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During 2023, our 50th anniversary year, our Heritage Curator and Young Archivists have been delving into BYT’s HUGE archive. They have found amazing pictures, programmes and lots of magical memories!

Established 1973. Creatively inspiring children, young people and families to taker their next steps.

In March we opened an exhibition space in the foyer of BYT to share these memories, celebrate our amazing history and give current participants and visitors the chance to engage with the archive. 

Our first exhibition ‘Buildings and Beginnings’ focused on moments that we see as pivotal in the story of how BYT developed into the organisation it is today. Ranging from the formation of the drama group itself in the early 70’s to the participation in National Student Drama Festivals and of course building the first purpose built Youth Theatre in Europe. 

Buildings and Beginnings

Burnley Youth Theatre was born out of the great movement in the 1970’s to offer young people social education opportunities outside the school environment.  Established by Gordon Simms in 1972 the Inter-school Drama Group soon evolved into Burnley Youth Theatre in 1973. This became official with a constitution written in 1974.

With no permanent base, rehearsals took place at The Deaf Association on Hebrew Road in Burnley and productions were performed at Towneley High School drama studios. The first full length production was Dark of the Moon in 1974.

In 1978, Burnley Youth Theatre found a permanent home moving to ‘The Old Quarry’ here on Queens Park Road, where in 1983 The Quarry Theatre (also known as the Blue Building) opened its doors to its first audience for a production of Camelot.

Due to years of fundraising and the dedication of volunteers like Moira Preston, Alan Daiches and Andrew Walker, a Capital Arts Lottery Grant for a new building was awarded in 2001. This led to the opening of Burnley Youth Theatre main building in 2005 – the first purpose built Youth Theatre in the UK. 

The iconic ‘Blue Building’ was demolished in 2013 to be replaced by a new building in 2014, which is dedicated to long standing volunteer Moira Preston. 

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    Established 1973. Creatively inspiring children, young people and families to taker their next steps.