Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre: 1954

This page contains a more detailed guide to significant events concerning Scarborough's Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre in 1954.

1954: Unresolved Questions

1954 is something of an unresolved mystery regarding the history of the theatre in the round in Scarborough.

Whilst most written evidence points to the fact Stephen Joseph did not engage in any meaningful way with the town before 1955, there has long been an oral tradition that Stephen made initial contact with figures in the town's theatrical community in 1954 prior to making more deliberate moves to establish theatre in the round.

Sadly, there is no way to establish the truth or accuracy of these reports. Whilst Stephen's original correspondence with Scarborough Library's Chief Librarian, William Smettem, is held in archive and strongly supports the fact Stephen visited the town for the first time in 1955, the proponents of the idea he visited Scarborough in 1954 - predominantly Ken and Margaret Boden - have left only anecdotal evidence to support the claim of an earlier visit.

Further to this, Stephen Joseph's own account of events - whilst undated - offers a contradictory account to his own correspondence.

"For several years John Wood, education officer for the North Riding Education Committee, had asked me to take part in weekend courses and summer schools in Yorkshire, and it was on a weekend course in acting at Wrea Head that he challenged me to put theatre in the round to the test of professional performance to the public. I told him of the difficulties in finding a central hall, in London. So he took me to see the Concert Room in the Central Library at Scarborough; and after a friendly and helpful talk with W.H. Smettem, the librarian, out first booking was made."
(Theatre in the Round by Stephen Joseph)

Given that Wrea Head is located in Scalby on the outskirts of Scarborough, there is a plausible possibility that John Wood suggested Scarborough Library in 1954 leading to Stephen to visit the Concert Room and possibly meeting several people who might be interested in becoming involved with the company should it set up in Scarborough. But Stephen did not formally meet or contact William Smettem until February 1955.

Due to the conjecture and unresolved timeline, the events that may have taken place in 1954 are listed both here and on the 1955 page.


  • Whilst leading a weekend acting course at Wrea Head, John Wood - Education Officer for the North Riding Education Committee - may have brought Stephen to Scarborough to view a possible home for theatre in the round at the Concert Room (then the Harrison Room) at Scarborough Library.
  • Stephen may have then met William Smettem, Chief Librarian of Scarborough Library, to discuss his plans and ideas for theatre in the round
  • Stephen Joseph may have met Ken Boden in Scarborough, a leading figure in the town's amateur community, who commits to helping the the new theatre project. He will play a pivotal role in the company for the next 30 years.
Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.