We work with the Youth Theatre each year using heritage content to inspire and develop their work. In 2013 we presented Pass It Onthe play and got the whole of the Youth Theatre using the archive for thier heritage sharings; in 2014 we welcomed Young Playwrights to produce work for Out of the Archive and this year sees the development and broadcast of ten short radio plays. Written by playwright and oral historian Rib Davis, these plays will draw on content from our growing oral history collection. Working with the Youth Theatre, we asked them to listen to clips from the collection and explore the things they found interesting. On 2 May we held a collaborative workshop to start the process inviting Rib, Jake Smith (Trainee Director at CFT), Hana Walker-Brown (radio producer and sound engineer) and Hannah Hogg (Youth Theatre Intern at CFT) to lead exercises and share their expertise. Hannah talks about the day here:
What an inspiring and creative day we all had. I never really knew anything about radio drama and I was keen to get involved when I found out we were running a radio play workshop. We asked a group of Youth Theatre and members of our 19+ group to come and get involved. We started the day with some bonding exercises which we all know you need to do before working intimately with other people. We had a really good group of people who all worked wonderfully together.
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.
I am part of a group of volunteers involved in oral history interviewing for the Pass It On project. My most recent interviewee was John Gale OBE, who was involved with Chichester Festival Theatre from 1983 and was Artistic Director from 1985 to 1989.
His enthusiasm and affection for the Theatre was typical of our interviewees. They all continue to care for the Theatre and their generous sharing of knowledge and experiences is giving the Pass It On Project an immense wealth of fascinating information.
We met at his house and having set up the recording equipment and tested the sound levels the process began, as usual, with recording the date, place and our names and then asking the interviewee to spell their name, and give the place and date of their birth.
The past is ‘This happened’ and then ‘This happened’ and then ‘This happened’, isn’t it? The past: a series of events, a series of dates even. If we want to make sense of the past we can choose moments from it, try to sort out which moments are important, and link them – this led to this, this led to this, and this led absolutely nowhere (history as a basic theatre plot, if you like).
If we’re ambitious, we might even try to give past events some sort of meaning. Perhaps this event displayed a spirit of innovation; this showed a certain courage and this then revealed a sad timidity.
Much of the data we can gain is from written records. In the case of Chichester Festival Theatre, the records are extensive. There are all the contracts with directors, writers, actors, musicians, designers and the rest – including, of course, architects. And then there are all the theatre programmes and reviews. So there is a lot on the page already.