subsequently selected as the British entry for the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar (Senegal), was broadcast at Easter 1966.

Although the NTW was comparatively short lived, hampered by a lack of funds and a permanent base, it was a seminal organisation in several ways. Through its productions, it helped to train numerous actors, dancers, writers and directors, building their reputations and raising the profiles of many in the profession and, in this way, it enabled them to obtain their equity cards.

For more detailed information about the Negro Theatre Workshop collection and for a link to the archive catalogue visit the archive page here

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Performing The Dark Disciples in St Mary-le-Bow Church, London. Copyright unknown.