Ref NoBTC155
TitleMichael Northen Collection
DescriptionCollection related to Michael Northen MBE (1921 - 2001), the first credited Lighting Designer in the UK. Includes: a gauze front cloth from a production of Cinderella at the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow; Posters from productions worked on by Northen, and material connected to his autobiography, MBE investiture (including the medal itself) and memorial service.
Date1921 - 2001
AdminHistoryMichael Northen (1921 - 2001), was the first credited Lighting Designer in the UK and his work on “The Mousetrap” can still be seen in the West End today.

Northen was born in London and educated at Canford school, Dorset. In 1938, the stage-struck youngster was apprenticed as stage manager to the Q-Theatre, at Kew Bridge, for £100. He developed a model theatre in his studio at Cheyne Row, Chelsea, where he was able to mock up productions, from the smallest stage to that of the Royal Opera House, and could even light them with an astonishing degree of accuracy. During his long career he collaborated with some of the most remarkable designers and directors of his day, including Peter Brook, Sophie Fedorovitch, John Gielgud, Tyrone Guthrie, Robert Helpmann, Tanya Moiseiwitsch and John Piper. In 1952, he worked on John Gielgud's production of King Lear, at Stratford, and later on the world premiers of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd, Gloriana, and The Turn Of The Screw, numerous Stratford and Glyndebourne seasons, countless West End plays and musicals, a son et lumiere following the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and Noel Coward's 70th birthday gala.

He helped to create the role of the modern lighting designer, and was chairman and president of the 500-strong Association of Lighting Designers and the Society of British Theatre Designers until his death, and his influence is still felt in the profession. Shortly before his death he was awarded an MBE for services to the theatre, he chose to mark the occasion by funding a scholarship for a young trainee lighting designer (

He was survived by his partner of 52 years, Robert Camac, who donated this collection before his own death in 2009.
ArrangementThis collection is uncatalogued and so remains in the form of the original accessions.
Related MaterialMichael Northen's 1997 autobiography is called "Northen lights : a life behind the scenes", available in the TC Library YX4 N874.
The V&A Department of Theatre and Performance hold the Michael Northen Archive (THM/299). It is currently uncatalogued so for further information please email <>
The V&A had an exhibition of the collection titled "Northen Lights" in 2004.
Extent1 box
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