Heritage Talk: The Future of Theatre
Theatre is about the moment, the live event, the THIS NIGHT ONLY spectacle. But over time those moments add up to make a history that is personal and unique to each theatre. The Northcott’s identity is about its stylish, hip opening in 1968, and its decades of community and youth productions, as well as what’s showing tonight and tomorrow. This is why the theatre archive is so important – from photos to press clippings to posters and scribbled notes – this is where the theatre’s life story is found.
Delving into the archive in this way, you find gaps and troubles as well as treasures. Sometimes what’s not there is as telling as what is. The theatre is not a museum, but how and what it collects and archives will shape its future as well as define its past. To discuss these ideas and more, this December the archive’s commissioning circle of local community representatives will host an event asking “What would we like the theatre archive to contain in 50 years’ time?” to imagine and plan for what comes next. They’ll be joined by curator Katheryn Johnson, archivist Caroline Walter and theatre curator Keith Lodwick. We’ll be asking why theatre archives matter, what has been collected since the 60s, and how might this change in the future? Please listen in and join the debate.
Dr Katheryn Johnson
Kathryn is a freelance curator and associate director of audio-visual design company Palma Studio. She is currently curating archive displays and art commissions for Exeter Northcott Theatre. She previously worked on the blockbuster exhibitions David Bowie is and Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains with the Theatre and Performance department of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Keith Lodwick is a curator, archivist, and writer. He is the former Curator of Theatre and Screen Arts at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Keith curated the V&A touring exhibition Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives, and has written extensively about Leigh and her life and work. Keith was the assistant curator for the major V&A exhibition Hollywood Costume (2012), one of the most successful exhibitions in the museum’s history. Keith has contributed to a wide range of publications including: Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes (2010); Oliver Messel: In the Theatre of Design (2011); Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2015); and Performance Costume: New Perspectives and Methods (2021). Keith has appeared in several television broadcasts including the BBC’s Secrets of the Museum Series 1 and 2 (2020 – 21).
Sarah Samuel is a final year Liberal Arts student at the University of Exeter. She majors in English while doing modules in Drama and Film as well. After moving to England from India to pursue her undergraduate degree, she has been involved in a number of research projects working with organisations like the Tate Collective and Shanghai Museum. In 2020, she began working as an intern for the Northcott Heritage Archive Project focusing specifically on theatre in education (TIE). While delving through the archives, she traced the role of education and involvement of Young People at the Northcott from the 1960s to the mid-2000s. Apart from her love for TIE, she is passionate about an increase in South Asian representation in the creative industries.
Babs Tolley BSc is a member of the Heritage project’s commissioning circle and formerly worked for Devon County Council Childrens Services and Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. Babs is also a writer and has been visiting the Northcott since she was 7 years old. Babs joined the commissioning circle after participating in a series of archive workshops with Exeter’s Resilient Women’s Group.
Latifah Wallace graduated this year from the University of Exeter with a degree in English Literature. Latifah was born and raised in East London to a Somali mother and a Jamaican father. Raised by her mother and grandmother, culturally Latifah identifies more with her Somali heritage. Latifah was the first in her family to graduate from university which was a major achievement and is currently working full time with an organisation called Resources for Autism, as a key worker for children and teenagers on the autism spectrum.
Caroline Walter is the Archivist for the Literary, Theatrical and Artistic collections held at the University of Exeter Special Collections. Caroline has worked in archives for over a decade, achieving registered status last year. She has previously worked in County Record Offices, a National Museum and the BBC Archives. Caroline completed a 2 year cataloguing project on the Northcott Theatre Archives in 2020 and has been collaborating with the Northcott theatre in their exploration of their archives since 2019. She has also personally trodden the boards of the Northcott stage in Exeter Musical Society’s 2018 Oliver! (albeit just in the chorus!).