Swinging London started in Bristol: researcher seeks memories of theatre-going in 1950s and 60s Bristol

Issue date: 21 May 2013

Old fashioned Theatre Sign

Drama lecturer Dawn Fowler is looking for people who remember going to the theatre in Bristol during the 1950s or 1960s to take part in a unique project.

Dawn, from UWE Bristol, is researching an era when Bristol's theatre was vibrant and subversive. She said, “A very specific sort of writing was being produced at the time, funny but brutal. It has even been suggested that swinging London was invented in Bristol.

“I would like to contact people who were in the audiences or put on plays and uncover their memories. I am particularly interested in underground theatres such as the former Bristol Arts Centre theatre in King Square.”

She is planning to use archives such as the writings of Charles Wood to find 'lost' plays of the time and revive them using the methods of the time, including using students, agit-prop theatre, and 'poor' theatre.

Her year-long project will culminate in a festival of plays written by Bristolian playwrights in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which will be put on by Creative Writing and Drama students from UWE.

Examples of writers with a strong Bristol connection are Sir Tom Stoppard, Peter Nichols and Charles Wood. Peter Nichols, now aged 85, is currently seeing two of his plays revived - A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in Liverpool and Passion Play in London. Tom Stoppard has written prolifically, including plays such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and co-written screenplays such as Shakespeare in Love and Brazil. Charles Wood has written many plays, as well as TV and film scripts including Help! with the Beatles and Tumbledown, about the Falklands war.

Dawn continued, “I am fascinated by this important period in the region's recent history. By putting on the plays this project will help recreate the period and will offer an important insight into British theatre history.

“I would really appreciate people with memories of theatre-going at that time getting in touch with me at Dawn.Fowler@uwe.ac.uk.”

Dawn has just been awarded funding under UWE's Early Career Researchers scheme, which has already boosted careers by enabling budding academics to undertake research which can act as a springboard for further funding.

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