CFT and Pass It On regularly run events and talks intent on exploring and sharing the Theatre and its rich history. These events are for all kinds of audiences and it is fantastic to see how they inspire people in lots of different ways. One of our volunteers, Corinne Nash, attended the Open Day in 2014 and was inspired not only to join the Pass It On project but also attend more events and productions. Corinne tells us about her journey with the theatre and her impressions on one of the most recent Pass It On events.
One of our favourite things about the Pass It On project is working with a team of volunteers who all have a myriad of different skills; one of our volunteers, Janet Green, tells us how she became involved with the project and how she has brought her talents in photography to the project:
It all started for me when Chichester Festival Theatre had an Open Day on a Sunday in September 2014. I had taken my visiting Australian relatives to see Guys and Dolls a few days before. We were all enchanted by our theatrical experience, and I was so proud to share Chichester Festival Theatre with them. To go back stage a few days’ later on the Open Day totally captured my imagination. I have a particular interest in photography so of course I had a camera with me and having sought permission captured a few amazing shots jostling with the crowds enjoying this wonderful opportunity. The way props were arranged backstage really fascinated me. The experience made me more aware of the people behind production who make it happen and the processes involved.
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.
This year as part of the annual Chichester Festival Theatre Heritage Open Day, members of the public had the opportunity to go on hard hat tours of the current renovation works on the Theatre. This was a rare chance for people to see inside the incredible architecture of the Festival Theatre. Additionally it was also a chance to see the work being done to enhance the Theatres iconic and prominent hexagon shape, around which my art workshop, also part of this year’s Heritage Open Day, was based.
Being a fine art graduate from Chichester University and having run workshops within social care, this opportunity was perfect for me, combining two areas of interest and work.
Gillian is working with teams of volunteers in the West Sussex Record Office to sort through and list the 1,000 boxes of paper files which constitute 50 years’ worth of potential material for the Chichester Festival Theatre’s archive – the keystone of the Pass It On project. As the first team of volunteers finish their term, Gillian reflects on the initial three months of organising our archive:
It’s the end of a little era. The first two teams to sort and box documents and files belonging to the Chichester Festival Theatre have now completed their time. They have done sterling work and I shall miss them.
We have made excellent progress. We are attempting to separate all the paperwork relating to the history and development of the Theatre from that which is perhaps not so significant and needs only to be kept for a short time. The newly sorted documents will become the new Chichester Festival Theatre archive, to be stored at West Sussex Record Office and will eventually be available for viewing by the public.