Blog: Oral History – Work Experience

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

Alex :

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.

Chris Larkin
Actor Chris Larkin

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.

Terra Nova 1980 Photos by Zoe Dominic 003
The set of Terra Nova 1980. From left to right: Hywel Bennett, Benjamin Whitrow, David Wood, Martin Sadler, Peter Birch, Christopher Neame.

Chris Larkin, amongst many others, has memories tied to the building, but unsurprisingly a great deal of memories come from the shows; one such influential show is Terra Nova, a play about Scott of the Antarctic. Current Head of Stage, Karl Meier, says that Terra Nova is his favourite show of all time “mainly because of the impact it had, not only on me, but on the audience that came to see it”. He remarks at how during the interval “loads of them came down complaining about how cold it was and could we put some heating on” despite it being a really hot summer, “they didn’t realise that the piece was actually making them feel really cold and that the atmosphere was that good”. You can hear Karl Meier talking about his time at CFT here, and you can hear Pamela Howard, the designer for Terra Nova, talk about her work here.


Leslie Evershed-Martin, founder of Chichester Festival Theatre with the Theatre behind him 1969

What is heartbreaking is the thought of the accounts of the Theatre’s history that are lost to us. Sadly we cannot interview Leslie Evershed-Martin, Laurence Olivier, or Steven Pimlott and though their accounts are lost, the project has had many people share their memories of these giants of the industry. Alison Anderson knew Leslie Evershed-Martin and fondly remembers him: “Leslie was tremendously admired locally. . . he was a very popular man. . . He was a real ‘can do’ man and he was always full of ideas, how he had time to be an optician as well, I don’t know, but he was.” You can hear more from her here.