As our project has progressed over the years, we have had more and more interest from researchers and the general public about our growing archive. I have received many an interesting email or phone call from a variety of people wanting answers to a question we may or may not be able to help with. It is such a joy to explore these requests; there’s a serious amount of detective work involved which brings great satisfaction. Even if an answer remains elusive, interesting things are always discovered along the way.
Requests come in all shapes and sizes. Some people simply want to know “Can you remember who played so-and-so in this production from 1968?” whilst others want specific archive content to assist with dissertations and research projects.
Here are a few examples of the kind of research requests I’ve received:
- “What did the prop poster for Die Schweigsame Frau look like in the production of Collaboration in 2008?” This came in from a lady working on a production in a small community theatre in Hastings
- “What happened to the original stage made from wood donated by the Stratford Festival Theatre in Canada?” This request came from a volunteer at Stratford Festival Theatre, the theatre that inspired CFT
- “Who performed in the 1966 season? Were any of them actors who turned out to be big names?” I was contacted by someone writing their memoirs who remembered bumping into a few members of the company (Answer – Ben Kinglsey played ‘the servant’ in The Clandestine Marriage and ‘first murderer’ in Macbeth)
Other examples include:
- Production photographs and information regarding Penelope Wilton’s performances at CFT, particularly The Seagull (1973) and Vita and Virginia (1992) for a dissertation based on women and gender
- Production photographs and information regarding Maggie Smith’s performances at CFT for an MA theatre dissertation
- The history of musicals at CFT for an A-Level essay
- Archive documents requested on the 1962 theatre build for a dissertation project comparing the original building with the RENEW project work of 2012-2014
- Photographs of the original auditorium for an architecture exhibition to be held at the National Theatre
These requests show the real breadth of interest that the public have in Chichester Festival Theatre, with not only an understandable curiosity in productions, but also performers, links to other theatres and architecture.
Some requests are very easy to respond to but others are a lot trickier to track down; whilst we have over 200 boxes in our archive kept at West Sussex Record Office, there are still gaps in what content we have. If the content we do have matches the requirement, then I call upon the help of our archivist, Nick, and teams of volunteers to scan the material to send to researchers digitally. We’ve also recently setup a viewing system for researchers interested in watching recordings of past productions, for further information click here.
We’re working towards the CFT archive becoming publicly accessible by the end of the project in 2016. Until then, if you have a question, enquiry or request we’re waiting to hear from you! Get in touch at [email protected].