Talk @ Symposium “European Performing Arts Dataverse” , CREATE Amsterdam, 9-10 Nov, 2017

From 9-10 November, the CREATE research programme, University of Amsterdam, holds a workshop on “European Performing Arts Dataverse (EPAD)”, jointly with the Flemish Scientific Research Community “Cultures of Spectacle”.

The workshop seeks to “to assess the feasibility of creating an international framework and data model that would allow for harmonisation of different European datasets on performing arts, in order to facilitate research on transnational and cross-sectoral connections and comparisons”.

Nic Leonhardt, co-Director of the Centre for Global Theatre History and the Centre’s Academy of Digital Humanities in Theatre Research, will give a talk on “DH in Theatre History, and the Challenges of ‘(Trans-)Cultural Interoperability’” , and shall introduce into the digital infrastructure of the ERC project Developing Theatre.

Click here for the programme. Attendees welcomes, registration is mandatory.

Hashtags: #EPAD #CREATE #nicleonhardt #DHinTheatre #TheatreHistory

CfP: „Philanthropy, Development, and the Arts“, International Conference, 23-25 July, 2018

From 23-25 July, 2018, our ERC funded project Developing Theatre will be hosting its first international conference with a special focus on Philanthropy, Development and the Arts: Histories and Theories. At the conference, we seek to interrogate the impact of philanthropy on the field of arts – visual arts, theatre, music, dance, opera, drama education, etc. –  between the 19th and 21st centuries. The conference aims at discussing the work, impact, successes and failures of private and corporate philanthropy and NGOs, including semi-statist organizations such as the Goethe Institut, or the British Council, from the perspectives of history, cultural history, political sciences, art and theatre history.

We are looking for paper proposals addressing the following aspects:

  • Shifting discourses of philanthropy in respect to arts and cultural funding
  • Philanthropic and NGO initiatives in the arts in countries such as Africa, India, Chile, etc.
  • From colonialism to philanthropy: the de/re-colonization of cultural aid
  • Philanthropy vs./ the state: how non-governmental can non-governmental organizations be?
  • Case studies on the private funding of arts and artists with a special focus on development
  • Case studies on field officers, representatives and ‘arts experts’ in charge of philanthropic foundations and NGOs
  • Soft power: arts philanthropy and cultural diplomacy
  • Other related topics will also be considered.

The complete call for papers can be downloaded  here.

Deadline for paper proposals: 30 November, 2017.

The conference will take place from Monday, 23 to Wednesday, 25 July, 2018 at Carl Friedrich von Siemens Stiftung, Munich.

A preliminary programme will be available by spring 2018.

For any inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact PD Dr Nic Leonhardt, Associate Director of the Developing Theatre Project:




new series: A Cultural History of Theatre (ed. C. B. Balme & T. C. Davis), Bloomsbury

Edited by Tracy C. Davis and Christopher B. Balme, this new Cultural History of Theatre series offers an insightful survey from ancient times (500 BCE) to the present. The set of six volumes covers a span of 2,500 years, tracing the complexity of the interactions between theatre and culture.
Each volume discusses the same themes in its chapters, namely Institutional Frameworks,  Social Functions, Sexuality and Gender, The Environment of Theatre, Circulation, Interpretations, Communities of Production, Repertoire and Genres, Technologies of Performance, and Knowledge Transmission: Media and Memory.

Volume 1: A Cultural History of Theatre in Antiquity (Edited by Martin Revermann)
Volume 2: A Cultural History of Theatre in the Middle Ages (Edited by Jody Enders)
Volume 3: A Cultural History of Theatre in the Early Modern Age (Edited by Robert Henke)
Volume 4: A Cultural History of Theatre in the Age of Enlightenment (Edited by Mechele Leon)
Volume 5: A Cultural History of Theatre in the Age of Empire (Edited by Peter Marx)
Volume 6: A Cultural History of Theatre in the Modern Age (Edited by Kim Solga)

Five GTH Centre members contributed to volume 5, A Cultural History of theatre in the Age of Empire: Jim Davis, Nic Leonhardt, Derek Miller, Stanca Scholz-Cionca, and Laurence Senelick.

Indian Theatre Artists and the Cold War. ERC Workshop at IIC, New Delhi, 29-30 Sept 2017

The first workshop of the ERC project Developing Theatre is taking place in New Delhi. Organized by Gautam Chakrabarti, PostDoc of the research group, this workshop brings together theatre, art and media scholars and practitioners from India and Europe at the beautiful India International Centre, New Delhi (29-30 September, 2017).

Post-independence India was one of the key sites where the “cultural Cold War” was fought–more often than not– with as much gusto and ruthlessness as its ideological and military counterparts. Theatre was one of the core areas in which this cultural conflict was played out between the 1950s and 1980s, with almost all the major players, both individual and collective or institutional, in contemporary Indian theatre having gone through the ’rite de tomorrow passage’ of ideological training. Academic exploration of these political contestations and problematisations of cultural practices, especially in the Indian context, have opened up larger horizons of possible enquiry. This workshop seeks to bring practitioners, scholars and witnesses of this fascinating history into dialogue with one another.

Participants: V. Akshara (NINASAM, Heggudu) – Christopher Balme (LMU Munich; PI ERC-Project „Developing Theatre“) – Trina N. Banerjee (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta) – Gautam Chakrabarti (LMU Munich, ERC-Project „Developing Theatre“ – Dwaipayan Chowdhury (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi) – Anirban Ghosh (Jadavpur University, Calcutta) – Rakshanda Jalil (Writer, Critic and Literary Historian, Delhi) – Minakshi Kaushik (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi) – Malashri Lal (Convener, English Advisory Board, Sahitya Akademi, Delhi) – Nic Leonhardt (LMU Munich, Associate Director, ERC-Project „Developing Theatre“) – Raghunandana Sathamarshana (Poet, Playwright and Stage-Director, Bengaluru) – Tripurari Sharma (National School of Drama, Delhi) – Vani Tripathi-Tikoo (Member, Central Board of Film Certification, Delhi) –Atul Tiwari (Theatre-, Media- and Film-Practitioner, Independent Scholar, Mumbai)

The workshop is internal. The programme can be downloaded here.

New Publication Out: The Bayreuth Enterprise (1848-1914) by Gero Tögl

Gero Tögl, former PhD student of the Global Theatre Histories research project and associate of the GTH Centre, has just published his PhD thesis The Bayreuth Enterprise, 1848-1914.

In this monograph, Gero reassesses the early history of the Bayreuth Festival between 1848 and 1914 from the perspective of a transnational social project dedicated to the ‚regeneration‘ of modern societies and istitutional reform.  Based on recent debates in globalization theory, ethnography, and anthropology, the book focuses on the interplay of seemingly contradictory aspects such as financing and anti-capitalist ideology, nationalism and the cosmopolitan reach of Wagner’s ideas, artistic monopolization and global marketing.

Gero Tögl: The Bayreuth Enterprise (1848-1914). Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2017. (ISBN  978-3-8260-6011-3) 

Team „Developing Theatre“ travelled to São Paulo.

     The ERC-Project „Developing Theatre„, led by Prof. Dr. Christopher Balme, was represented at the Annual Conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR, 10th-14th July, 2017, São Paulo, Brazil) by Prof. Balme, Dr. Nic Leonhardt, Dr. Gautam Chakrabarti and Dr. Rashna D. Nicholson. The first three members spoke in a panel titled „Collective Modern Theater from the 1st Part of XXth Century and Beyond“. Prof. Balme spoke on „Theatrical modernism for the world: Theatrical Epistemic Communities 1920-1960“, and also introduced the ERC-Project to the audience, which was much larger than expected and necessitated a change of the venue to a larger room. He also demonstrated the beta-version of „Our History„, the Digital Humanities platform of the Project. There was, evidently, a lot of interest in this DH-interface and how it may redefine scholarly conceptualisations of global theatre history.

The ERC-Project „Developing Theatre“ group, with Dr. Azadeh Sharifi (LMU-München).

Dr. Chakrabarti presented a paper, based on his sub-project within the ERC-Project, titled „The Red Bear has Awoken!: Soviet Engagement with Indian Theatre Artists in the Cold War“. He spoke about the Soviet connection of post-Independence India’s ‚progressive‘ theatre. He sought, based on his archival and other researches since the beginning of the Project in end-2016, „to attempt a tentative theorisation of the Cold-War-era geopolitical spatialisation of Eurasian cultural geographies as a reactive and subversive function to Eastern Bloc conceptualisations of colonial modernity.“

Dr. Leonhardt’s paper was titled ‚“…Enlarging the Boundaries of Human Knowledge“– by Means of Theatre: Multiple Theatricalities and the Philanthropic Agenda of Stabilizing Cultural Geographies after 1945‘. She presented her research on various, mainly American philanthropists and the foundations established by them and sought to conceptualise philanthropy as a tool of cultural politics in the post-WW2 years. Both her paper and that of Dr. Chakrabarti led, during the Q&A, to animated discussions that underscored the current relevance of the research questions this Project seeks to foreground.

As part of the four-member „Developing Theatre“ delegation, Dr. Nicholson spent most of her working hours at the Historiography Working Group. According to her, she „was moved by a series of thought-provoking keynote speeches, struck by the warmth and generosity of the conference volunteers who stood at all hours of the day at strategic points in Sao Paulo’s Butantã subway station and enjoyed the pão de queijo served up with our coffee each day.“ We also noted the adequate presence of security personnel and are thankful to the organizers, from the University of São Paulo, for their special attention to the delegates’ well-being and security.The crowning glory of the conference was a farewell reception at an exciting theatrical space, which soon dissolved into dance and music that gave us a delightful impression of Brazilian joi de vivre!

Farewell reception.

The overall impression we had of the conference was that of a frenetic and dynamic environment that opened up multiple opportunities and pathways for dialogue and debate. We look forward to the next IFTR Conference in 2018 at Belgrade with pleasant expectations and fond memories of a colourful and productive experience in São Paulo.

The colourful houses of São Paulo.

New Article Out Now: Theatrical Institutions in Motion (C. Balme)

The first peer-reviewed publication of the new ERC project „Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945” just came out in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (vol. 31, 2, 2017).

In his paper “Theatrical Institutions in Motion: Developing Theatre in the Postcolonial Era” the project’s principal investigator Christopher Balme examines the complex transnational processes that led to an institutionalization of theatre in emerging nations after 1945.

Christopher Balme: „Theatrical Institutions in Motion: Developing Theatre in the Postcolonial Era“, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, vol. 31, no. 2, 2017, pp. 125–140.

Article available on Project MUSE.


IFTR 2017 in São Paulo – Annual Conference

Since 1957, the year of founding of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR), theatre scholars and IFTR members from all parts of the world (in fact from 44 different countries!) meet for their annual conference.

Both the conference theme and the location vary from year to year. The IFTR 2017 conference has a focus on Unstable Geographies: Multiple Theatricalities, and will be hosted by the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Five associates and researchers of the Centre for Global Theatre Histories and the ERC project Developing Theatre will be attending #IFTR2017 and present papers on their current topics of research:

Christopher Balme: Theatrical modernism for the world: Theatrical Epistemic Communities 1920-1960.

Gautam Chakrabarti: The Red Bear has Awoken!: Soviet Engagement with Indian Theatre Artists in the Cold War.

Nic Leonhardt: “… Enlarging the Boundaries of Human Knowledge“– by Means of Theatre: Multiple Theatricalities and the Philanthropic Agenda of Stabilizing Cultural Geographies after 1945.

Rashna Darius NicholsonWhat’s in a name? The role of language in the invention of colonial and postcolonial South Asian theatre history

Azadeh SharifiDis/Continuity of Post-migrant theatre in Germany theatre history.


Theatre, Globalization and the Cold War

We are pleased to announce the publication of the most recent volume in the series Transnational Theatre Histories ( which explores the complex geopolitical and cultural imbrications of a globalising theatre culture against the backdrop of the Cold War.


The book examines how the Cold War had a far-reaching impact on theatre by presenting a range of current scholarship on the topic from scholars from a dozen countries. They represent in turn a variety of perspectives, methodologies and theatrical genres, including not only Bertolt Brecht, Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook, but also Polish folk-dancing, documentary theatre and opera production. The contributions demonstrate that there was much more at stake and a much larger investment of ideological and economic capital than a simple dichotomy between East versus West or socialism versus capitalism might suggest. Culture, and theatrical culture in particular with its high degree of representational power, was recognized as an important medium in the ideological struggles that characterize this epoch. Most importantly, the volume explores how theatre can be reconceptualized in terms of transnational or even global processes which, it will be argued, were an integral part of Cold War rivalries.

Table of contents (18 chapters)

  • Introduction

    Balme, Christopher B. (et al.)

    Pages 1-22

    A Cold War Battleground: Catfish Row versus the Nevsky Prospekt

    Canning, Charlotte M.

    Pages 25-43

  • Spirituals, Serfs, and Soviets: Paul Robeson and International Race Policy in the Soviet Union at the Start of the Cold War

    Silsby, Christopher

    Pages 45-57

  • The Politics of an International Reputation: The Berliner Ensemble as a GDR Theatre on Tour

    Barnett, David

    Pages 59-71

  • ‘A tour to the West could bring a lot of trouble…’—The Mazowsze State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble during the First Period of the Cold War

    Szymanski-Düll, Berenika

    Pages 73-85

  • Song and Dance Ensembles in Central European Militaries: The Spread, Transformation and Retreat of a Soviet Model

    Šmidrkal, Václav

    Pages 87-106

  • Theatre, Propaganda and the Cold War: Peter Brook’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in Eastern Europe (1972)

    Imre, Zoltán

    Pages 107-129

  • MI5 Surveillance of British Cold War Theatre

    Smith, James

    Pages 133-150

  • Creating an International Community during the Cold War

    Korsberg, Hanna

    Pages 151-163

  • The Cultural Cold War on the Home Front: The Political Role of Theatres in Communist Kraków and Leipzig

    Kunakhovich, Kyrill

    Pages 165-186

  • Years of Compromise and Political Servility—Kantor and Grotowski during the Cold War

    Michalak, Karolina Prykowska

    Pages 189-205

  • ‘A Memorable French-Romanian Evening’: Nationalism and the Cold War at the Theatre of Nations Festival

    Szeman, Ioana

    Pages 207-221

  • An Eastern Bloc Cultural Figure? Brecht’s Reception by Young Left-wingers in Greece in the 1970s

    Papadogiannis, Nikolaos

    Pages 223-238

  • Acting on the Cold War: Imperialist Strategies, Stanislavsky, and Brecht in German Actor Training after 1945

    Klöck, Anja

    Pages 239-257

  • Checkpoint Music Drama

    Stauss, Sebastian

    Pages 259-270

  • Whose Side Are You On? Cold War Trajectories in Eritrean Drama Practice, 1970s to Early 1990s

    Matzke, Christine

    Pages 273-292

  • ‘How close is Angola to us?’ Peter Weiss’s Play Song of the Lusitanian Bogeyman in the Shadow of the Cold War

    Hoogland, Rikard

    Pages 293-306

  • Manila and the World Dance Space: Nationalism and Globalization in Cold War Philippines and South East Asia

    yamomo, meLê (et al.)

    Pages 307-323

Facelift of GTH: new Centre, Logo, Website

Same agenda – new concept.

Same web address – new face.

New centre  – new logo.  


After five truly fruitful and successful years and due to its ongoing disciplinary relevance, we reframed the DFG funded research project Global Theatre Histories as a Centre for Global Theatre History.

Our new website went online recently. Check it out!

If you have any questions regarding the Centre’s agenda, possible fellowships, seminars, talks, etc, please do not hesitate to contact Nic Leonhardt, director of the GTH Centre, via n.leonhardt [at]

We would like to thank Maryam Khosrovani for the logo !


Guest Lecture by Kate Elswit: „Tracing Dynamic Spatial Histories and Networks of Movement on the Move“

Ernst Oppler. Pavlova as bacchante. Drawing. (Public Domain)

The Centre for Global Theatre History cordially invites to a public talk by London based reader and researcher Kate Elswit ( (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London)  on Tracing Dynamic Spatial histories and Networks of Movement on the Move on Wednesday, 14 June, 12-1:30pm @ Institute for Theatre Studies, Georgenstrasse  11, Room #109.

„The talk is based on a series of collaborations between Kate Elswit and Harmony Bench regarding the ways in which digital research methods can work in tandem with more traditional scholarly methods to manage the scale and complexity of data in accounts of what we call “movement on the move,” which we explore through the phenomenon of dance touring alongside other modes of circulation and transmission. In the first part of the talk, I draw on the project’s early research into South American tours by Anna Pavlova’s company during World War One and American Ballet Caravan during World War Two. Here focus is on the database and the map as tools that expand our capacity to trace “dynamic spatial histories of movement.” In the second part of the talk, I turn to a new collaborative work in progress that focuses on the archives of African American choreographer and anthropologist Katherine Dunham. This new work broadens the scope of transmission to explore geographical and cultural mobilities in tandem, ultimately revealing the scale of personal, professional, and political networks surrounding a single artist, and proposing what such histories of circulation can offer to dance history.“

Kate Elswit is Reader in Theatre and Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and author of Watching Weimar Dance  and Theatre & Dance. She has won three major awards for scholarly publications and her research has been supported by many sources, including a Marshall Scholarship, a postdoctoral fellowship in the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities at Stanford University, the 2013 Lilian Karina Research Grant in Dance and Politics, and most recently a Batelle Engineering, Technology, and Human Affairs (BETHA) Endowment Grant with Harmony Bench. She also works as a choreographer, curator, and dramaturg.

„How to change the World“ – Conference in Shanghai, 26-28 May, 2017

From 26-28 May, 2017, GTH Centre director and associate director of the ERC project „Developing Theatre“, Nic Leonhardt, participated in the international conference „How to Change the World“ at Shanghai University. Organized by Iris Borowy, director of the new Center for the History of Global Development at University of Shanghai, this conference gathered mainly historians from different parts of the world for discussing case studies, methodologies, and political agendas of initiatives and notions of ‚development“ in different sectors such as medical aid, health, education, tourism, media, and political propaganda throughout the 20th century. Nic illuminated the outline and work packages of the project Developing Theatre. Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945. 

Public Talk on ‚Post-Migrant‘ Theatre


Was war vor dem Post?

Eine historische Perspektive auf postmigrantisches Theater.

We happily announce and cordially invite to the public talk on Post-Migrant Theatre by Azadeh Sharifi, associate of the Centre for Global Theatre History,

Dr. Sharifi’s talk (in German) will take place on Wednesday, 17 May, 12am (sharp)-1:30pm at Georgenstraße 11, 80799 Munich, room 109.  The event is jointly organized by the Department of Theatre Studies LMU and the Centre for Global Theatre History.

Azadeh Sharifi abstract & biographical note





Grooming a White Elephant: Maurice E. Bandmann and the Empire Theatre in Gibraltar

On 13 November, 1920, Bandmann wrote to J.R. Crook, Government Engineer of Gibraltar, announcing his attention to apply for a two-year lease (with an option for renewal) to the Empire Theatre in order to convert it into a ‘Cinema Theatre’ for the ‘exhibition of the very best and up to date English picture productions’. On a recent visit he had noted the lack of such films. He claimed to have a virtual monopoly on the distribution of English films in Egypt and Palestine and enclosed a garish red and yellow letterhead of his Bandman Film Control company printed in pseudo-Egyptian style with pyramids and palm trees in the background.

Bandmann Letterhead

Crook noted in a memorandum (19.11.20) to the Colonial Secretary, C.W.J. Orr, that there were plans to demolish the theatre – which was in bad state of repair and had been unoccupied for some years – in order to erect forty tenements in the chronically constricted fortress town. Orr, however, proved to be very receptive to the idea of a cinema and a correspondence with Bandmann ensued in which the latter extended his offer from two to three years and from cinema to light opera and variety. Bandmann refers specifically to the Empire (Jan 13, 1921) He also inquired generally about the location, despite being aware of the availability of the vacant Empire (Aug 12, 1921), but was presumably reluctant because of its location outside the town centre on Rosia Road .

Rosia Road, Gibraltar, ca. 1910

On 19 December 1921, an agreement signed between Colonial Office and Bandmann including a detailed ‘Schedule of proposed repairs and renovations’. The lease was for three years at a nominal rent of £2 per month in the light of the substantial investment required. Renovations included the installation of flush toilets on all floors, tiled urinals, a corrugated iron roof, concrete steps, new floorboards for the verandah, plus major rebuilding inside, and out. Two days before the scheduled opening, an advertisement in the Gibraltar Chronicle announced with typical Bandmann puff: ‘New Empire Theatre. Licencee Maurice E. Bandman. Grand Opening This Saturday 4 Feb., 1922. NOTE.– This Theatre has been remodeled, re-furnished, re-seated, re-decorated and re-lighted throughout at enormous cost.’ (GC on 2 Feb 1922). The costs had indeed been substantial as a colonial official later admitted and amounted to about £4000. (Letter from the Colonial Secretary 18.2.22).

Opening of the New Empire

The final result was deemed impressive. In a preview article, published a day later the self-advertisement was confirmed:

‘the building has received a complete renovation inside and out, most comfortable cane arm chairs have been installed, refreshment bars arranged for different parts of the house, cloakrooms and all modern conveniences … One is particularly struck by the excellent view of the stage obtainable from the whole of the seats. An orchestra has been engaged which will perform the music specially arranged for each film. The pictures screened will be sixteen by twenty feet and the fire proof operator’s box is a novelty in Gibraltar, equipped with dual projection, thus obviating waiting between the parts or in case of a breakdown. At the back or the circle is a commodious lounge with liquor and coffee bars.  (‘Opening of New Empire Theatre’, GC Feb 3 1922).


At the actual the opening The Gibraltar Chronicle enthused:

Wonders have been worked with the building since Mr. Bandman took it in hand, the seating arrangements could not be more comfortable, without a suspicion of crowding in spite of the fact that the big auditorium has accommodation for a thousand people.  A very well got up programme giving all essential information was not the least welcome of the many provisions made for the convenience of the public. (GC, 6.2.1922)


Unfortunately, the city council also had a say in the matter. In 1921 the first city council had been elected and had begun to flex its political muscles against the colonial administration.[1]

In a long report the council engineer outlined a list of additional repairs and alterations required. The building was not particularly solid, as it was constructed of wood, steel framing and corrugated iron and quite literally built on sand. One of the stanchions had even dropped about six inches but the steel frame still provided enough flexibility. He even recommended the installation of dust extraction by vacuum cleansers. The involvement of the city council, often at odds with the Colonial Secretary deepened and led to the issue of a license for ‘cinema purposes only’. For live performances the council insisted that Bandmann install a fire curtain between stage and auditorium, a major additional expense. Although the license was issued by Orr on 24 February and the cinema opened on 4 March, on 9 March, the day Bandmann died, the city council reiterated its opposition to a license for ‘plays or other performances necessitating the use of scenery’. The council admitted, however, that in a wooden building a fire curtain only provided a marginal improvement in and that asbestos lining or even fire-proof paint might be acceptable. (Letter to Orr by Chairman of the City Council, 9 March 1922.)

The first test case came in April 1922 with the impending arrival of The Scamps, a variety company that had been touring the Bandmann Circuit in the east and was now on its way back to England. The new manager of the New Empire, Charles Lewis, the younger brother of Bandmann’s secretary and main heir, Nancy Lewis, wrote to the Colonial Secretary on 19 and 20 April 1922, requesting permission in reference to a decision by the city council, pointing out that the company did not carry any scenery and that provision would be made to ensure fire safety: ‘in the way of having a fireman in continuous attendance on the stage throughout each performance as also a goodly supply of water and sand fire buckets.’ Exceptional permission was granted but no further licenses would be entertained until the necessary requirements of the council were complied with.

This restriction was a major blow for the enterprise because Bandmann had planned the New Empire as a stopping off point for his companies on the way to his main circuit. It meant that the company was now operating an expensively renovated cinema for which high ticket process could not be demanded. Charles Lewis cancelled the lease on 31 May 1924 and the building was returned to the Colonial Office or more precisely to J. R. Crook, the Government Engineer, who was once again saddled with the building. In a memorandum to the Colonial Secretary he stated that no new tenders had been forthcoming and expressed his despair over its possible use: ‘The building has since it was erected 20 years ago proved a “white elephant” and failing a satisfactory offer (…) should be pulled down.’ (GGA 25.7.1924). This is indeed what happened – at a cost of £ 1000.00 to the government of Gibraltar.


[1] Stephen Constantine: ‚the City Council became (…) not just a passive agent of government but an alternative interest group and actor’, Community and identity: The making of modern Gibraltar since 1704, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), 332.

Looking for Maurice E. Bandmann in Gibraltar

The final stage of my archival research on the theatre manager and impresario Maurice E. Bandmann (1872-1922)  returns to the beginning and to the end. Bandman, now with one ‘n’, died in Gibraltar on 9 March 1922 at the Colonial Hospital. He had contracted enteric (typhus) in Egypt and fell ill shortly after arriving in Gibraltar at the beginning of February for the opening of the newly renovated New Empire Theatre.

Gibraltar was also the beginning: here he began his first Mediterranean tour in September 1897, a short stop on the way to Malta his main destination and then on to Alexandria and Cairo. Gibraltar however became traditionally the first port of call on the many tours of his companies along the Bandmann Circuit. In Gibraltar Bandmann also acquired one of his most trusted managers, Stephan Lopez (1877-1953), who came from a Gibraltese family and worked his way up from stage carpenter to company manager. The website kept by Stephen’s granddaughter, Vanessa Lopez, remains the best source of information on the Bandmann Circuit (

My research began on a Sunday afternoon, 23rd of April 2017. I made use of my extended stay in London to catch a flight to Gibraltar, of which there are several. I knew from correspondence with the Gibraltar Archives that Bandmann was buried in the North Front Cemetery in plot B. The cemetery backs onto the airport so you have to walk across the runway to reach it: in fact you have two walk (or drive) across the runway to reach Gibraltar full stop. The main road and walkway, imperially entitled Winston Churchill Avenue, is blocked off when aircraft land and take off.

Winston Churchill Avenue

The cemetery is quite extensive and well known because it hosts graves looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Plot B is subdivided into B1 and B2 and covers an extensive area, much of which is overgrown with grass, weeds and flowers including poppies. While the recently deceased boasted large gravestones and even burial vaults, and the war graves gleamed cleanly in the bright sunlight, as though the soldiers and sailors had only been buried yesterday, those interred much earlier were in a dismal state. Quite apart from the long grass and weeds, many gravestones had been polished clean, presumably by the corrosive salt air, which has rendered the inscriptions illegible. As I could be fairly sure that nobody had tended the grave for 90 years, it was clear that I could never find it just by searching amongst the gravestones. I would have to come back and hope that the administration of the cemetery had better records (it didn’t). It was also possible that the grave had been turned over, the remains disinterred to make way for more recent arrivals.

North Front Cemetery, Gibraltar

I left the cemetery and made my way into town to look for my hotel which I knew was located in Cannon Lane. I wandered past fortifications built into the rock and literally walked through a tunnel under the Rock. I wandered along main street and looked at the mixture of Spanish-style colonial buildings, decorated with the signs of heavy tourism. I found the hotel of the same name is the address, tucked into a little courtyard. It had seen better days and the rooms had all the flair of the 1950s. The room key was a real old-fashioned bit key and not a digital signal.

Entering Gibraltar

The next day begin shortly after 9 AM and a hearty English breakfast. I walked up to the Garrison Library which I knew had a full set of the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper. The library is located in an old colonial style building. It consists of two reading rooms lined with old volumes in glass cases. In the middle is a large table at which the readers sit. Apart from myself the letter consisted of two middle-aged ladies who spoke to each other alternating between English and Spanish, which as I quickly discovered is the common form of communication here. Conversations often begin in English, switch to Spanish, and then revert again to English according to conventions which remained obscure to me.

Garrison Library, Gibraltar

I began with March 1922: the month of his death, I quickly discovered the newspaper report. He died on March 9 and was buried the next day. The quick burial was possibly due to the disease, which was highly infectious.

Since the newspaper documented arrivals and departures I found a reference to Bandmann arriving in the first week of February at the Bristol Hotel , a colonial-style building which still exists (GC 6.2.1922). Also mentioned was a Miss Nancy Lewis (named in his will as Annie Lewinstein), Bandmann’s secretary to whom he bequeathed a quarter of his estate. She seems to have been in his constant companion in his final years. Present at the funeral were his niece, named as Miss Bandman McLaren, which could only have been the daughter of his sister Lily, who was also a travelling actress. Either she must have been accompanying him or had travelled to Gibraltar on learning that he fallen seriously ill. Others present were William Freear, the manager of the New Empire and Nancy’s brother, Charles Lewis (Charles Lewinstein who was named in his will as a trustee). The latter had hurried to Gibraltar on 17 February 1922 and arrived before he died.[1]Also present at the funeral was the US vice-consul, Bandmann’s solicitor in Gibraltar, A.C. Montegriffo, and J.R. Crook, the government engineer with whom he had negotiated the renovation of the theatre.

Death notice, Gibraltar Chronicle

My next stop was the Gibraltar National archives, located in a former convent and accessible through a metal gate supervised by a very friendly lady Guard. The archive itself occupies one side of a courtyard. It is described on an oral history website as ‘a discreet building, set back in the quietly dignified courtyard of the Governor’s Palace exuding the elegance of a bygone era of colonialism.  The offices are heavy with the alluring smell of old wood and papers, and dust motes float like miniature ballet dancers in the rays that tumble through the windows.  A researcher could happily wallow here for hours, nosing around records that unfold the history of Gibraltar little by little.’—local-voices/gibraltar-archive-office.

Gibraltar Government Archives

While I can confirm the charm but not the ‘dust motes’ I easily registered in one room and was led into another by a friendly young archivist. The second room was full of government papers. I spied two boxes with the labels Empire Theatre. The one dated 1903 to 1918, the other was entitled Empire Theatre, Public Visitors and Brothels. And in this one I struck gold. It contained government files concerning the theatre from 1919 until its eventual sale and demolition in the 1930s. The most detailed files concerned however negotiations between Bandmann and the colonial authorities, beginning in 1921 and culminating in the re-opening of the Empire as a cinema just a few days before his death. This file comprises the most detailed documentary evidence of Bandmann as a theatre developer, primarily in this case for cinema because evidently the conversion of the dilapidated Empire Theatre into a fully functional theatre for live performances entailed a considerable investment, especially with regard to fire safety. From there I went around the corner to in the office of births and deaths and ordered a copy of Bandmann’s death certificate.

As all three places are located within 200 yards of one another, this was by far the most efficient use of research time in the past six years. The main result of this research was the detailed documentation of Bandmann’s leasing and renovation of the Empire Theatre which I discuss in more detail in the next section.

[1] Charles Lewinstein, born 1897, manager,  aged 25 departed London on 17. Feb 1922 on the  Kaiser I Hind bound for Gibraltar. 
Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
5989.30. Passenger Lists leaving UK 1890-1960 Transcription.