Respondent or information from other source
Clive Goodhead PhD student in drama at the University of Manchester.
Aims, policies, purpose/ impetus for project:
The theatre's history up to 1946 had been written by Sybil Rosenfeld. People who recollected the post-war period were now in their 80s. Their oral histories needed to be captured lest they be lost. They formed a small but important part of the whole research and subsequent thesis. They also contain far more useful material than appeared there, such as detailed descriptions of technical aspects of staging.
The thesis is in its final stages, with a view to final submission this summer. At present there are no plans for further continuation.
Key individuals and roles involved: Clive Goodhead only
Paid or voluntary, training in oral history:
Unpaid - in fact the work cost me my own money. I attended two seminars at the University of Manchester and one very useful session during a regional postgraduate training day. I also read widely in the field, including some useful stuff from the Oral History Society and its equivalent in the USA. Much of the other writing was far too precious and impractical, in my view.
Project funded by:
The university supported about half the cost of the transcriptions, which were by far the largest financial burden. As a mature student, retired from fulltime work, I also paid for the whole degree course itself. A bid for AHRC funding was not successful.
Management of project:As a normal PhD.
Format of interviews:On minidisks, later copied to DVD.
How interviewees are selected and located:
The group was created purely for the research, chiefly with the aim of securing archived evidence that would otherwise disappear. The decision was taken in the knowledge of the similar work of the University of Sheffield's project, sponsored by the British Library and AHRC, to record theatre recollections. Discussions were held with the project's leaders, to ensure that there was some compatibility and no unnecessary overlap with the recordings made in York.
The selection of the latter was based on the availability and willingness of individuals to have their recollections recorded. The work involved also had to be manageable and affordable. The cost was a problem, since transcription rates are in the region of £60 for an hour-long recording. The University of Manchester offered assistance at first, but the final transcriptions were commissioned from a slightly cheaper source and paid for privately. A difference in quality is therefore noticeable within the transcripts.
For the above reasons the interviews recorded for the current research were limited to eleven. Three recordings had multiple contributors, and so a total of 15 people were involved. Their range was deliberately designed to cover the range of groups of people involved in the life of the theatre. They comprised Donald Bodley as one of the theatre's artistic directors, three actors, one production manager, two set designers, two secretaries, and seven playgoers. The latter were found by word of mouth, advertizing in the local press and talks to local interest groups. Most interviewees lived in York, including Donald Bodley himself, though he sadly died shortly after his interview had taken place.
The sample as a whole was indicative rather than representative, with absolutely no pretensions to any sort of statistical validity. It was designed to contain a rough cross-section of some of the identifiable groups of people connected with the theatre: actors, other theatre workers, and audience members. Some of their recollections embrace both periods but in the main they focus upon events from the 1950s onwards and particularly upon the second of two case study periods, the Bodley era. The sample also has something of an adventitious shape to it: a shape that we might perhaps attribute to the hand of history itself. The core of the group of interviewees is a small circle of surviving friends of Donald Bodley who worked with him during his time at the theatre and who then remained living in York, to which he too returned in his retirement. Their ages were in their 70s and 80s at the time of the interviews. Some of their recollections had clearly been shared over many years, having become in some instances anecdotes savoured and shaped through frequent repetition.
Interview running time:
Roughly an hour. They were all held privately, largely in interviewees' homes, by invitation. One was held in the coffee bar of the National Theatre.
Copyright in interviews. Assignment rights?:
A good question. The interviewees have all signed forms giving right of publication to me, but there are complicated protocols covering intellectual rights of universities and their students.
Location of interview copies. Accessibility to public/format:
Not yet, but I plan to give copies of them to the University of Manchester and to the University of York St John, where some of the rest of York Theatre Royal's archives have recently been deposited on the understanding that they will be catalogued and, if possible, digitized.
Collection contact details /website:
Interview transcripts/lists of topics or other content indexes:
All were transcribed, then transferred to a computer program called Atlas.ti for analysis.
Cataloguing See above
Future plans for project/ interviews?:
Materials used for publications, exhibitions, conferences, radio /TV programmes or performances etc or future plans for this?:
Some of the findings have been presented at national and international conferences. They have also been the subject of talks to local interest groups
Not at present
List on a joint (possibly STR) website:
Join listserv/ emailing list/forum:
List of interviewees provided:
I am wary of sending this information, in whatever form, without knowing its intended use.
Oral History Survey Pages
Index of Projects
21st April 2009