Volunteers are crucial to the success of Pass It On, they’re creative, organised and passionate about the Theatre. One of our current volunteers is Alex Wilcox whose first introduction to the project was through our Out Of the Archive performances in October 2014. This sparked an interest for him in the burgeoning CFT archive and Alex has been gaining in work experience with us since January 2015
I started volunteering on the Pass It On project at CFT in January of this year, and have been working primarily with the Oral Histories strand of the project. Trained volunteers and some members of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre have been interviewing people with close ties to CFT about their experiences and memories of the Theatre. Clips from the interviews can be found here.
As I have been working, it has been impossible not to be engrossed by the rich lives of the interviewees, but what I’ve found truly amazing is how the Theatre has acted as a catalyst to create these memories. Chris Larkin, an actor who started out as a stage hand in the tent where the Minerva is now, says “you think gosh yes, I’ve come back here again . . . and it’s a really nice feeling. It [CFT] will always be here . . . and that grounding never goes away, and there’s something really nice in your life, to come back to where you started.” You can hear more from Chris Larkin here.
A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately for Pass It On has concentrated on the early years of the Theatre. Founded in the sixties as a theatre for the community, by the community, I like to think that nothing has changed regarding this statement. There is something, for sure, about being a local Cicesterian and feeling tied to the Theatre. This was something that was important to founder, Leslie Evershed-Martin, from the start:
“What else made Chichester the right place for this idea? Naturally, I favoured Chichester because I live there. Few could live in such a city for long without loving its unique atmosphere, and I had always wondered how we could preserve its importance.” The Impossible Theatre (1971, page 9)*.
Writing in 1986, Leslie Evershed-Martin reflected on the Festival Theatre Building; the strengths and weaknesses of its design and the reactions and perceptions people held about it. The below extract comes from his book The Miracle Theatre (1986:p33).
‘Over the years there have been many amusing descriptions applied to the look of the building. Correspondents have vied with one another in their inventiveness and the following are some of the examples:-
– “An enormous home plate in a tight little ball pitch.”