Dracula Returns to Derby - new project to shed light on city's legacy

11 April 2024

A research team led by the University of Derby, and working in partnership with leading cultural organisations, is seeking to highlight the city’s links to the world’s most famous vampire.

Derby’s Grand Theatre, which once stood on Babington Lane, was the site of the world premiere of Hamilton Deane’s adaptation of Dracula, on 15 May 1924. Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian-American actor who played the role in the 1931 film, visited Derby in 1951 to star in a revival of the play at the Hippodrome Theatre.

The University has been awarded £100,000 funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), for a 14-month-long project, in partnership with Derby Museums, Sheffield Hallam University and Bournemouth University. Led by Dr Matthew Cheeseman, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Derby, the team will work with local communities, cultural organisations, and national experts on folklore and Dracula tourism, to raise awareness of Derby’s connections with the famous vampire, promote Dracula-related cultural tourism in Derby and explore representation in the horror genre.

Dr Cheeseman said:

“While Whitby has long been associated with the Dracula of Bram Stoker’s novel, Derby is the birthplace of the character’s journey from monster to international cultural superstar. When the curtain went up, the Derby Dracula was suave and charming, wearing evening dress and an opera cloak. This is the character that was adapted by Hollywood and took over the world. In this centenary year we will be celebrating all the diverse interpretations of Dracula since then, from Bela Lugosi to Blackula.”

Events and workshops will be taking place across the city throughout this year and into 2025, with plenty of opportunities for the public to be involved and shape the way Dracula’s connections with the city are promoted.

Among the first events will be two talks hosted by Derby Museums, on 23 and 24 May, by Dacre Stoker, great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, on the influences and legacy of the novel. Dr Cheeseman will also be delivering a talk on 30 May as part of Derby Book Festival, exploring how the charming ‘Derby Dracula’ conquered the world.

Dr Duncan Light, Principal Academic in Tourism at Bournemouth University, said:

“Derby isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you hear the name Dracula. But the city has a wealth of Dracula connections that this project will bring to wider public attention. This will allow Derby to establish itself as a must-visit destination for Dracula enthusiasts and literary tourists more generally.”

Dracula Returns to Derby is a research project led by the University of Derby in partnership with Derby Museums, Derby Theatre, Bournemouth University and Sheffield Hallam University, and working with The Dracula Society, Derby Book Festival, Derby City Council, Cathedral and St Peters Quarter, Derby QUAD, Thrivemind Village and Writing East Midlands. 

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