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.