Working in Archives, Creating Archives


The Laban Collection at the Brotherton Library


My main archival work of the past ten years has been on the Laban materials collected by John Hodgson in the Brotherton Library (University of Leeds)


I have added materials that have been donated to me by former students of Laban, along with recordings of interviews I have conducted with them since 2001.

You will have seen in the section on Projects that I am hoping to draw on materials from this archive to help students from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance to recreate two of Laban’s choreographies – Titan and Die Nacht. The entire process from first discussions through to performances and last reflections will be documented and then lodged in the Brotherton Library’s Special Collections.

The Medieval Players Archive at Bristol University

This contains pretty much every record of the Medieval Players (1981 – 1992). It has been very lovingly catalogued by the staff at Bristol University. There is a very rich archive of photographs taken by Tessa Musgrave.

Writing on the Body, Writing on the Page

This was a project that brought together writers and choreographers in a series of conversations that took place between 2007 and 2008. It was principally funded by the Jerwood Foundation. There was a site where the transcriptions could be read but this has fallen out of use. I shall try and get something in place with The British Library. You will see that the next two archival projects involve them.

The International Workshop Festival

The footage of the workshops and talks that took place in the festival between 1994 and 2001 cannot be made public since they were filmed with permission that it be for academic or personal use. Thus for copyright purposes we have created ‘mirror archives’ of the digital footage in institutions where students and artists can watch the material. Three exist so far:

At the University of Exeter

At Royal Holloway, University of London

And at The British Library

There are plans to create a mirror archive at RADA’s (Royal Academic of Dramatic Art, London) when its new library opens. This would include a commentary and a guide written by me.

The British Library also holds all printed materials from the festival, such as programmes, posters, leaflets, books published, and written documentations.

Most of the documentations are available from Arts Archives (Exeter)

Voices of Twenty First Century Theatre and Dance

This archive is a work in progress. I have dug around under my bed, searched through cupboards and unearthed and lodged the following materials in the British Library with the aim of creating a fully catalogued digital audio archive with the above title:

Recordings of (well, most of) the conversations that took place in Writing on the Body, Writing on the Page.

An audio documentation of the beginnings of Improbable’s project Devoted and Disgruntled

Recordings of the fifty-plus interviews that I have conducted for my contributions to Theatre and Dance Performance Training.

I find great value in interviewing artists working across the range of the performing arts. This means that this archive will gradually expand over the years.

Dick McCaw February 2018

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