Performing Arts Newspapers | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Performing Arts Newspapers

If you are interested in the history of theatre, music, dance, circuses, travelling troupes, opera or any of the performance arts then The British Newspaper Archive is an invaluable source.  Reports of recitals, reviews of plays, and critiques of musical performances can be found in all of our newspapers.  We also hold a selection of specialised titles related to the performing arts.

London and Provincial Entr’acte – Saturday 25 November 1871

Our newspapers date from the 1700s to the 2000s and within their pages you can trace the history of the performing arts over four centuries.

With newspapers you can discover the early history of Music Halls and Variety Theatre and the myriad of acts that travelled the country.  Performers advertised their appearances and their availability in local and national newspapers. Whole pages could be devoted to these advertisments offering a window into the popular entertainments of the day.



The Greatest Novelty ever seen on stage. Her singing and dancing are wonderful, and create a great sensation.

Specialist Titles

For extensive coverage of the history of the theatre, and for discovering the history of plays, playwrights and players, we have The Era.  This title is the single best source for the history of theatre in the UK.  We hold editions from the 1st edition in September 1838 to the last edition in 1939.  Space was given to both amateur and professional productions.  By the end of its run The Era was reporting on cinema as well as live theatre.


As part of our partnership with The Stage we are also very pleased to hold The Stage for 1880-2007.  The Stage began publication in London in 1880 as The Stage Directory A London and Provincial Theatrical Advertiser. It was in direct competition with The Era, and eventually became the most popular theatrical newspaper.  The paper also reported on television and cinema, and is an invaluable source for tracing the careers of modern actors, playwrights and screenwriters.


London and Provincial Entr’acte – Saturday 26 March 1881

The London and Provincial Entr’acte (which means ‘between the acts’) described itself as a ‘Theatrical and Musical Critic and Advdertiser’.  The paper went through several name changes between 1870 and 1907.  Its reviews of theatrical and other performances were light hearted and lightly satirical in tone.  The paper also published cartoon caricatures of actors and patrons of the arts.



Part of the Illustrated London News stable of titles which have been added to The Archive through our partnership with the Illustrated London News Group, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News combined reports of sport, particularly horse-racing, and news of the theatrical scene.  The paper was published between 1874 and 1970.  The early editions of the paper are particularly strong on theatre and opera reportage, and the front covers often featured actors and singers.


Perhaps our most unsual title in the collection is the single sheet The Showman.  This title ran as an independent publication in the early 1900s before being incorporated into The Music Hall and Theatre ReviewThe Showman carried news of circuses, fairs, menageries, contortionists and chair jumpers!

Performing Arts Titles
Year range
The Era 1838-1910, 1913-1939
The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 1874-1970
London and Provincial Entr’acte 1870-1907
Music Hall and Theatre Review/The Showman 1889-1912
The Stage 1880-2007


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3 comments On Performing Arts Newspapers

  • Hi You have recently released 72 issues of the Showman newspaper from 1902 onward suggesting this was a one page publication. The page numbers at the head of each issue suggest this was in fact of multi page publication with possibly 24 pages contained in the issue 4th April 1902, 16 pages the following week 11 April 1902, 16 pages 18 April 1902 etc. It is possible only the first page has been scanned. If so can the additional pages be added at some date. Thank you – Eddie Kelly

    • Hi Eddie,

      As we explained in the blog

      The Showman was a single sheet paper, however our system does not like uneven numbers and inserts a blank page (which is not displayed) to balance the numbers. There are 72 issues, and 72 pages of The Showman.

      Also it appears that the title was ‘repeated’ in a bound volume which was used to generate the microfilm. The original was a single sheet, and as we add more from its parent paper we hope to be able to include more of the Showman.

  • Professor Vanessa Toulmin

    Hi as I commissioned the microfilm the original publication The Showmam was a beautiful.y produced magazine from Jan 1900 monthly until March 1902 when it became incorporated into another title Music Hall title as a one page insert – the BL holds the original hard copies as does the Magic Circle Library and the NFCA at university of Dheffield has the full set on microfilm including monthly and one page inserts which was supplied by the BL

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