Part of my job involves a fair amount of detective work (sadly no deerstalker and pipe needed – although working in a theatre means props are never far away if dressing up is called for, which of course it always is). I was recently asked to track down some press cuttings regarding a production of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads performed in the Minerva in 1991. This production saw the playwright himself reading through his own monologues and pieces of prose alongside CFT stalwart, Patricia Routledge. All our press cuttings from 1970 onwards are currently organised by years (albeit non-chronological) into File Express boxes which are kept at a secure warehouse where we can recall them if we need to take a look at what’s inside.
I managed to find the cuttings relatively quickly which revealed a great critical reverence to the playwright and his brave decision to perform his own work. Not only do press cuttings allow for an understanding of critical reception, but also show the breadth of press past CFT productions have attracted. Tracking which publications have reviewed shows is very interesting, particularly in terms of the reach of a regional theatre over London venues, as is looking at the social history whereby writing styles and presentation vary year to year. As lovely as these press cuttings were (and at which point I could have hung up my metaphorical deerstalker) something else in the box caught my eye. The press cuttings are generally all gathered into plastic wallets; amongst these was a rather tatty looking ring-binder folder labelled ‘PRESS CUTTINGS: 1980’. Now it’s inevitable that with the sort of work that we do, certain productions stick out for certain reasons and a play called Terra Nova is one such production – mainly because it sticks out for lots of other people. Continue reading “Surprise finds from the archive”→
Pass It On has a spectacular team of volunteers who work on a myriad of different tasks, whether they are individuals working independently from home or groups working at the theatre. One of our volunteers, Charlotte Murgatroyd, tells us about her experiences as part of the Pass It On team.
It’s Monday morning. I am off to the theatre. No, not to see a play but to take part in an archiving project. The Festival Theatre (CFT), has many scrapbooks, filled with press cuttings relating to CFT as it was in the sixties and seventies. There are two teams of volunteers from Lavant Valley DFAS (Decorative and Fine Arts Society), one works in the morning and the other one in the afternoon.
We work in pairs putting data from the cutting in to an EXCEL Spreadsheet. Typical entries include the date and title of the publication from which the cutting comes, the particular production and the people concerned, followed by a précis of the whole cutting. Cuttings range from a few sentences to articles covering a page and more.
“Very few of us had done any archiving before and I had always thought of it as a rather dry and tedious activity. How wrong can one be?” – Liz Juniper, Heritage Volunteer Representative for the Lavant Valley Decorative and Fine Arts Society
For the last three months, our NADFAS volunteers have been working their way through piles and piles of press cuttings, listing them onto a database in detail so we can gain a clear overview of what press cuttings our archive holds – what productions are reviewed, what news is covered, who was visiting, when and why. This is particularly important for future researchers interested in the Theatre’s history, who will be able to search the database by year, by production and using key names.