Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: March 2020

Access to the Archives

As of Monday 23 March access to our physical collections are closed for the foreseeable future. Staff continue to work remotely on developing the collections and outreach projects and we may also be contacted to answer queries and offer guidance. In some instances we may be able to offer a digital copy or a link to a digital file. Contact us at archives@uea.ac.uk

Literary Festival interviews brought to you at home

The Archives has teamed up with UEA’s Literary Festival Archive and New Writing. From 23 March we started to open up a series of recordings from past events. Each week a new interview is released. For a stimulating un-edited conversation follow links from Twitter @UEAArchives @UEALitFest @NewWritingNet

Enquiries, Visits & Activities

CHARLIE HIGSON ARCHIVE

Filming of Higson’s Archive took place in the Archives on 6 March. A programme celebrating 25 years of The Fast Show, a popular BBC comedy sketch show programme of the 1990s, will be aired later in the year. Higson was one of the central performers and sketch writers of The Fast Show. Our Chase Placement student, Emily Walker, who has worked extensively on The Fast Show material within the archive, contributed to the programme.
Guardian The Fast Show returns to TV for one-off special.
Chortle: the UK Comedy Guide Brilliant! Fast Show team to reunite

MA DIGITAL HERITAGE MODULE, 10 MARCH

Justine Mann led a seminar on Exhibitions as part of the ‘Cultural Heritage in a Digital Age’ MA Module. Students were introduced to current debates surrounding the design, creation and presentation of digital surrogates and exhibitions and community participation. The session also drew on our National Lottery funded digitisation project, Suffragette Stories, led by the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing and the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, which digitised 100 items from our Kenney Papers Archive to celebrate the centenary of women achieving the vote. Students were introduced to Omeka exhibition software and the challenges behind the creation of an online exhibition. Finally, they contributed digital exhibits and added metadata. The session was held in the Media Suite. Attendance: 12

ZUCKERMAN ARCHIVE

Julian_Huxley_1964 CC BY-SA 3.0 NL. Unknown author Dutch National Archives

Julian_Huxley 1964. Creator unknown. Source Dutch National Archives. CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

An academic from the University of New South Wales has visited to  research Sir Julian Huxley (evolutionary biologist). Papers relating to Sir Julian can be found in three of our collections but predominantly in the Zuckerman collection. Sir Julian was secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935-1942), a post later held by Solly Zuckerman (1955-1977).

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: December 2019

Events and displays

DORIS LESSING 100

We were delighted to learn that our Doris Lessing 100 exhibition & programme had been selected as a finalist in UEA’s Innovation & Impact Award 2020 in the category of ‘Outstanding Social or Cultural Impact’. The winners in each category will be announced on 6 February. There’s still time to see the exhibition which runs until 9 February 2020 at the Sainsbury Centre (UEA campus).

THE FAST SHOW, 25TH ANNIVERSARY, 5 DECEMBER

CH and PW

Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse at UEA Archives. Copyright UEA.

UEA hosted a celebration to mark 25 years since the start of one of the most popular comedy sketch shows. Actors Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson popped into the archive before the event. Higson’s archive is held by us and includes sketches and submissions for the show. Selected pieces from the archive are on display in the Library foyer until 31 January 2020.

Enquiries and visits

WORKERS’ EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION (WEA), NORWICH BRANCH, 6 DECEMBER

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WEA visiting the Archives

This workshop was led by Justine Ashford (LDC PGR), a Doris Lessing 100 Chase Placement student. Using Doris Lessing’s 1940s love letters and recordings of the writer as the focal point, the participants reflected on selective memory and myth in personal narratives. 14 attendees.

BRILLIANT CLUB, 12 DECEMBER

Jen McDerra (LDC PGR) brought along a group of enthusiastic year 10s from Yarmouth (part of the Brilliant Club’s scholar programme). As part of a range of activities at UEA, the students visited the Doris Lessing 100 exhibition and our Reading Room where they took part in a seminar using archive material relating to Sara Taylor’s writing process, correspondence from Doris Lessing and selected pieces from an exhibition on Lee Child to stimulate thinking around their own creative process and the wider landscape of traditional and non-traditional publishing. Nine attendees.

KENNEY PAPERS

This archive has been accessed for correspondence between key suffragettes and the documentary filmmaker and screenwriter Jill Craigie. The papers reveal concerns raised about the appropriateness of featuring a phase of internal conflict during wartime (1945). Later, a proposed radio play ‘The Women’s Rebellion’ (1951) raises questions on the interpretation of Annie Kenney’s contribution to the suffragette movement.

ZUCKERMAN ARCHIVE

The popular Tots and Quots series has received a visit from a Scottish historian. This uniquely named 1930s dining club was for young scientists destined for eminence in the scientific world. Among its members were the crystallographer (John) Desmond Bernal, biologist J. B. S. Haldane, future Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Gaitskell, and one of the founders of science journalism, James Gerald Crowther. Catalogue record.

Special Collections

Two requests.

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: October 2018

Events

UEA Library 50th anniversary

A display to mark the anniversary has been set up in the Library foyer. This combines archive as well as contemporary material to show some of the changes the Library has undergone over the last 50 years. Alumni have been sharing their memories and these have been gathered together in a series of blogs. More.

Public Event: Suffragette Stories: Exploring the Legacy, 13 October 2018, The Forum, Norwich

Fifty two members of the public attended an Archive event to celebrate October 13 1905 when the ‘Votes for Women’ banner was first raised at the Free Trade Hall in 1905 by Annie Kenney. Talks from leading historians Krista Cowman and Lyndsey Jenkins shed light on the struggle against inequality of little known activists like the Kenney sisters, whose archive are held at UEA, and considered the uneven progress of gender relations since. The UEA Archive’s Writer in Residence Fiona Sinclair reported on the activities of our HLF project. More.

Teaching

MA Biography & Creative non-fiction (LDC PGT) with Andrew Kenrick, 16 October

© Estate of Roger Deakin

The current cohort visited the archive for a session exploring non-fiction writers’ archives held at UEA including those of Lorna Sage, Roger Deakin and Mark Cocker. The session also explored how non-fiction writers can research archives and use the material for creative inspiration. 16 attendees.

Charlie Higson – author, scriptwriter, actor and musician – returns to UEA to share ideas on breaking into a creative career

Charlie Higson

A day of scheduled student sessions with comedy writer Higson took place on 17 October. Emily Walker (comedy archive PhD placement) interviewed Higson about his archive. A Q&A session (led by Brett Mills) on the comedy writing and performance industry followed; students were able to sit in and ask questions. Individual seminars on the creative process followed with small selected groups of students asking specific questions for discussion. Emily Walker, has written a blog about the visit. 16 attendees.

MA Gender Studies (HUM) – Feminist Research Methods Module, 9 October

blog post image AK postcard votes for women

Annie Kenney

Students visited the archives of suffragette sisters, Annie and Jessie Kenney, and explored the legacy of working class suffragettes. A graduate of last year’s cohort, Laura Noon, and an Unboxed volunteer with the archive during 2017-18, has published a blog drawing on the archive material. 12 attendees.

Creative Writing Workshops with Fiona Sinclair, 12 October

Our HLF funded Writer in Residence, Fiona Sinclair, held creative writing workshops with undergraduate students interested in submitting to the Suffragette Stories anthology. More. 4 attendees.

Suffragette Stories Archive Research Day (Fiona Sinclair, Kate Cooper and Stanislava Dikova), 15 October

The Suffragette Stories project team made selections from the Kenney Papers archive. Children in schools, including Wroxham, then ‘curated’ the final selection. The material will be on display at the Millennium Library (The Forum, Norwich) throughout December. An event to celebrate the project, and launch the creative writing anthology, will be held on 6 December at the venue. 3 attendees.

The BACW featured at UEA Open Day, 20 October

Twenty nine prospective students and their parents visited the Archive to discover how students work with archive material during their studies.

MA in Literary Translation (MALT) – seminar with Tom Boll, 23 October 

Students visited the archive of literary translator, David Bellos, to understand his process. 11 attendees.

Anthony Vivis Archive

A request was received from a US university for a copy of a translation by Vivis of a playscript by Rainer Fassbinder. The copyright holder has been traced and permission granted.

Enquiries

Some of the enquiries and visits we’ve received:
• a creative writing student sought material for a character sketch
• a student of prose fiction enquired about authors who use scrap-books and collage to inform their work
• a couple of our students have been in to read the letters of J.D. Salinger
• a lecturer enquired about access to a BBC recording of a Samuel Beckett interview
• a Gender Studies student viewed the Kenney Papers to see how the suffragettes viewed the struggle in the decades following
• a PhD student in Germany sought lectures delivered by W.G. Sebald at UEA
• a volunteer at Felbrigg Hall sought audio recordings of lectures delivered in the sixties at UEA by Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer.

Images for publications

The Archives have assisted publishers and writers with high quality images for forthcoming publications. Two separate publications relate to the Pritchard Papers and one to the Roger Deakin Archive.

UEA Collection

• The Archives have found photos of a Science lecture theatre for Estates in order to gain a sense of the original look and feel. Other enquiries related to the History of Art, the Library’s carrels, and early UEA artwork and designs.

• Five alumni from 1968 visited the Library and Archives and enjoyed looking at past student handbooks and press-cuttings albums. They subsequently shared with us some of their memories of the Library.

Zuckerman Archive

Papers relating to Zuckerman’s career as Chief Scientific Advisor, nuclear and chemical defence policy have been consulted by an academic from the University of Milan and a student from the London School of Economics.

Special Collections

There were 12 requests.

Charlie Higson – author, scriptwriter, actor and musician – returns to UEA to share ideas on breaking into a creative career

A guest blog from Emily Walker, current UEA postgraduate researcher in comedy television, and Curatorial Assistant for the TV Comedy Writing Collection, within the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, as part of her CHASE-funded placement.

On October 17, the UEA’s British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) hosted Charlie Higson: writer, actor, director, and Archive depositor, for interactive student sessions discussing scriptwriting, novel writing, television, and the creative industries.

Higson, whose prolific credits include the BAFTA winning classic TV sketch comedy The Fast Show, and the bestselling book series Young Bond and The Enemy, is a UEA undergraduate alumnus and received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2014.

Since his graduation in 1980, Higson has been a frequent visitor; during my six years at UEA he has appeared at three separate student-oriented events (all of which I have been lucky enough to attend) but his willingness to help students extends much further back. I recently found a letter from a UEA student dated 1997 thanking Higson for his visit and advice.

With a nearly 40-year history with the university, UEA is the natural home for the Charlie Higson archive, a huge collection of Higson’s writing drafts, notebooks, sketches, and the occasional drawing. The archive material is revealing of Higson’s creative methods and his career development and is already used in teaching. In discussion with the BACW Archivist, Dr Brett Mills, Curator of the Comedy Writing Collections at UEA, felt it was a natural progression for the Archive to host seminars and masterclasses with the writers themselves.

Based on my own experiences, I suggested students would benefit most from working with Charlie in smaller groups. Students from across Humanities were encouraged to apply for the opportunity – from foundation year to post graduate. Successful applicants were then offered the chance to meet the man himself and ask personal questions about his life and work.

Higson ran a Q&A session chaired by Brett Mills and a series of three small-group sessions tailored to the research interests of the applicants (scriptwriting, comedy, and fiction). The students were aspiring novelists, stand-up comedians, film-makers, and actors, and they were encouraged to ask specific questions about their career aims.

Over three hours, Higson provided so much insightful and practical advice that to list every piece would fill volumes. Instead, I have picked out five key points:

1. Do your research (but not too much). If you are looking to write a script, read them as well. Higson specifically recommended the Withnail and I script (written by Bruce Robinson) and the book How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn (currently £0.01 used on Amazon, so there’s no excuse). Still, be prepared for the research to end because otherwise the writing may never begin.

2. Find a writing partner. “I definitely think it is much easier to write comedy with someone else”, a statement that chimes with his many collaborations in television comedy, especially with long-time comedy partner Paul Whitehouse. Higson met many of his writing partners at UEA, and believes that complementary skills, such as organisation and ideas, can be very beneficial.

3. Create world, character, and story. Higson listed three elements to writing a novel or screenplay: start by creating a world (it can be a vague image, no need to be Tolkien-esque), then find the characters, and the story should grow out of this combination. It is also important to know the ending, because “you can take as many detours as you want along the way”, and “it is the everyday things” that can make a world seem real.

4. If you have writer’s block, work on a few projects. Instead of struggling with one story, why not try working on a few projects at once? James Cameron, when tasked with writing Rambo and Alien sequels at the same time, would work on one until he ran out of ideas, and then swap to the other and repeat the process. However, “if you’re really stuck,” Higson suggests, “something is fundamentally wrong”.

5. “Have a life”. Imagination will play a big part in crafting stories, but having experiences will be vital in creating believable situations and dialogue. Since Higson started writing after UEA while working as a painter/decorator, he had a bank of experiences to draw on. Family can be a big help too: Higson says that reading his young adult horror fiction to his children helps to gauge whether the stories are scary enough.

The student response was overwhelmingly positive. On the anonymous feedback forms, attendees all classed the sessions as “Very good” or “Excellent” and considered the sessions creatively and professionally inspiring. Here are some of the comments:

“Charlie was friendly and easy to talk to while also providing wise and valuable advice. I loved the casual setup of the session.”
“Practical with humorous anecdotes: interesting insights on the creative process.”
“First-hand experience in hearing from an accomplished writer and former UEA student.”
“Just hearing how a career can develop fairly organically was incredibly reassuring.”
Many of the students said they had gained “confidence” in their abilities, felt more “energised” by the experience, and were encouraged to ”write more” and “collaborate” in the future.

One student even said Higson had inspired him to “enjoy life!” In fact, the only repeated recommendation was that they wanted more time, a factor we will be absolutely delighted to increase next time (Higson’s schedule permitting).

Dr Brett Mills (AMA), who chaired the event, in his role as curator of the comedy strand of the Archive, said:

“It’s fantastic to have Charlie on campus again, giving invaluable advice and support to our students who are keen to do all kinds of creative work. The student feedback shows how much such events are valued. I’m particularly glad that comedy – often an ignored genre – is given its prominence here, and Charlie was able to give encouragement to students keen to make others laugh.

The Archive’s comedy strand represents a significant intervention into the kinds of culture and creative activity that typically gets kept for posterity – and events such as this show how invaluable it is for teaching and research. I know I’m looking forward to Charlie’s next visit as much as our students are.”

For those who didn’t attend the seminar, there are still plenty of ways to find out more information. The Charlie Higson Archive in the BACW collection http://www.uea.ac.uk/bacw  is full of fantastic material from his extensive career, which would be an excellent starting point for any budding writers. In addition, as part of my work placement with the archive, I conducted an interview with Higson which will eventually be available in the archive for researchers. And of course, since Higson is a frequent visitor, it would not be unreasonable to hope for another seminar very soon.

Emily Walker, current UEA postgraduate researcher in comedy television, and Curatorial Assistant for the TV Comedy Writing Collection, within the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, as part of her CHASE-funded placement.

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: April 2017

A quieter month in terms of footfall in the Archives as our teaching sessions ended for the semester and most students headed off for the Easter break.

British Archive for Contemporary Writing (general)
Dr Jos Smith has been appointed as Academic Director of BACW. From 1 Sep 2017, he will gradually take over the role from Professor Chris Bigsby, who will step down in 2018.

Charlie Higson
006The listing of this collection is now available to read on-line.

‘Bollock Street’! This is the first title that we’ve been asked to retrieve from the stacks for a reader. A sketch on the Argyle Street squats which existed in Norwich in the 1980s, this unperformed piece was written by Higson and Paul Whitehouse.

Doris Lessing
One area of interest has been Lessing’s contribution to contemporary women’s literature.

Pritchard Papers
There’s been ongoing research and interest into the artists, designers and architects of the thirties, including Maxwell Fry, Marcel Breuer, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, John Piper and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner.

Roger Deakin
UEA and the Writers’ Centre Norwich held a celebratory symposium on 30 April to mark Deakin’s life and his contribution to conservation and nature writing. Around 80 attended the event; an afternoon of poetry, wild writing, memoirs and personal recollections. Symposium programme.

A small exhibition showing the writing process of Waterlog and Wildwood was included at the event at Dragon Hall and this has now moved to the UEA Library Foyer.
095 (2)

UEA Collection
Staff and alumni have been looking at early prospectuses, congregation DVDs, and ways to further the gig archive.

Special Collections
12 enquiries.