Way back in mid-March, pre COVID-lockdown, I had my first day in the Northcott Archive. We met archivist Caroline Walter, who was clearly very passionate and knowledgeable about the archive’s contents. It was great to see a wide variety of archive material relating to the theatre’s past and be able to get hands-on with the items. From newspaper cuttings to posters and scripts to tickets, we saw the lot! The material we saw was just a small section of the archive, so we knew there was much more to see, hopefully down the line in our research. I saw many interesting objects which struck me. One object which stopped me in my tracks and made me feel like I was holding the Northcott’s equivalent of the holy grail was Celia Imrie’s annotated script for the production of The Boyfriend. To get so close to the personal notes and thoughts, and to understand the way Imrie dissects a play and her lines was amazing to see.
Another object was a newspaper article of ‘Sox’, the Northcott Theatre Cat from the early 1980s. It’s small stories like this which need highlighting. Who doesn’t want to know about the theatre cat, hey? Of course, our initial look at the archive was in a different time, and now the world has changed to something which none of us could have imagined back then.
Everyone’s lives have been changed or impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and our project has and should take on a new meaning and approach to adapt to the current global and national situation.
Theatres have been hit hard as a result of the economic and social impacts the virus has had and the Northcott is one of them. It is now more important than ever in the theatre’s history that we think about accessibility in a new way of online, virtual engagement to increase access to a sector which is hurting as a result of COVID and our project should understand this inherent fact. I am looking forward to getting into the archive again soon and hopefully bring some of the stories the Northcott has locked away, out into the community, but perhaps in novel and exciting ways.
– Ben Dickens, Heritage Project Assistant