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.
Listen to Its All In The Telling, our thought-provoking panel discussion with writer and oral historian Rib Davis, writer of Taken at Midnight Mark Hayhurst and Kate Wheeler from the Archiving the Arts initiative with the National Archives, all chaired by author Kate Mosse.
Why do some stories fall out of history? What makes them so fascinating to theatre makers and audiences? In 2014 Pass It On brought together a panel from the worlds of theatre, heritage and oral history to explore these themes. Inspired by the little known true stories behind some of Chichester Festival Theatres 2014 productions Pressure, Pitcairn and Taken at Midnight.
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.
After several successful Memory Collection events in 2013, we are going even bigger and better in 2014. 11 Youth Theatre members are taking part in our Memory Collection project, attending training sessions run by our Oral Historian, Rib Davis, in effective interviewing techniques.
The session began by Youth Theatre members simply asking each other about their connection to the Youth Theatre. Surprisingly, many of the answers were incredibly similar. We realised that the use of closed questions narrowed down each answer making it difficult for personal stories to develop and discover things the interviewer didn’t already know.
Rib then got pairs to practice using open-ended questions with such phrases as, “Could you tell me a little bit more about that?” and “How did that make you feel?” The difference was remarkable – when people are given the opportunity to talk, they really will! This type of interviewing also allows for a much broader scope of discussion and several members remarked how much longer they were able to interview for.
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.