Blog: Chichester Festival Youth Theatre reunion at the Pallant Suite

Youth Theatre alumni and current members celebrating classes of 1987 - 1995
Youth Theatre alumni and current members celebrating classes of 1987 – 1995

Rachael: Many interesting memories and stories were collected on Saturday 5 April when myself and a team of Memory Collection volunteers from the Youth Theatre attended a reunion for Youth Theatre alumni.  Armed with Dictaphones and clipboards, our aim was to try and capture some of the memories of CFYT.

Although a little timid at first, it didn’t take us long to begin approaching people. We went into the hallways to conduct the interviews as the main hall was full of the sounds of old friends reuniting, chatting about their lives and reminiscing while sharing a drink (or two). The interviews were around ten minutes long, with an objective of collecting as much detail as possible and hearing all of the stories they had from being in the Youth Theatre.

Although we started with the same question for each interview, So, could you tell me about your time in the Youth Theatre?” the stories and memories that we collected really varied from person to person, as everyone we asked remembered different things from their time. I got a lot out of this day personally, as I learned how much the Youth Theatre and CFT itself has changed over time.

Emefa: The reunion of ex–Youth Theatre members took place at the Pallant Suite in Chichester, (organised by actress Philippa Burt) in memory of the late Phil Hall, however the occasion was not a sad one, for it was filled with reminiscing. There was a nostalgic atmosphere of the brilliance of the Youth Theatre and how it has shaped the lives of the people who were involved from the very beginning and how, 25 years later, the experience has stayed with them.As the Memory Collection volunteers and I began to start our interviews (I may be speaking for myself when I say this) but there were some nerves. Trying to remember all the useful tips that Rib Davis – an Oral Historian and writer – had taught us, balanced with plucking up the confidence to talk to complete strangers, seemed daunting.

However, as the team and I cruised through each interview, we realised that this lively group of ‘strangers’ weren’t so scary to talk to after all. Even though on the surface they seemed like a random mix, in actuality the one thing that we all had in common was our involvement and love of the Youth Theatre. It was a medley of old meets new, and I kept thinking to myself ‘this could be me in 25 years and by then, I hope I have achieved as much with my life as these wonderful people have in theirs.’

Hearing stories from the past, such as ‘The Tent’ before it became the Minerva and X-rated anecdotes about what it was like when the Youth Theatre put on a raunchy performance of Chicago were very entertaining. One ex–member told me that when performing Chicago he would … anyway, let’s move on.

I had the chance to meet people like the gorgeous Cordelia Bugeja, who managed to get an agent at the age of nine through going to Youth Theatre and Nik Ashton who started out at Youth Theatre and is currently the director of West End smash Matilda.

The reunion showed me the importance that the Festival Theatre has not only in our little town of Chichester but to the rest of the country and beyond, because wherever these ex-Youth Theatre members go, their memories, skills acquired and the influence of the festival Theatre goes with them.