Lavant Valley DFAS Heritage Volunteers in Chichester Festival Theatre’s Pass It On archiving project
After learning the constituents of a press archive, how to build an archive database on Excel and how to enter data, 41 Lavant Valley DFAS members volunteered for a total of 1,190 hours, archived 4,547 press cuttings and worked their way through numerous biscuits plus gallons of coffee and tea!
From November 2013 to November 2015, volunteers met at the theatre every Monday and, working in pairs, extracted the required information from each cutting and entered it in the database.They found it fascinating reading from the first announcement of a radical idea for a Tyrone Guthrie-designed theatre, through the fundraising and politics of the era, the laying of the foundation stone, the engagement of Laurence Olivier as the first Artistic Director, the controversy about the Brutalist architecture, the construction and finally the opening season. That was followed by the recording the press reviews for the 1960s and early 1970s, plus the ups and downs of each season (including antics of various cast members). There have been some wonderful and exciting finds. Some cuttings have been funny, some sad, most have been very interesting and many have awakened old memories.
The project is now completed and the press cutting archive accessible on the theatre’s Pass-it-on website (http://passiton.cft.org.uk/about-pass-it-on/research-requests/press-cutt...). The compilation of the archive by NADFAS Heritage Volunteers has made finding cuttings on any aspect of the theatre’s history (e.g. a production, a review, a person, an event, the architecture, theatre controversies, or even a specific date) quick and easy. The amount of information documented allows a good overview of each press cutting and, if there is a need to see the physical cutting, the listing identifies where to find it. The press cutting archive, now integrated into the theatre's full production archive, allows a worldwide audience access the theatre’s rich heritage.