Previous Events

As well as visits to theatres up and down the UK, each year the Frank Matcham Society organises an international visit. Amongst those we have visited is a return to Berlin, Sicily, Vienna, South of France, Munich plus Dresden & Leipzig, Paris, Madrid, Krakow & Wroclaw, Como with Vicenza & Venice, Berlin, Bratislava and several trips to the USA and more. Now completed is our trip to Prague in late September 2023.

On this page are just some of our past events and YouTube video reviews of recent visits courtesy of Trevor Morson. Go to our Events page for planned future visits.



Watch the YouTube videos of the visits that the Frank Matcham Society made to theatres at home and abroad:




The Frank Matcham Society enjoyed our 2022 Events programme. Our visit to Wakefield Theatre Royal in February was well attended as was our visit to Belfast Grand Opera House post restoration in May, along with other city centre venues, enjoyed by all and followed by a Summer weekend in Bournemouth. Our long overdue return to Buxton Opera House, including the little theatre at Chatsworth, was a great success. The visit to Morecambe Winter Gardens was also enjoyed, despite the weather.  The visit to London’s children’s theatres in late Autumn 2022 went well as did our visit to the Hackney Empire pantomime.  For 2023 we are planning a return to theatres in Europe!

Previously, Thursday 16th July 2020 saw the 120th birthday of Matcham’s beautifully restored and cherished Gaiety Theatre, Douglas, Isle of Man. We were hoping to be with the theatre staff to celebrate the occasion but we had to postpone the trip due to the Covid19 restraints. Although the Isle of Man borders had closed to all but essential travellers and indoor live performances were not permitted, the Gaiety re-opened for Island residents to take guided tours of the building, and we are now scheduled to visit in July 2023.

Along with everyone else, UK theatres were forced to close in 2020 and The Frank Matcham Society by necessity took action to cancel and/or postpone all of our planned activities to commemorate the centenary of Matcham’s death. Despite those disappointments we were still able to carry on with support activities through our website and social media channels, and our newsletters were published as normal. Of course, if you are not yet a member, all this could be yours by clicking through to our JOIN page.




MAY 2021

Frank Matcham Society Logo

Frank Matcham Society Virtual AGM on May 22nd featured an engrossing presentation, illustrated with many photos and plans, given by Dan Watkins, who as Project Manager guided the restoration project at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane just prior to this historic theatre’s reopening.







EUROPEAN HISTORIC THEATRES DAY – Sunday 25 October 2020 – DID FRANK MATCHAM HAVE COMPETITION? an illustrated talk by Richard Norman organised by the Frank Matcham Society.


The fourth in a series arranged by the Frank Matcham Society annually to mark ‘European Historic Theatres Day’ on 25 October 2020. European Historic Theatres Day was established in 2017 by Perspectiv, Association of Historic Theatres in Europe to highlight the work and achievements of historic venues across the continent. In previous years the Frank Matcham Society have organised talks in conjunction with the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre and Performance Collections but, with current restrictions preventing us from meeting. We were very pleased to join forces with the Society of Theatre Research to provide a virtual means of sharing information and celebrating our historic built culture.





Message from our Chairman, Mark Fox:

“Today,30 April 2020, members should have been gathering for the first event of our planned Annual General Meeting weekend in London.

One of the Society’s plaques was due to be unveiled in the foyer of The London Palladium with a champagne reception and afternoon tea to follow.

Regrettably the current world situation has prevented us all from meeting but the plaque has been made and is in a safe place ready for the moment when we may be able to install it and celebrate together.

I would like to extend thanks to LW Theatres, Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, The Ambassadors Theatre Group, The Boulevard Theatre, The Club for Acts and Actors and the London Hippodrome and all of their staff who had made arrangements to entertain us over this weekend. Once any sort of normality returns to the theatre industry I am sure they will be more than willing for all our intended plans to happen on future dates so we can at least all look forward in hope.

Sorry that we cannot all be together to commemorate the centenary of Matcham’s death on 17 May but we can keep in touch through the website and social media. Just think how different and difficult it would have been in isolation twenty years ago without all this modern technology. Do keep in touch.

In the meantime keep well and I look forward to seeing you on the other side.”



To start the new year, members had the opportunity to explore the V&A Theatre & Performance collections at their present home in West London, with the highlight being Matcham’s architectural plans, before a closure period to allow a phased move into their purpose built archive in East London. If you missed the tour, find out more and read the blog on their web page here.







Blackpool Grand 125th

Our traditional December member’s Christmas pantomime outing was to Peter Pan at Frank Matcham’s Blackpool Grand, plus a tour of the Winter Gardens.







We had a full days visit to Salisbury in early November featuring not just the city’s two full time live events venues, but also a fascinating behind the scenes tour of the historical parts of the Gaumont cine-variety theatre with its medieval front of house building. It is now a popular and unique Odeon cinema.



For European Historic Theatres Day 2019 we presented another of Richard Norman’s ‘Frank Matcham’s Masterpieces on Film’ in association with London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and Perspectiv. Matcham’s Seaside Pleasure Palaces was enjoyed by members and non-members alike. Two shows at the London museum’s Hochhauser Auditorium.



Berlin Komische Oper photo:

Our second international visit this year featured the theatres of Berlin, for a full week of tours of fourteen venues, now successfully completed. Members can read about it in the next Newsletter.









MAY 2019

Eventim Olympia full house photo: livemusicweek

The Frank Matcham Society AGM and weekend of theatre tours in Chester and Liverpool took place in mid-May and a successful series of tours was enjoyed by everyone. The business of the AGM was carried out to everyone’s satisfaction noting that membership has gone up again this year.







APRIL 2019

We had a chance to see again Richard Norman’s special film presentation Frank Matcham’s Masterpieces on Film held at the V&A in October 2017 and now repeated for our members and friends in the North and Scotland. This took place on April 4th at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle and included a tour of this special theatre, as well as a visit to the nearby Theatre Royal by Frank Matcham.

Our week long theatre trip to Sicily scheduled for early April was fully booked, and we are now back home after a very successful tour of the South East of this special place. We were able to visit theatres ranging from the ancient Greek amphitheatre at Taormina to the modern rebuild of the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele in Messina. Members can read all about it in our Newsletter soon. Meanwhile, here is the AvolaNews local media report of our visit to the delightful Teatro Garibaldi in Avola. The video of this visit is now available on YouTube.


We toured the Lyric Hammersmith with its Matcham auditorium newly refurbished and joined the matinee performance of this year’s pantomime ‘Dick Whittington’.


We visited the Grand Order of Water Rats Lodge and museum mid October and enjoyed seeing their archive and hearing about the organisation.

European Theatres Day on October 25th saw us celebrating in London at the Victoria & Albert Museum with: ‘Frank Matcham’s Masterpieces on Film ~ Part II’ when Richard Norman presented his follow-up homage to Matcham. A good turnout of members and others saw film clips with scenes shot in Matcham theatres both saved and lost.


We enjoyed a visit to the only remaining original circus building in the UK, other than the Matcham Blackpool Tower circus, which is the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth. A matinee performance was followed by a great tour of their museum. Family owned, this great survivor still entertains year round. The next day featured a back-stage tour of the Britannia Pier Theatre, one of only a handful left in operation.

Our Southwark Walk in late September started at the Playhouse for a visit and to hear about their new venue plans before setting out to view other sights in the Borough including a pause outside the Elephant & Castle Theatre, Frank Matchams first built theatre and now the Coronet, which has closed awaiting its fate.

JUNE 2018

Our 2018 International Visit was to Vienna in June for a week of nine theatre visits and time for a little sightseeing or just enjoying the cafe culture.

Angel Sharp Media kindly invited the Frank Matcham Society to the premiere of the documentary feature about Frank Matcham ‘Bombastic Rubbish – The Theatres of Frank Matcham’ at the London Hippodrome on 18th June. It was selected for inclusion in the Architecture Film Festival in Rotterdam in 2017.

MAY 2018

Our 2018 Annual General Meeting weekend featured back-stage tours of the Theatre Royal and Playhouse, with visits to the Arts Theatre, Lace Market theatre, Malt Cross, Albert Hall and the Broadway cinema, amongst other venues in a weekend in Nottingham.


We visit the splendid Blackpool Grand and viewed the latest refurbishment on a tour led by the Chief Executive, Ruth Eastwood. This was followed by a performance of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly that evening. The following day featured the Tower Ballroom and Circus, both designed by Frank Matcham, on a tour of the Tower complex. A nice little taster of the visit is in the BBC News clip featuring the winching down of the Tower Ballroom chandeliers on iPlayer here.


Late availability gave us the opportunity to visit the Shepherds Bush Empire (1903) which now operates as the O2 Empire, a very busy music venue owned by Academy Music Group. The Bush Theatre is nearby and they also agreed that we visit and see their new performance spaces. We exceeded our original allocation of places for this visit and and both venues kindly agreed to the larger group for very enjoyable tour.


For our seasonal get together, the New Wimbledon Theatre will host us for a tour in the morning of Wednesday 13th December followed by best seats for the matinee performance of this year’s pantomime ‘Jack in the Beanstalk’ with Al Murray and Clive Rowe. Members who have already registered their interest will have been contacted with details.


A walking tour led by Mark Fox featured old and new theatre sights in Lambeth. Open to members and non-members, numbers were limited as with the popular Covent Garden tour last year.


The three theatres old and new in Guildford – Yvonne Arnaud, G Live and the Electric – featured in a good day out organised by Mike Sell.

Not a Matcham Society event, but Islington Heritage Services unveiled a plaque marking the significant Frank Matcham designed Finsbury Park Empire in the borough at the original site now called Vaudeville Court. It took place on the 10th October and our Chairman Mark Fox and some Matcham Society members attended: photo and News item here.

‘Frank Matcham’s Masterpieces on Film’ in collaboration with the V&A Theatre & Performance Collections was on 25th October 2017 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington. This marked the first European Historic Theatres day and featured a presentation by Richard Norman with clips from films that show Matcham theatres. Open to all, it drew a good house, almost filling the V&A large lecture theatre.


We visited the theatres in the Eastbourne area in mid September. The itinerary included the Royal Hippodrome, Devonshire Park & Winter Gardens in Eastbourne, plus the De La Warr Pavilion and its theatre in Bexhill.


A Summer Sunday day out in Torquay took place as promised, with a walking tour of theatre related sights by our own Mark Fox, including a visit to Ambassador’s Princess Theatre on the sea front, followed by a cream tea enjoyed by all.

MAY 2017

We visited Bristol in late May for the Annual General Meeting and associated theatre events. It included the renowned Bristol University Theatre Collection, Frank Matcham’s Hippodrome, always good to see, Bristol Old Vic following its recent restoration, and Colston Hall which previously housed the Bristol Little Theatre, still existing in the space now called the Lantern alongside the later concert hall building.

Hackney Empire, perhaps the most famous of the surviving Matcham theatres, unveiled a Walk of Fame on Thursday 25th May. Since this venue has seen most of the famous names in entertainment during its incredible history, it was bound to be a memorable event; and so it turned out. The Frank Matcham Society’s Vice President Mike Sell and Chairman Mark Fox were there to represent us and reveal the plaque for the architect of the theatre Frank Matcham.

The theatre was built in 1901 and is one of the most perfect examples of his work. It went on to other uses before a thorough restoration and re-working of the interior and exterior by architect Tim Ronalds in 2004, which returned it to theatrical use…so lots to celebrate. The other commemorations on the day were for the original owner Oswald Stoll and Dame Barbara Windsor drew the gold and red velvet curtain to reveal her plaque; highly appropriate as she grew up nearby and has trod the Empire’s stage: photo David Reed.


Each year, the Frank Matcham Society plans an international visit, which this year was to the South of France. An interesting cluster of theatres of differing shapes, sizes, ages and capacities along the south coast of France had come to light, from Toulon in the east to Montpellier and beyond in the west. Our initial enquiries to see if they could accommodate us brought encouraging responses, and so it turned out to be with great welcomes from our host theatres on this seven night visit.


A visit to Manchester’s evolving theatre scene took place 5th & 6th September 2016.

This was a great opportunity for visiting three contrasting theatres in this city with its rich theatrical traditions.

A few Society members may have been on our previous trip here way back in 2003. Then, we went to Bertie Crewe’s wonderfully flamboyant auditorium of 1913 at the Palace and we had a great tour. Incidentally, there is still a little part of the building (1896) that is by Matcham! The Opera House, both run by Ambassador Theatre Group, is a simpler, more classically inspired interior (1912, by Farqharson, Richardson and Gill).

The Library theatre (1933) desperately wanted more room and a new (2015) complex has been built not far away on former industrial land. It is very large, with two theatres, several screens and plenty of foyer space for cafes. Whether you like modern theatres or not, HOME is one we could not ignore.

These and more made a busy two days of theatre interest. The organiser negotiated a late addition of the seldom seen  J J Alley Grade II listed Hulme Playhouse.

JULY 2016

The Society visited Aberdeen providing an opportunity to explore two very different Matcham designs in the Tivoli Theatre and His Majesty’s Theatre. The Tivoli, originally designed by local architect James Matthews & renowned theatre architect C.J.Phipps, opened in 1872 as Her Majesty’s and was subsequently updated by Frank Matcham in 1897 and 1909.  Great welcome from owner Brian Hendry who guided our group around the theatre and museum room himself, explaining the ongoing restoration and the theatre’s history.

His Majesty’s Theatre was originally built as a replacement for the Tivoli in response to the need for a larger venue, improved refreshment areas, increased comfort for patrons and more extensive staging facilities. At the time of opening in 1906, the foyer entrance leading directly to the Dress Circle was unique to British theatre design. The theatre quickly became a staple on the UK theatre circuit as well as a prominent part of the Aberdeen skyline.

In addition to these Matcham theatres, we visited the Art Deco Beach Ballroom, ACT (Aberdeen Art Centre & Theatre) and the Footdee, plus presentations about the current restoration of the Music Hall, Art Gallery & Cowdray Hall.

MAY 2016
Our AGM and associated events were held on Saturday 21st May in Birmingham and included visits to four theatres; the New Alexandria, Hippodrome, Old Rep and the New Rep. All the backstage tours were enjoyed, thanks to our terrific hosts at all these venues.

APRIL 2016
We returned to Germany, visiting theatres in Munich, Bayreuth, Dresden, Weimar and Leipzig 21-28 April. See Adam Harrison’s thoughts on the Thunder Run we saw demonstrated at the Prinzregententheater in Munich on our News Features page.

Also see some of these venues in a great selection of Germany’s theatres in the Klaus Frahm photos on Buzz Feed follow this link here.

MARCH 2016
We visited Plymouth’s Theatre Royal stages, the early Globe theatre in Stonehouse Barracks, courtesy of the Commanding Offficer, the now restoring Palace Theatre, and more.

Mark Fox of Really Useful Group led an interesting Covent Garden theatre history walkabout.

Another exciting London theatre visit took place on 26 October when we toured the Palace Theatre at Cambridge Circus.

MAY 2015
The overseas tour was Northern France with Lille as a base for exploring this often overlooked area for theatres.

MAY 2015
This years AGM was kindly hosted at the Kings Southsea and included a preview of a documentary on Frank Matcham and his theatres.
Tours featured the new Stage House at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, the Kings, Groundlings at Portsea and Bedales school theatres in Petersfield.

APRIL 2015
A return visit to the Gaiety Theatre Douglas Isle of Man including a talk, nook and cranny theatre tour and associated events.



Hidden Theatres of Le March coverThe Society’s hugely successful 2014 tour of the little theatres of Le Marche in Italy visited fourteen
beautiful venues accompanied by Ian Arnott the author of the book that inspired the visit.
Hidden Theatres of Le Marche is still available from booksellers.