As you may already know, we are running tours throughout Festival 2014. We are delighted to announce that these will be led by volunteer Youth Theatre members whom we are in the process of training as official tour guides. Our renowned Youth Theatre, led by Dale Rooks, is a huge part of CFT. Here at Pass It On, we like to take full advantage of this pool of talented, enthusiastic and passionate young people and recruit them whenever we can so that we can also provide them with opportunities to increase their skillset.You may remember our fabulous volunteer hard-hat tour guides of last year, Fay and Rob (recent architecture graduates) who are back to help us. As a logical development, the public and group tours we are running from mid-July will be architecture focused and celebrate the truly unique history and design of Chichester Festival Theatre. The whole group has worked really hard using their research to make the architectural jargon understandable – after our training session held last Saturday, our tour guides can now fully explain what a cantilever is, how cement is made (aggregate included) and will be able to tell you all about the original architects, Powell and Moya.
The tours will involve splitting 50 people into four separate groups each led by a different guide. The challenge is fixing a route where we all won’t bump into each other. There’s been lots of walking back and forth, heading up and down several flights of stairs, testing out the new accessible lifts and creeping into as many corners as possible to find the best route whilst showing off our renewed Theatre to its best advantage for everyone. This is whilst keeping the theme of a non-hierarchal space a priority (Find out more about this on one of our tours!).
This ethos was a huge part of the original Festival Theatre build in 1962, a project that relied on public fundraising by much of the local community to make Leslie Evershed-Martin’s hopes for a regional theatre come true.
It’s a philosophy that Pass It On aims to live by too. We are working in partnership with West Sussex Record Office to sort and preserve a paper archive for Chichester Festival Theatre; with an expert Oral Historian to capture living memories of the Theatre; with local schools to develop a series of teaching resources and with our own Youth Theatre to develop short plays and tours that draw on the Theatre’s heritage in a variety of different ways.
This even filters through to our website. Many of the pages you can explore and browse through have been completed by volunteers. They have been briefed, or have come up with the idea themselves to research particular areas in the Theatre’s history. This way, the website is able to evolve in a very organic manner, with new pages being added by a whole host of volunteers.
Holly Stewart, a history student at the University of Chichester, has produced an extensive overview of the 50+ years history of the Theatre, working decade by decade. Her work can be seen on the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000 to the present pages.
For ninety seconds, in July 1991, the Olivier stage of the National Theatre, London, was mine. All mine. I remember the deafening silence. In that split second before my solo speech, it felt like an eon. I looked straight at the spotlights at the back of the auditorium and I remember the glare that thankfully masked the sea of faces in front of me. I could barely take it all in! How did I end up here…?
It all began with Anthea Dobry’s arrival as Youth Theatre director in November 1990. Anthea had come in after a year’s interregnum when Clare Rankin left in 1989; directors were coming and going so there was no real cohesive leadership and numbers of attendees at workshops had begun to dwindle. Anthea acted quickly to remedy this. Sometime earlier, the Youth Theatre had entered the National Youth Theatre challenge (now NT Connections) with a piece they had devised themselves called Happy Families, in 1989 at the National Theatre. They were one of the lucky entrants to be invited to perform this at the National at the end of the project. Anthea said we were to enter again.