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Recording the History of Alternative Theatre in Britain (1968-88) through oral history interviews and the collecting of archive material
November 2012 with news of funding, jobs, volunteer opportunities, the Unfinished Histories Christmas Quiz / Benefit Night and much more....

Heritage Lottery Fund Award
- How to Get Involved
- Volunteers
- Originators
- Project Co-ordinator Job


8th December-- Unfinished Histories Alternative Theatre Christmas Quiz Night! 

Unfinished Histories Ltd the Company
- Board Members
- Donations

PALATINE Learning Resource

Obituaries
- Michael Almaz
- Victor Spinetti
- John Lane

Related Events
-Music & Liberation
-Chat's Palace History Project


Book Reviews
-British South Asian Theatres: a Documentary History  ed. Graham Ley and Sarah Dadswell
-Theatre in Pieces: Politics, Poetics and Interdisciplinary Collaboration: an Anthology of Play Texts 1966-2010 ed.   Anna Furse

Heritage Lottery Fund Award



Unfinished Histories has big news! Our Heritage Lottery Fund application, submitted in early August, has been successful! We asked for funding to begin developing the Companies list web pages on our web site and a related exhibition. We decided to focus the project on the London boroughs of Lambeth and Camden, because they were the site of so much innovative theatre work in the 1960s to 1980s, much of it still undocumented, developed through venues like Oval House in Lambeth and the Arts Lab, Drury Lane, Action Space Drill Hall, Open Space and Roundhouse in Camden, to name but a few.
The boroughs were also the home of many pioneering arts projects and companies from the Brixton Faeries, Lumiere and Son and Black Theatre of Brixton in the South of the city, to Spare Tyre, Recreation Ground, and Inter-Action and its many offshoots in the North.
Oval House in particular also became the London venue for numerous companies touring from elsewhere in Britain including Avon Touring, Forkbeard Fantasy, Kaboodle, Natural Theatre and Yorkshire Theatre Company. Next year is their 50th anniversary year as an arts venue and it will be the venue for the opening of the exhibition in November 2013, where we will also launch the new web pages. The exhibition will then go to Kentish Town Community Centre and Camden Archives - and perhaps beyond.

How to Get involved
The project will be achieved through the work of two groups, and we’re keen to get people involved in both:

Volunteers
We are looking to recruit a group of around 10 individuals who will work with Unfinished Histories receiving training in research, copyright clearance, digitisation, oral history, disability access, object-handling, writing exhibition text, selecting and displaying objects and other areas and then applying those skills in creating the web pages and selecting content for and putting together the exhibitions. The aim is for each Volunteer to work on 3-5 web pages.

This role might appeal to you:
•    if you were active in the alternative theatre or alternative culture at that period and now have time on your hands,
•    if you are looking for a new career direction and are interested in curatorial work and theatre history, or
•    if you are starting out in your career and want to develop skills, knowledge and experience in this area.

For further details and how to apply link to our web site at www.unfinishedhistories.com/supporting-us/volunteering

Originators
'Originators' is the name we are using for founders or early members of theatre companies. Each Volunteer will be teamed with a series of Originators to gather and compile detailed information on their Company, assembling a list of productions, recording their policy, working processes, show descriptions and reviews, along with individual memories of the work. They will also draw together archive material, posters, photos, scripts etc, digitising selected items for the web site, borrowing other items for exhibition display.
If you were active in a company that performed in or was based in Lambeth or Camden between 1968 to 1988, and would like to see a web page recording the work, please see our web site for further details. Examples of the sort of thing we are looking for are to be found at www.unfinishedhistories.com/history/companies/foco-novo and www.unfinishedhistories.com/history/companies/les-oeufs-malades. We are also keen that the exhibition examines the theatre work in the context of the culture and society from which it emerged and which helped support it in the two boroughs such as housing co-ops, squats and communes, food co-ops, print collectives and would be interested in hearing from anyone who has knowledge of these.

Paid 
appointment: Project Co-ordinator 
We are also advertising for a part-time, experienced Project Co-ordinator who will administer the project through its various phases from January 2012 to February 2014. For a full job description and details of how to apply go to www.unfinishedhistories.com/supporting-us/jobs
The project will be led by Susan Croft as Project Leader: Curatorial Manager and Jessica Higgs as Project Leader: Web Site Content Manager.
 Please pass information on to anyone else who might be interested.


Unfinished Histories Alternative Theatre Christmas Quiz Night!
Put this date in your diary and watch out for further details in a later newsletter or keep an eye on our web site's News section: Saturday 8th December, at Chats Palace, 7.30.pm. onwards.
Hosted by quizmaster extraordinaire Danny Braverman this quiz will test your general knowledge including knowledge of the alternative theatre movement... Entry: £5 donation on the door. Food, cash bar, DJ, raffle in aid of Unfinished Histories. (Prizes include theatre tickets for Stratford East, Hackney Empire and others) Come along and help support us. (If you would like to donate a raffle prize please contact susan@unfinishedhistories.com)
No reservations, turn up on the night. Chats Palace, 42-44 Brooksby's Walk London E9 6DF. Map and travel details.


Unfinished Histories Ltd: the Company
Unfinished Histories was established in 2006 by Susan Croft and Jessica Higgs, under the auspices of In Tandem TC, a company limited by guarantee. Jessica has now very generously allowed Unfinished Histories to take over the Company title and earlier this year we officially became Unfinished Histories Ltd. We have recently become a registered charity which will enable us to apply for funding more widely while future donations will become eligible for Gift Aid.  

Board Members
We are in the process of expanding the Board and are looking for new members who will become Trustees of the new charity. We are particularly keen to involve people who have experience and skills in the following areas: legal, financial-accountancy, academic, business links, voluntary sector, PR and IT.
If you are interested in joining the Board as a Trustee and have some time to give to help develop the organisation, please contact the Chair, Danny Braverman: dannybraverman@me.com

Donations
Whilst we have been successful in getting the HLF funding this is for a specific project and we still need to find support for the day-to-day running costs of the organisation: rental of an office and for the core work of updating the web site, answering enquiries, conducting interviews, research, collecting archives and organising events. This work is currently unpaid, thpugh very time-consuming. All donations large or small are very welcome.
We are pleased to announce that Unfinished Histories now has a PayPal account. If you would like to donate online you can do so very simply by going to www.unfinishedhistories.com/supporting-us/donations or you will find it under ‘Donations’ via ‘Supporting us’ on our web site.
 
Palatine Learning Resource
Unfortunately the plan to make the Palatine database available online has been delayed by increased costs. We are actively seeking additional funding and collaborators to take this project to the next stage which will enable us to make extensive indexes of alternative theatre coverage in key publications of the time available online, along with digital facsimiles of articles by more than 75 writers.
Meanwhile should you wish to access the material we are offering a bespoke research service at a reasonable cost based on an hourly rate. We can do a database search for a particular company, individual, topic etc. and if required provide copies of scans for individual research purposes.  If you are interested please email susan@unfinishedhistories.com
  
Obituaries

Michael Almaz
We were very saddened to hear of the death on 16th October of Michael Almaz, one of our interviewees (www.unfinishedhistories.com/interviews/interviewees/michael-almaz). Michael was a writer and director who began his career in Israel, where he was born and came to Britain to work for the World Service while developing his career as a playwright with work including The Rasputin Play, a big success for the newly-formed Brighton Combination, plays at the Royal Court and Traverse theatres, a series of plays on Anarchists and the one-man show Monsieur Artaud. This led to the formation of the Artaud Theatre Company which toured Britain and Europe with a series of one and two-handers. With his wife Pam Martell he set up the Cafe Theatre in Covent Garden where his adaptations of Dostoievsky’s Underground Man and Sartre’s Intimacy became some of the longest-running plays on the fringe. 


Victor Spinetti
Another sad loss in recent months was Victor Spinetti. Victor took part with Sheila Allen in the animated discussion following our 40th anniversary event to celebrate Jane Arden’s 1969 play Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven, in which he played the Man. We are very pleased that the event was recorded by the British Library Sound Archives. Victor had been a key member of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and was a highly versatile actor whose roles included parts in most of the Beatles films alongside quantities of stage roles. A writer, director and anecdotalist, working with Ken Tynan and African-American Adrienne Kennedy he adapted John Lennon’s In His Own Write for the stage, wrote and performed a one-man show based on his memories, and wrote the autobiography Up Front.  For more information see Guardian obituary

John Lane
We recently heard of the death in August of John Lane, artist, writer and long-term Trustee of Dartington, who was a key mover in the foundation of The Beaford Centre, opened in August 1966. It was initiated by the Dartington Hall Trust to serve the rural area of North Devon in order to enrich community life through cultural involvement, in particular  public performance. In 1968 the Orchard Theatre was set up as an experimental mobile theatre company to serve North Devon, with its base at the Beaford Centre. An early outreach project it became an initiator of community arts across the whole of north Devon. For more details see here.  If you have further information to contribute please get in touch.

Related Events
Music & Liberation
Music & Liberation, an exhibition about Women’s Liberation Music Making in the UK (1970-1989), curated by Debi Withers (previously responsible for the Sistershow Revisited exhibition in Bristol, 2011 is currently touring the UK. Along with music, it features artefacts, posters, songbooks, T-shirts, oral histories and much more. It shows how feminists used music as an activist tool to entertain and empower women during the 1970s and 1980s and features the work of Jam Today, the Northern Women’s Liberation Rock Band, Feminist Improvising Group, Ova, the Fabulous Dirt Sisters, Abandon Your Tutu, the Mistakes and many others, including Siren and Sadista Sisters, who were simultaneously bands and theatre companies.
Having opened in Cardiff, it travelled on to Manchester, and the exhibition is now at Glasgow Women’s Library (29th Oct – 24th Nov).  It will be at the Space Station Sixty Five, Building One, 373 Kennington Rd, London SE11 4PS 30th Nov- 13th Jan 2013. For more information go to: WLM Archive

Chats Palace History Project
We have been asked to draw your attention to this project:
Chats Palace in Hackney has encouraged a wide variety of music, comedy, theatre, dance, carnival, disability arts, photography and other art and social activities for over 35 years now. Through an exploration of original artwork, photographs, moving image and oral history, we aim to highlight the history and work of Chats Palace on our weekly blog www.whatischatspalace.wordpress.com.
Anyone who remembers taking part in a community production or seeing a theatre performance at Chats Palace that they would like to recall then please contact us on fragilearchivists@gmail.com Thank you!

Black Play Archive
The Black Plays Archive at the National Theatre have launched a test version of their web site www.blackplaysarchive.org.uk/  with an introduction by Kwame Kwei-Armah. Searchable by playwright, title, company and theatre, the database includes information on numerous works by black and other theatre companies including work from the alternative theatre movement era by Temba, Carib, Staunch Poets and Players, Ambiance Lunch Hour Theatre, Foco Novo and many more – but with lots more to add including dates and archive material. It also has extracts from interviews, essays and audio extracts from plays. It could be improved by offering a clear pathway for those wanting to contribute additional information but is to be applauded for celebrating black playwrights in Britain making a body of vital information available for study, research and – hopefully – future productions.   
  

News from Subscribers
Alan Gilbey BAFTA award-winning screenwriter and former dynamo of Woof! Theatre and Controlled Attack in the East End is staging But Who Knows the East End?’: an Exploration, a special performance to celebrate the publication of his book East End Backpassages: a Explorer’s Guide. 
For further details see here


Neil Hornick infamous founder of Phantom Captain is giving a talk as his alter ego Robert Lambolle, called Out of the Slush Pile: How (Not) to get Published or Produced on 22nd Nov at Golders Green Library. For further details click here.

Nabil Shaban Unfinished Histories interviewee (www.unfinishedhistories.com/interviews/interviewees/nabil-shaban) and joint founder of the amazing Graeae theatre company, is launching his latest novel Diary of the Absurd in the centre of the Bermuda Triangle (!) on Wednesday 31st October 2012,  retail price £11.99 paperback, 388 pages ISBN 9780954829438. For more information see here

Book reviews
by Susan Croft

British South Asian Theatres: a Documentary History  ed. Graham Ley and Sarah Dadswell (includes DVD)
University of Exeter Press, 2011, pp265, ISBN: 9780859898331

Recent years have seen a hugely welcome expansion in the critical attention given  Asian theatre in Britain examined alongside Black theatre in books by Colin Chambers (Black and Asian Theatre in Britain – to be reviewed) and the edited volumes Staging New Britain: Aspects of Black and South Asian British Theatre Practice (ed. Geoffrey V. Davis and Anne Fuchs) and Alternatives Within the Mainstream (ed. Dimple Godiwala) and on its own in Dominic Hingorani’s British Asian Theatre. This new volume is especially welcome in the precise attention it gives to tracing a meticulous history of each company, drawing on reviews, flyers, interviews, video, and those scripts that have survived, to create a detailed record of the work. This work is particularly vital in relation to those theatres, operating in the 1970s and 80s that had been previously neglected: British Asian Theatre, Hounslow Arts Co-op, Asian Co-operative Theatre and it is immensely useful to see the work of the better-documented Tara Arts alongside other early initiatives, enabling comparisons. Also for once given attention are the output of later less-celebrated companies like Man Mela, Rasa Theatre and the Lancashire-based Peshkar Productions. It is unfortunate not to have a more detailed account of the South Asian language theatres that came before, some of them active from the 1960s as Naseem Khan’s  report The Arts Britain Ignores pointed to, back in 1976; most of the examples in the first chapter here are from the 1990s and beyond. The volume is enhanced by an inclusion of a DVD of extracts from recordings and scans of reviews, photos and flyers, making it an excellent teaching resource, though inevitably sound and video images are of variable quality. As a contributor to its companion volume Critical Essays on British South Asian Theatre, I should probably declare an interest in the project, but as an activist for the documentation of so much neglected work from the alternative theatre movement, it is inspiring to see a vital history retrieved from memory and archives to inspire future work.

Theatre in Pieces: Politics, Poetics and Interdisciplinary Collaboration: an Anthology of Play Texts 1966-2010 ed. Anna Furse
Methuen Drama, 2011 pp 404, ISBN 9781408139967
Technically the work collected in this book falls outside Unfinished Histories remit, given our focus on the period 1968 to 1988. The first text it anthologises is US by Peter Brook et al from 1966 and the others all date from 1990 and beyond. This is frustrating only in that there are so many texts to be recorded and rediscovered from within those 20 years. At the same time Brook’s show, developed with Albert Hunt among others, came out of his early experiments with theatrical languages that also included his work with LAMDA students on the Theatre of Cruelty that led to Marat/ Sade, two key experiments in political theatre and physical theatre vocabularies that fed into so much of the work of the alternative theatre movement. Most of the work that is included here has deep roots in the movement: Pete Brooks and Graeme Miller as former members of Impact Theatre Co-operative, Anna Furse herself in Blood Group, Split Britches, starting out at the radical WOW cafe in New York, Julia Bardsley with Gaudete, and in the work of Mojisola Adebayo, the youngest contributor, drawing on Augusto Boal in her piece with Ramallah-based Ashtar Theatre, 48 Minutes for Palestine. These are all fascinating and complex texts, experimental not only in the exploration of theatrical language that took place on the stage, but also textually beautiful and compex, investigating how to create appropriate form on the page to reflect that onstage experiment (the unsung typographer was the inexhaustible Simon Trussler, critic and veteran of years of engagement  with the performance text). Especially striking is Graeme Miller’s A Girl Skipping, a collage of photographs of original texts, typed on dog-eared sheets of paper, handwritten lists of words, held for the camera by visible hands, alongside texts describing process, a performance text allowing many entrance points. It could be reproduced by a new group of performers but the play text makes visible the need for their input to play in and with the text, to re-make it.  This volume cries out for others to fill in the undocumented histories and capture – something of - the lost play texts of Blood Group, Impact, Gaudete – and so many more.

Best wishes to all,

Unfinished Histories


Director: Susan Croft,  Associate Director:Jessica Higgs
Board - Danny Braverman, Vanessa Lee, Carole Woddis

Unfinished Histories Ltd

Company no: 03950781
Charity no: 1149431
Registered Address: 19A Ravensdale Road, London N16 6TJ


  
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