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Recording the History of Alternative Theatre in Britain (1968-88) through oral history interviews and the collecting of archive material
Spring with Unfinished Histories
Read soon - lots of things happening this week!

Photos: Pip Simmons Theatre Group Photos: Roger Perry

Help Wanted
Radio Programmes


It's been a while since we've been in touch. For Unfinished Histories it's been a period without many public activities, but lots of things happening behind the scenes.
Some of those things are:
- work on completing 24 new main Interviewee pages as well as more than 20 shorter ones,
- creating at least 9 new Company pages including John Bull Puncture Repair Kit, People Show and Pip Simmons Group, through the sterling efforts of our volunteer David Cleall, as well as a page for CAST, created by Andy Curtis and Pentabus by Mike Price.
All of these to be launched later this year...!!

We have also been:
- going ahead with our training programme which has already resulted in an interview with Liz Leyh (Inter-Action), with plans for interviews with Iris Walton (Cunning Stunts), Jamal Ali (Black Theatre of Brixton) and Poulomi Desai (Hounslow Arts Co-op) among others
- conducting new interviews - with Pam Schweitzer (Age Exchange)  and Bill Bailey (Almost Free Theatre,
the actor, not the comedian)
- having discussions about finding a new  base for our archive, which will enable us to make it more available while building our Collections because we can offer a secure home, while still being able to make material accessible through exhibitions, events and the web site. We hope to make an announcement about this in the next few months so Watch This Space!

Also news in the next newsletter of a Benefit concert to be led by Siren, with additional contributors  at Queen Mary University of London in June. Date and further details soon...  

It is that time of year again when Unfinished Histories coffers are running very low. So if you value our work and realise the importance of recording the interviews and preserving this history, please  MAKE A DONATION - and if you are a taxpayer, please sign up for Gift Aid.

Help Wanted

We recently experienced a problem with our web site as a result of which we have decided to migrate all of our Galleries of images to a new system. This means that in the meanwhile images may appear pixilated or not open very effectively or lack proper captions - our apologies if you experience that. The work of changing them all is very time-consuming. Jessica in particular, who is leading this work, requires some direct assistance as she is limited physically as to how much time she can spend on the computer. If you have good basic computer savvy or are methodical and good at following instructions and would like to help with this work (short-term commitment), please email

If you are quick you can just catch these:

Scenes to believe!

Running Wed 20th April to Sat 23rd April at 639 Enterprise Centre, High Rd, Tottenham, London N17 8AA  Map


Drawing on Stephen Bourne's panels for his exhibition/ book Black in the British Frame with additional events:
On Fri 22nd 6.30-815 Screening of a documentary on Paul Robeson's life to mark the centenary of his birth
On Sat 23rd 1.30 - 3.00 talk by Martin Hoyles on his recent biography of Ira Aldridge with performance extracts and Q&A.

Forkbeard Fantasy's Theatre of Animation
You can just catch the Forkbeard Fantasy's Theatre of Animation exhibition at Arts University Bournemouth, Wallisdown, Poole, Dorset, BH12 5HH running till Fri 22nd April. Curated by Sean Aita, with exhibition book edited by Sean Aita and with essay by Susan Croft - Dazzle and Wobble: Forkbeard in Context.
Bournemouth: text+work, 2016  ISBN: 978-0-901196-71-2 Order from text+work, University of the Arts Bournemouth,  Wallisdown, Poole, Dorset, BH12 5HH. See web site for more on the company.


Meanwhile at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin St, London E5  you can still catch the Unfinished Histories exhibition Theatre for Radical Change  including an array of posters from companies such as  Foco Novo, Black Theatre Co-op, Cunning Stunts, Red Ladder and many more. Open Mon - Sat 10.00 - 8.00. Travel details here


Action Space the company that pioneered a raft of thinking about creative arts and community from the 1960s onwards has been the focus of a range of activities, events and publications over the past few years designed to document and share that work and inspire new generations. Mary Turner's book Action Space Extended  is now joined by a new publication Ken Turner's Crashing Culture Artist Notebook 1954-2016. There is a Facebook page for the organisation and an Unfinished Histories web page with an Interviewee page on Mary Turner coming soon.
An event last year at Chelsea College of Art recreated an inflatable structure which became the venue for a series of activities and was documented for Huw Wahl's film Action Space which also draws on extensive original footage of the company's work in the 1960s and 70s, recorded on early Sony Portapaks. It 'explores art, family and time.' and' follows the construction of a present-day inflatable, and teases out questions that are just as relevant half a century on. How do children learn to manage risk? What do we mean by community arts? How public is our public space?' It is being shown in Birmingham as part of the Flatpack Festival at the Electric Cinema on Sat 23rd April at 3.p.m Details here 

In Nottingham on Friday 20th May an event at the artists' space Primary takes Huw Wahl's film and Action Space's work as starting point for a day-long exploration called Into Action: the Politics of Play and Participation featuring a range of artists and speakers. Further details here

Building Communities and Political Theatre is an evening of discussion being hosted by Salford Community Theatre on Wed 4th May at 6.15 with speakers including David Edgar and Stephanie Dale on community plays, Jenny Hughes on her Poor Theatres project and Julie Hesmondhalgh on her current political theatre project Take Back Theatre. Further details here 

Tickets and programme details are now available for the Radical Histories/Histories of Radicalism conference and festival commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the death of the socialist historian Raphael Samuel, along with the fortieth anniversary of the journal he helped to found, History Workshop Journal. The events open on Fri 30th June with a free event at Birkbeck College, London on Radical Utopias and feminism including Greenham Common with the main conference on Sat 1st and Sun 2nd July at Queen Mary University of London at Mile End. Full
details here



To mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising the Finborough Theatre are presenting John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy's epic play The Non-Stop Connolly Show 'a dramatic cycle of continuous struggle in six parts'. Originally produced by the Irish TGWU in Dublin in a 24 hour performance, it was presented in London in 1976 by Inter-Action at the Almost Free Theatre as a series of staged readings and has not been produced in the UK since. 

★★★★ The Stage
★★★★ LondonTheatre1
★★★★ Carole Woddis Reviews

Single parts have been staged on individual evenings thus far and the whole sequence will be staged starting -
Saturday, 23 April 2016 from 12 noon (parts 1-4) finishing Sunday, 24 April 2016 from 12 noon (parts 5-6) on a come and go as you please basis. 
The show in epic verse and stirring dialogue follows the life and career Ireland's greatest revolutionary, James Connolly, from his birth in Scotland through his political maturation in Ireland and America to his last moments in front of a British firing squad.
Full booking information

The Local Stigmatic
The Old Red Lion Theatre at Angel Islington is reviving Heathcote Williams' cult play - The Local Stigmatic in May. Originally performed at the Traverse Theatre 1966 it is about ' two working class sociopaths who idly spend their days gambling on the dogs, debating, bickering, and reading the newspaper gossip columns' and is described as ' is a sinister, deeply disturbing study of psychosis, fame, obsession and envy. Darkly comical at times, it reveals an element of society and its fascination with ‘celebrity’, but also the resentment that it can provoke.' It  was filmed in 1990 with Al Pacino. The play runs at the Old Red Lion 3rd - 28th May 2016 at 7.30 with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. You can book here.

The long-running Mikron theatre company, established in 1963 and still travelling the canals with their crew of actor-musicians, have launched their latest touring schedule with two plays Canary Girls, about women munitions workers in World War One and Pure about the politics of food manufacture, now and 150 years ago. You can find details of the schedule here


The Snoo Wilson Archive
Snoo Wilson, who died suddenly in 2013 was a highly innovative and inventive playwright who was one of the founders of Portable Theatre with Howard Brenton, Tony Bicat and David Hare and wrote for them, Paradise Foundry, the Bush, the Royal Court and many others. He studied at University of East Anglia who are hosting an event to launch the acquisition of his archive by the Centre for Contemporary Writing with an evening of readings and talks by his friend Dusty Hughes and director Jenny Topper, this Thursday 21st April at UEA Drama Studio  18.00-19.00. Event details here and here for more information on the archive  and Snoo's work

Radio Programmes

There have been a wealth of radio programmes in recent months that relate to the history or concerns of the alternative theatre movement.
On Black and Asian Theatre, the BBC Radio 4 series:

Raising the Bar: 100 Years of Black British Stage and Screen
and on Radio 3 the documentary
Making an Entrance: Asian Theatre in Britain

Playwright April De Angelis whose career started with ReSisters theatre company addressed the new radical wave of feminist theatre and examined how best to address sexual violence on stage in a manner that confronted the issues without being demeaning in Theatre of the Abused.

The specific histories of key companies and venues that were part of the movement were celebrated in A Theatre for Everyman and earlier (though not currently on i-player) The Hull Truck Story.

Most recently the independent platform Soft Irish Rain aired a programme How Did I End Up Here about UH interviewee Kath McCreery and Rik Walton in their series on people who have settled in Donegal.


Bruce Lacey
Bruce Lacey  who died in February  was a British eccentric, maverick, performance artist, composer, poet, sculptor, inventor and filmmaker and an inspiration to several generations of artists from the Beatles to Forkbeard Fantasy. Born in 1927 to working class parents in Lewisham, he graduated from the Royal College of Art in the early 50s. His work encompassed prop-making for Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, building robots and dummies that featured in the song Mr Lacey on Fairport Convention's album What We Did on Our Holidays and creating touring performances with his wife and collaborator Jill Bruce. He was also a member of The Alberts, a surrealistic trio formed with Tony and Douglas Gray in the late fifties, named after the Grays' father Albert, performing jazz, creating improvised shows from junk and traveling in a convoy of battered vintage cars. Bruce Lacey was the subject of a film by Ken Russell, The Preservation Man, in 1962 and his own films were reissued by the BFI as The Lacey Rituals in 2012. That same year Jeremy Deller co-curated an exhibition and book celebrating his work, The Bruce Lacey Experience, at the Camden Arts Centre. See Guardian obituary for more.

Eve Bland
Daughter of a Canadian mother and father, Claire and William Bland active in the Communist party in East London and in Unity Theatre, Eve Bland became an actress and was active in the early Half Moon Theatre in Alie St and co-founded Bloomers with Eileen Pollock. She appeared in the original production of Claire Luckham's Trafford Tanzi, with Noreen Kershaw, in 1978 and Sarah Daniels' The Gut Girls at the Albany Empire in 1988  She died in January 2016 after a long battle with MS. If you have memories of Eve or more information to supply about her career, please get in touch as we would like to set up a page for her in our Individuals section. Please email

Gordon MacDonald

Born 27th Aug 1949, Gordon MacDonald was born in Dumfries to a family that ran kennels. After technical college in Glasgow he went to drama school in Birmingham, meeting Drew Griffiths, Alan Pope and Tony Reeves with whom he would become part of the groundbreaking team who set up Gay Sweatshop, performing in Mister X, As Time Goes By, Age of Consent, Jingleball, Poppies and others. As well as continuing to work as an actor, playing a number of villains on Scottish TV, he performed in New Heart Theatre Company, the Glorious Theatre of Phantasy, and in Dreyfus (1982) at the Hampstead Theatre. He also worked a director including at Oval House and The Albany in Deptford, especially with the community company the Pepys Show, later going on to lead the Basement Theatre Company. His productions at the Albany Empire included Makbethe (1982),  The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1985) and The Zoo Story (1985). If you have memories to share of him or his work please email us.

Jules Wright memorial
A memorial event for Jules Wright,
commemorating her life and legacy  will be held  on Wednesday 13th July at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1 2.30-3.30. She died in 2015, Director of The Wapping Project and one the founders of the Women's Playhouse Trust.  RSVP Alison Ritchie


Abstract Vaudeville: the Work of Rose English by Guy Brett, Ridinghouse, 2014 [ISBN: 978-1-905464-82-1], Utopia: Three Plays for a Post-Dramatic Theatre by Claire MacDonald, Intellect, 2015 [ISBN: 978-1-78320-462-5], The Only Way Home is Through the Show: Performance Work of Lois Weaver ed. Jen Harvie and Lois Weaver, Intellect Books/ LADA, 2015 [ISBN: 978-1-78320-534-9]  and kindle edition
 Walking On My Hands: how I learned to take responsibility for my life with the help of Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Greta Garbo, Harvey Milk, Idi Amin, Guy the Gorilla, & Frank Sinatra among others  by Beth Porter (Womenstuff Publishing, 2016)  Click here for detailed review

Steve  Gooch's career as a playwright goes back to the 1970s with translations of Brecht and the classic Female Transport, focused on a group of women convicts being sent to Australia, which premiered at the Half Moon and has subsequently been performed all over the world. The new collection Women's Worlds (Christine Kimberley, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9564964-2-3) reissues Female Transport together with a series of more recent female-focused plays including the Sussex-set community play British Beauty about the artist and feminist Barbara Bodichon and her relationship with the Rossettis, Cocky's Girls and Massa, about Arthur Munby, middle-class Victorian writer with a fixation on working women such as pit-brow lasses and Hannah Culliwick, the maid-of-all-work with whom he enjoyed their master-slave relationship and secret marriage. A further volume Artistic Licence (Christine Kimberley, 2015,  ISBN 978-0-9564964-1-6) explores the lives of artists in After Rembrandt; in Dark Glory , the early years of the poet Tennyson and,  in Spanish Walk, writers in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

Best wishes
Susan Croft and Jessica Higgs
Director and Associate Director, Unfinished Histories

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