“Save the V&A Theatre & Performance Department” Campaign Page

March 6, 2021

The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) is undertaking a massive organisational remodelling of the museum’s structure, this at first looked like the Theatre & Performance department would vanish in the new structure. The V&A have responded to this campaign and other appeals and now propose to create a department of Theatre & Performance along with Furniture & Fashion. As this will still involve job losses, we are still fearful that this will have a disproportionate and devastating effect on these collections and on the pool of knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm that underpin them and help to make them accessible.

If you’ve never visited the V&A Theatre and Performance Department, have a look at the film ‘Encounters in the Archive’ here.

To make this issue public SIBMAS arranged an online petition at change.org:

Anyone who wants to give V&A department of Theatre and Performance their support can sign it.



The V&A museum announced the end of its internal consultation process (28 May)

News on restructuring of the V&A Theatre & Performance Department. (06 April)

Read the SIBMAS response to the statement by the V&A concerning the National Art Library and archive jobs (18 March)

Read the new V&A Media Statement on the National Collection of Theatre & Performance (19 March)

Question from Chris Smith in the House of Lords: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-03-22/HL14473/



In the Press:

The Stage – May 17 – V&A to reduce curatorial staff by 15% as it reveals restructuring plans

Daily Mail – April 27  – Vanessa Redgrave’s fury at Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘fearful lack of knowledge’ over planned cuts

Evening Standard – April 26 –  Londoner’s Diary: Look at Tristram Hunt’s salary before you axe us, say under-threat V&A staff

Der Tages Spiegel – April 23 – Das Gedächtnis des Theaters

The Stage – April 23 – Vanessa Redgrave joins outrage at proposed V&A theatre collection restructure

Dancing Times – April 2021 Issue – Threat to Theatre and Performance Collection

The Art Newspaper – 1st April – V&A will not scrap focus on materials in restructuring U-turn

The Burlington Magazine – April 2021 Issue, Vol. 163 / No. 1417 – Editorial: The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Stage – 26 march – V&A urged to consult wider industry on proposed cuts to its theatre team

Arts Professional – 25 March – V&A’s Theatre and Performance archive ‘at risk of becoming a dead collection’

The Times – 25 March – Arts Heritage at ‘risk’ (Comment)

The Guardian – 25 march – Culture in peril. ‘We thought we’d be back in weeks’: behind the scenes at the locked down V&A

London Review of Books – 24 march – Trouble at the V&A

The Stage – 19 March – Plans to axe the Theatre and Performance department at the Victoria and Albert Museum are a “major threat” to the UK’s standing as a centre of research for the performing arts, the Society for Theatre Research has warned 

Museums Association – 18 March – Reprieve for some V&A teams but former staff warn of ‘brain drain’

The Spectator – 17 March – The V&A’s restructuring plans are baffling, disturbing and wrong, by Dr Tanya Harrod

The Stage – 17 March – The V&A must save its theatre collection
This week, actor and director Simon Callow calls on the Victoria and Albert Museum to ensure the theatre collection is properly displayed and fully accessible, while Acting for Others highlights its role as the go-to place for theatre workers in need.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – 12 March –  V&A Museum und National Trust : Angriff auf Englands Traditionen [V&A Museum and National Trust : Attack on England’s Traditions]

The Stage – 11 March – V&A cuts should push us to rethink how we present our rich theatrical history

The Stage – 10 March – Reaction to V&A’s proposed cuts – your views, March 10

arthistoricum.net – 8 March – Umstrukturierung im V & A Museum London – als Folge der Covid-19-Pandemie [ Restructuring at the V & A Museum London – as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic ]

The Stage – 8 march – The V&A’s theatre archive matters – losing our past risks losing our future (by Dea Birkett)

The Guardian – 7 March – Guardians of UK’s literary jewels at risk in V&A plan to cut key library staff

Nachkritik.de – 7 March – Welttheaterebe bedroht [ World theatre heritage under threat ]

The Stage – 5 March – V&A risks breaking its promise to protect theatre collections, ex-archivist claims

BBC Radio – Front Row – 4 March – Proposed changes at the V&A

The Telegraph – 4 March – The proposed changes to the V&A would be catastrophic

The Stage – 2 March – V&A Theatre Museum collection ‘in jeopardy’ under proposed staffing cuts

V&A Blog – 2 March – Update on proposed restructure of V&A Curatorial, Research and National Art Library departments (by Tristram Hunt)

Artnet – 26 Feb. – The Victoria and Albert Museum Will Cut a Fifth of Its Curatorial Staff as Part of a Sweeping Round of Layoffs

The Guardian – 25 Feb. – Vast staff cuts imminent at V&A, insiders say



Why people signed the petition:

As a former stage manager , lighting designer and Arts Administrator , and former V&A secondment student I sign this petition because the Theatre & Performance Dept. of the V&A is a fundamental tool for investigation and study of the performing arts and the arts and crafts associated with them .
Jorge Arjona – 10 March

It is important that places of entertainment are open.
Winston Churchill was asked why he quickly reopened theatres early in WWII.
His reply was, “What are we fighting for”.
John Arnold – 10 March

The dedicated staff working within the department understand that theatre ‘history’ is complex, and is as much about the present and the future as it is about the past.
Years of experience, learning and adapting over time as situations and circumstances evolve, is what gives empathy and an understanding to this department far greater than any number of degrees ever can.
Jan Mizon – 10 March

I am a freelance theatre professional that remembers visits to the theatre museum as a child being pivotal in my career choice. The performing arts exhibit at the V&A is a wonderful way for friends and family to begin to understand what I do for a living and how much work actually goes into a production. More importantly, the V&A is one of the rare institutions that can maintain an archive of our world class industry to inspire future generations.
Annette Waldie – 7 March

Since the V&A have incorporated the theatre museum and all its archive, you can see a significant change in what the V&A brings to it’s wider and hugely successful curation in a decade+ of internationally recognised exhibitions. Shows that without these valuable resources would certainly not have not been the same …. which of course refers to not only archive but also the people involved.
Alex Walker – 7 March

I am President of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild. We have a number of puppets on display, and the the theatre museum has been a vital resource for our members and the public alike.
Ronnie Le Drew – 6 March

I am a production designer from Australia and have enjoyed and admired the V&A ‘s Theatre Collection since the early 1990’s . I have always made a visit to see this collection whenever I have traveled to London as it is so unique. Collections like this inspire designers like me from all the round the world . Please maintain this collection properly so it continues to inspire and educate into the future .
Melinda Doring – 6 March

The Theatre Museum was created as the national historical collection and display for one of our greatest creative industries, Theatre. It must not be frittered away across departments which are concerned with other arts. This collection, handled correctly, could be as much a money spinner as Theatre, Opera & Ballet are for tourism in any normal year. Our industry is sweating it out through the harshest and longest lockdowns. Please hold its heritage together.
James Laws – Lighting Designer – 5 March

Each year I take theatre students from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada to visit this collection as part of their undergraduate studies. It’s a rare moment in which they get to see theatrical cultural artifacts up close without having to be rushed along as part of a speedy backstage tour. This is a much-cherished display and students benefit greatly from it.
Renate Pohl – Associate Professor Technical Theatre Production – 5 March

The Theatre & Performance Department provides in important resource for all patrons and students of the arts form including performers, designers, directors and technicians. The loss of the Theatre Museum was only placated by the V&A housing the collection. It is vital that this culturally important collection is preserved for future generations.
Simon Pugsley – 5 March

It is crucial that bodies like the V & A maintain their theatre collection, not just filed away from sight in dusty archives, but as a living, breathing collection to be enjoyed. Of all the art with which the museum purports to celebrate, the performing arts are the most popular and ephemeral. They must be preserved and on display for all to enjoy at all cost! Another nail in theatre’s coffins substantially aided by Covid 19. How handy…
Ian Belsey – Singer – 5 March

If we lose our culture and its history, we lose the heart of our country.
David Konyot – Clown, Comedian, Ringmaster and Circus Producer – 5 March

I worked at the Theatre Museum for 5 years and have worked in Theatre for over 35 years, so I know just how important this department is to our fantastic Theatre heritage , the knowledge of the staff and the brilliance of the collections is without question the best in the world….Thousands of school children use its education departments every year, far more than any other V&A section….
John Brand – 5 March

It was bad enough that the theatre museum in the heart of the West End had to close. Now after destroying most of he arts in the UK by neglect during the pandemic, they are planning to destroy the most important European theatre collection as well. Amsterdam has closed its museum, and Berlin and Paris never even have had one. Why would you mess with such a great institution as the V&A department?
Andreas Praefcke – German Photographer – 5 March

I’m a performing arts management researcher and have visited the V&A’s Theater&Performance Archives department several times. A myriad of performing arts heritage is preserved here in very good condition. These should be absolutely protected and passed down to future generations.
志村聖子 Seiko Shimura – 4 March – Japanese performing arts management researcher

London is the epicenter of English-speaking theatre, with a tradition that goes to the core of the British identity. To close this department is irresponsible and ignorant. What you really need to do is curate your collection better, and put it front and center.
Leslie Swackhamer – stage director of opera and theatre, Houston USA – 4 March




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