Blog: Training our Memory Collectors

Youth Theatre, Interviews, Memory Collection, Pass It On
Youth Theatre members practice interviewing techniques. From left: Rachel, Rachael, Charlotte and Daisy.

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 strongest message taken on board by the team was the importance of listening. It may sound simple, but when interviewing it’s incredibly hard to pick out certain areas of discussion and guide your interviewee through a constructive dialogue. It’s very important that our memory collectors don’t have a fixed idea of the questions they’ll ask as this immediately shuts down any possibility of a unique story we haven’t yet heard. This means that they must think on their feet and really listen to the answers they receive in order to decide what the next question should be.

Youth Theatre, Rib Davis, Pass It On, Interviews
Sophie and Rib introduce our Memory Collectors to the importance of Oral History

Imagine your subject topic is a tree; that tree will have all sorts of branches with even smaller branches growing out of them. It’s the interviewer’s job to explore each branch as fully as possible then slowly make their way back to the middle to go down a new branch.

Our Memory Collectors come from all sorts of CFYT backgrounds – some have performed in the annual shows, some are Young Practioners and some are from the Technical Youth Theatre group. This broad range means each has an individual background and different relationship to CFT – just like the general public whom they will be collecting stories from. Once trained, our troupe of Memory Collectors will be armed with dictaphones and eager ears to capture your feelings, reactions and memories of Chichester Festival Theatre. This could be anything from thoughts on the building, specific productions or people. Keep an eye out for them at special events throughout the year, particularly when the Theatre reopens!