Catalogue description Records of the Black Theatre Co-operative - Nitro Theatre Company

This record is held by Future Histories - Black Performance and Carnival Archive

Details of NTC
Reference: NTC
Title: Records of the Black Theatre Co-operative - Nitro Theatre Company

The archive material dates from 1979 to 2001. It consists of the records of the Black Theatre Co-operative, which changed its name to Nitro Theatre Company in 1999. Records include: administrative paperwork of the organisation, such as correspondence, financial documents and minutes of meetings; records related to the production activities of the organisation such as theatre, television, choirs, and youth theatre; records related to the development of relationships with external organisations, such as Independent Theatre Council, Theatrical Management Association, and the Arts Council of England, etc. 85% of the collection is paper-based, the rest comprises of photographs, video and audio recordings.

Date: 1979 - 2001

The collection has been divided into three sub-fonds each of them relating to company administration, productions, and relationships with external organisations. They have been sub-divided into sub-fonds and/or series. In particular company adminstration is sub-divided into minutes, accounts, administration, and fundraising. Productions are subdivided into theatre, television, choirs, and youth theatre. The theatre production records are further sub-divided into sub-series related to each of the thirty six productions and divided again into sub-sub-series for production administration files, publicity material, scripts, photographs, and video-audio recordings.

Held by: Future Histories - Black Performance and Carnival Archive, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Physical description: 511 FILES
Restrictions on use:

Users are required to seek copyright permission in case of publication and/or other forms of reproduction. All references to material should be correctly cited. See the FUTURE HISTORIES access policy for reference.

Access conditions:

Open access to the archive. Some files are closed due to data protection and conservation reasons.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Accession 2/2003 Acquired by Deposit in 2003

Custodial history:

The archive has grown progressively during the development of the organisation. Unfortunately the archive does not contain material related to the early show productions dating from the organisations beginings in 1979. It appears that from 1981 material started to be kept to record the activities of the organisation. From 1982 to 1985 show production records relate exclusively to flyers, posters, programmes, and photographs. From 1985 to 1991 records related to the administration of individual shows is inconsistent. From 1991 it became a practice that the administration records of each show were kept. The administration records of the organisation have been kept from 1982. Considering the gaps which have been mentioned the archive as it stands gives a comprehensive representation of the activities of the organisation. The archive has moved around various venues, including the offices of the organisation, and all efforts have been taken to maintain its integrity. The archi ve was loaned to Future Histories to be preserved, housed, catalogued, and made accessible to the public in 2003.

  • Black peoples
Administrative / biographical background:

The company was formerly known as Black Theatre Co-operative. It was formed in 1979 to give opportunities to black actors, writers and directors and since then it has been a primary force in the development of black theatre in the UK. The company opted from the start to operate as a collective and its original aims remained central to its existence: to stage popular theatre that reflects a multi-cultural Britain to as wide as possible an audience.


Black Theatre Co-operative first sprang to life through a production of Mustapha Matura's now celebrated 'Welcome Home Jacko'. After failing to interest any London fringe theatres in the play, Matura and director Charles Hanson decided to produce the play themselves; out of this collaboration the Co-op was born and success immediately established. The production (seen by some 20,000 people in numerous venues in England and abroad) provided the foundation for an impressive follow up of notable successes, including 'Mama Dragon' (1980) by Farrukh Dhondy, 'Trinity' (1982) and 'The Nine Night'(1983) by Edgar White, 'No Place to be Nice' (1984) by Frank McField, 'Money to Live' (1984) by Jaqueline Rudet. These productions took the company across most of Britain and toured abroad (Holland, Italy, Germany, New York, Korea were among the countries it visited over the years).


In addition to its theatre activities the company developed a strong presence on British television. The great success of their workshop-developed sit-com 'No Problem!' (produced by London Weekend Television for Channel 4) in 1983 was followed up with further series in 1984 and 1985. The one-hour special for New Years' Eve Party at the Palace commissioned by Channel 4 gave the group the opportunity to show its many and varied talents in a programme consisting of music, song, comedy and dance.


Since its inception, the company has produced over forty shows with a strong commitment to encourage, commission, devise and produce new writing by black British artists. In 1996 Felix Cross became artistic director of the company giving it new impetus, while continuing its tradition of combining black music styles and drama. Among the most recent productions 'Iced' (1997) by Ray Shell, 'Up Against the Wall' (1999) by Paulette Randall and Felix Cross, and 'Passports to the Promised Land' (2001) by Felix Cross have been acclaimed by critics and audiences. In 1999 the company changed its name to Nitro starting a new phase in its exploration of contemporary black British musical theatre.

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