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Recording the History of Alternative Theatre in Britain (1968-88) through oral history interviews and the collecting of archive material

December Newsletter 2015

Seaons Greetings from Unfinished Histories.
We wanted to send out a newsletter before the end of the year just to update you on what's been happening. In some ways it has been a quiet period, with not too much happening outwardly, though lots of planning and preparation going on to try to raise funds for future work and to catch up with the past backlog.  Susan and Jessica have also been busy with other work including Jessica's highly successful production  of Yang-May Ooi's solo show Bound Feet Blue: a Life Told in Shoes and the publication of a new play collection co-edited by Susan and Sherry Engle: Thousands of Noras: Short Plays by Women 1875-1920 (Launch events are planned for the new year but meanwhile you can buy it here as a printed book or for kindle

Otherwise you can find brief  accounts of some recent activities below.

Arcola Exhibition of Posters - Theatre for Radical Change: in the 1970s and 80s 

Our new exhibition at the Arcola Theatre, Theatre for Radical Change in the 1970s and 1980s, has been on show there since September and will remain on view until April 2016. Do get along and see it if you can. It features an array of vivid posters, many of them silkscreen printed, featuring theatre that addressed the nuclear issue, the 1972 Miners' Strike, Northern Ireland, as well as feminist theatre pieces, Black theatre, Disabilty theatre and much else. It includes companies such as Belt and Braces, Women's Theatre Group, Lumiere and Son, Cunning Stunts and many others. 
Arcola cafe/foyer. Address: 24 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL (directions). Viewing times: 10-7 Mon-Sat..You can also buy our book Re-Staging Revolutions and the poster Heterosexuality and its Causes, printed for us by the late lamented Alan Wakeman, at the box office and avoid postage costs. For current Arcola shows see here.
We are hoping to organise some linked events in the spring 

Interview work and training
We have 8 volunteers lined up to begin our Interview work and training programme at the end of January. Funded by our successful Crowdfunding campaign last year, we will be training our volunteers in the skills required to conduct oral histories interviews for Unfinished Histories and create topic lists and web pages, which will improve our output in this area of our work.

Coming Soon
Meanwhile we are working towards launching Interviewee pages for each of the individuals we have conducted long interviews with, who do not yet have them. A backlog built up over the past 2 or 3 years as we were so busy with events and the HLF project, but Jessica has been working away, with help from our wonderful volunteer David Cleall. Copies of interviews were lodged with Collections earlier this Autumn  and we are now working to complete web pages for them. Each page includes a short biography, current photo, extracts from the interview with transcripts, gallery of images with captions, detailed topic list and bibliography so they are major productions. More news soon, but details on what's available, links to the work-in-progress pages and how and where to book a viewing on our 
Viewing Interviews page)

Recent Interviews: Amsterdam, Tiverton and beyond

Dream of a Ridiculous Man - Pip Simmons Theatre Group (Photo: Roger Perry)

Despite best efforts not to build up another backlog, there are always lots of reasons to conduct more interviews, whether because someone is over from foreign parts for a brief while, or because funding is available specifically for it, or because it links in with a special event. John Fox and Sue Gill interviewed Joan Oliver (Oval House) for us when they were in Canada recently, we interviewed Emil Wolk (Pip Simmons Theatre Group, People Show) when he was over this summer, and Mica Nava (Women's Theatre Group) when Susan collected some wonderful posters from her in the spring.
Most recently, Susan made a trip to Amsterdam to explore the possibility of setting up a parallel Dutch project to record the history of alternative theatre in the Netherlands and in the process interviewed Rudy Engelander (Pip Simmons Theatre Group) and Jenn Ben Jakov and Robert Hahn (Friends Roadshow).
She is also working on an essay for the accompanying book for Forkbeard: Theatre of Animation for the exhibition opening at the Arts University Bournemouth gallery next March (more details soon). So a very enjoyable trip to Tiverton recently resulted in interviews with Tim and Chris Britton, Ed Jobling and Penny Saunders, which will be added to the Unfinished Histories collections and will supplement our currently rather sparse Forkbeard Fantasy Company page.

Company Pages
Due to the indefatigable efforts of David Cleall, working with Jessica, and with company originators, Mick Banks, Chris Vine and others, new Company pages have been created for the following companies People Show, John Bull Puncture Repair Kit, and Bradford Art College Theatre Group   Jessica has also worked with Stephen Abbot and Crayg Ward on a Pentabus page. If you have information to add or your own memories to contribute, please contact us. Putting together these pages is a lot of work; if you would like to sponsor a Company page or a series of Company pages you can donate (see below) or for larger amounts, please get in touch with us.

Supporting Unfinished Histories: Donations and Rent Party
The work involved in preparing interviews for deposit and creating web pages is time-consuming and costly and even if done by volunteers, requires travel costs. If you are able to make a Donation to support our work, large or small, we'd love to hear from you.
We also need to find core costs for renting our office. We have been offered a benefit  by some women's bands in the spring - watch this space - but need to find a venue. If you can offer or suggest a free or cheap space or would be interested in helping organise the event, please contact us

Gordon MacDonald
We heard of the recent death of actor Gordon Macdonald. One of the early founders of Gay Sweatshop, he appeared in many Sweatshop shows including Jingleball, As Time Goes By, Age of Consent and Poppies. We would be glad to include a longer obituary if someone could write one for us.

In our next newsletter, book reviews, projects like Precious and Preserved, and more.
Meanwhile wishing you and all of us a merry Yule and a happy, healthy and, above all, peaceful New Year

Susan and Jessica

Dr Susan Croft (Director)
Jessica Higgs (Associate Director)

Unfinished Histories: Recording the History of the Alternative Theatre Movement

Patrons: Adjoa Andoh, Baroness Christine Crawley, Stephen Daldry,
Tony Elliott, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Pratibha Parmar, Sir Tony Robinson,
Dame Harriet Walter

Board: Danny Braverman, Tony Coult, Ness Lee, Olusola Oyeleye, Lucie Regan, Sue Timothy

Company no: 3950781 + Charity no: 1149431

If you have received this email it is because you have shown an interest in the project, had a direct involvement with it or we believe you might like to know about the work.

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