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Friday 03 June 2022

Sharing The Limelight Project Explores The History Of The Audience & Workers @ Theatre Royal Brighton

Sharing the Limelight is a Creative Learning and Oral History project about Theatre Royal Brighton in the 1950s and 60s, focusing on the people who worked there and attended as audience. 
Credit Danny Fitzpatrick

We know about the stars on stage, this project is about Brighton people 'sharing the limelight' and telling their stories about their theatre.

As part of Sharing the Limelight, led by Sara Clifford, director of Inroads Productions, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a group of local participants were trained in Oral History methods by oral historian Dr Sam Carroll. 

The group learnt about the Theatre and the theory, methods and best practice for Oral History interviewing. 

Armed with their newfound skills they embarked on recording and transcribing interviews with local people who came forward offering their stories about the Theatre in the 1950s & 60s. 

The group also participated in training sessions about curating exhibitions and displays, workshops about using archives and collections for research projects, and a session about using source material in creative writing.

As people's stories were gathered, events were held at Theatre Royal Brighton to share findings. 

A free Open Day on stage included a talk about fashions of the time, family activities, backstage tours, information displays and an illustrated talk about Theatre in the 1950s and 60s by theatre historian Dr Helen Brooks. 

Sharing the Limelight, Sharing the Stage was a performance installation with an exhibition of clothes people might wear to the theatre, the programmes and posters they would have seen, and the dances and music they might have listened to.

The audience were led through the theatre where they met different characters - based on the interviews collected and characters created from the archive - in a script by Sara Clifford, read by our volunteer participants. 

They heard stories from audience members, an usherette, Enid - the formidable Box Office manager, a stage technician and Mrs Redman, the manager of the Last Gulp backstage bar. 

They met Billy Props who worked at the theatre for over 50 years, danced in the foyer and the stalls, heard some of the theatre ghost stories and left the Theatre via the Stage Door where they were signed out by the genial Stage Door Keeper.  

Over 250 local people contributed to, participated in or watched Sharing the Limelight activities. 

A resource pack for use by schools and community groups has been created and extracts from the interviews will be available to listen to via QR codes around the Theatre and on You Tube. 

The recorded interviews and transcripts have been given to The Keep, the archive and collections centre for Brighton & Hove and East Sussex. 

The initial stage of this project has been so successful that Theatre Royal Brighton and Inroads Production are developing further plans to build on its success into Autumn 2022. 

by: Mike Cobley


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