Giving Voice to the Nation. The Arts Council of Great Britain and the Development of Theatre and Performance in Britain 1945-1995

Description of the project

Arts Council of Great Britain Archives

Publications from the project

Description of the project

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Public subsidy is the cornerstone of post-war British theatre: new writing; new theatre spaces; new theatrical styles and genres; the birth of the fringe and the encouragement of ethnic minority involvement all owe their continuing existence to the policies and financial backing of Arts Council of Great Britain (ACGB). Its impact on theatre policy and practice is often alluded to but has never been fully explored, either in those books that deal with the history of the ACGB, or those that focus on the history and historiography of post-war British theatre. This is due partly to the scale of the archive (approximately 25000 files) and the labyrinthine nature of departments and cross panel committees.

In January 2009, the University of Reading and the Victoria and Albert Museum were awarded a major AHRC Research Grant to undertake a five-year project to investigate the theatre archive of the Arts Council of Great Britain.

The project comprises of three major strands: histories of regional theatre, touring companies and new writing. The project currently employs two post-doctoral students who since January 2009 have undertaken an extensive survey and cataloguing of the archive relating to the three research areas as well as initiating their own research and conducting interviews with former Arts Council staff.

By surveying all the material relating directly / indirectly to regional theatre, touring companies and new writing the project will offer new insights into the practice and policy of post-war British theatre. Once the project is completed, the project outputs (catalogue, display, reader's guides and publications) and an accessible archive will ensure that the benefits of the project will be both long-term and widespread across the academic theatre community and practitioners, and across the research communities of history and cultural studies.

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The Online Arts Council Great Britain archive

As part of this AHRC-funded research project, several guides have been compiled to introduce researchers to the structure and content of the online ACGB archive. Each document focuses on a particular policy area: Arts Centres; Regional Arts Associations; Community Arts; ACGB Panels and Housing the Arts. The weblinks included in these guides take the researcher directly to the relevant webpage of the ACGB archive.

Publications from the project

Journal article. 'Prizes for Modernity in the Provinces: The Arts Council is 1950-1951 Regional Playwriting Competition' History Research, June 2012, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2013

Journal article. '"The Freak's Roll Call": The Arts Council of Great Britain's Experimental Drama Committee, 1969-1973', Contemporary Theatre Review, 22:1, 32-45.

Journal article 'Tickets, Critics and Censorship: The Royal Court, The Arts Council and The Spectator1969-1970', Theatre Notebook, .64:2 (2011), 1-17. Refereed journal.

Book Chapter. 'Foco Novo: Small Scale Touring - Large Scale Ambitions', in Patrick Duggan and Victor Ukaegbu. Britishness, Aesthetics and Small-Scale Theatres. Bristol: Intellect, 214.

Edited Collection Kate Dorney The Glory of the Garden: English Regional Theatre & the Arts Council 1984-2009, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010

Forthcoming Book chapter: 'Kicking Tots and Revolutionary Trots: The English Stage Company Young People's Theatre Scheme 1969-70', in Mireia Aragay and Enric Monforte (eds.) Ethical Speculations in Contemporary British Theatre, Basingstoke: Palgrave. Due to be published March 2014

Edited Collection: From Fringe to Mainstream: British Theatre Companies 1979-1994, London: Methuen. Due to be published September 2014

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