Lord Rix: JISC digitisation project will ‘save and celebrate theatre history’
A new JISC-funded digital resource which will capture and preserve important resources from the history of theatre is, says Lord Rix, ‘destined to become a resource of national and international importance.’
The comments are made in a new podcast which features speeches from the launch of the East London theatre archive earlier this month and exclusive interviews with Lord Rix - the former actor-manager Brian Rix, now Chancellor of the University of East London – and Roland Muldoon, theatre pioneer with the New Variety group at the Hackney Empire. 'Unless you know, for instance, where farce has come from - from Feydeau, Moliere and, earlier, the Greeks - you can appreciate it as theatre, but you can’t appreciate its history.'
‘Without the history of the theatre,’ says Lord Rix, who was most closely associated with the Whitehall Theatre which in the 1950 and 1960s became famous for the production of farces, ‘it’s very difficult for people to know where they’re coming from. Unless you know, for instance, where farce has come from - from Feydeau, Moliere and, earlier, the Greeks - you can appreciate it as theatre, but you can’t appreciate its history. You think you’ve invented something when you haven’t.’
Roland Muldoon says that the Hackney Empire archive, which will be part of the wider digital resource, represents a significant slice of theatre history and that the preservation of theatre history is vital in the digital age. ‘If we hadn’t saved it,’ he says, ‘it would have been lost. It’s important for lovers of theatre that these resources are saved. People will want to know what’s going on today for all sorts of reasons. If they’re putting on a play in a hundred years, for example, they’ll want to know about their antecedents.’
The project, one of 22 in the JISC digitisation programme, will create a digital resource of some 15,000 endangered artefacts and collections from the rich resources held by a number of theatres and theatre bodies in East London that have made a significant contribution to the development of theatre studies and the performing arts. See more information on the East London Theatre archive