GALLERY: Theatre archive photos saved 

DOCUMENTS and photographs tracking the sometimes precarious life and times of the Hunter Valley Theatre Company are secure, after being found abandoned in an inner Newcastle building.

The treasure trove, which includes minute books, financial statements and hundreds of  production stills featuring well-known actors, is being digitised by the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections.

The company is believed to be the first professional one of its type in regional Australia and operated between 1975 and 1996.

University of Newcastle creative and performing arts lecturer Gillian Arrighi said the archive was found in the Civic Arcade in 2008 by students.

‘‘I said, ‘Bring them to me’,’’ Dr Arrighi said.

‘‘The minute and finance books are of great value because they show the day-to-day life, the biography, of the company.’’

A former company board member, emeritus professor Victor Emeljanow said the archive was probably moved into the arcade building when the Civic Playhouse was being refurbished.

The arcade is slated for demolition, one of several buildings that will make way for the university’s proposed city campus.

The theatre company was the beginning of successful careers for actors including  Jonathan Biggins  and comedian/documentary maker John Doyle, part of the Roy and HG comedy duo.

Dr Arrighi said the archive was a record of cultural life in regional Australia and a form of government  support for theatre that  ended.

Once digitised the archive would be significant for everyone interested in the history of live performance, Dr Arrighi said.

Professor Emeljanow said the company was before its time.

‘‘There were successes and there were very large troughs,’’ Professor Emeljanow said.

To see the whole archive, and provide information about the images, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157632060331789/

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