It all starts with Blue Boxes. This was an extraordinary mobile theatre created by Century Theatre after the Second World War to take plays to towns and cities with no active theatres – taking theatre to the people.
It was a regular visitor to Keswick: its long convoy of wagons, including dressing rooms, bedsits and canteen, grinding up and down Lake District hills. Imagine getting stuck behind it!
Eventually it settled permanently in a car park in Keswick in 1975 after it failed its MOT, and people kept coming to see plays for years after. The buildings eventually came into disrepair and our audiences love to reminisce about the leaky roof when it rained (regular visitors knew which seats to avoid!). It was time for a new theatre.
People who loved their experiences watching theatre in Keswick decided to come together to spearhead a campaign for a permanent replacement. By sheer force of will they made it happen. TBTL was the first theatre to be built with funding from the National Lottery and it was officially opened in 1999 by Judi Dench and her husband Michael Williams. Judi is still our patron to this day.
Since then TBTL has staged more than 100 plays, commissioned World Premieres, established a national reputation for quality and found a loyal year-round audience in the people of Cumbria and the visitors to the Lake District.
And what happened to the Blue Box? It retired to Snibston Discovery Park in Leicestershire in 1996.