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Credit Nicholas Toyne

Northcott Young People's Department schools production referred to as “the Dartmoor Project” at NA Congregational Hall. 24 March 1971. Credit: Nicholas Toyne

Northcott Delves into the Past to Shape its Future

Exeter Northcott has announced a number of events to explore its archive and spark debate about emerging themes.

Dating back to 1967 the extensive archive includes posters, programmes, board minutes, photographs and many other artefacts that convey a range of perspectives of the theatre’s story so far. 

A number of interns have been  working closely with Special Collections at the University of Exeter to identify items that resonate with them and would be compelling conversation-starters about the role of theatre now.

‘It’s been fascinating to see that many of the challenges the theatre experienced then are still relevant right now. Some of the documents we uncovered ignited a lot of debate!’
Ferzana Yesmine, Heritage Intern

The materials will be digitised and shared in themes over the next eighteen months on the Northcott’s website. To coincide with their release a number of online discussions and an open Q&A will take place with a panel of artists, academics and community members.

Impact of Women
The first panel will take place on 5 May and will look at the impact of women on the theatre’s history – and what these stories can tell us about the experiences of women in the arts more widely. The panel will be chaired by Natalie McGrath – writer and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West, an organisation that connects individuals and communities through the telling and keeping of great and courageous stories about women’s activism that have lain undiscovered and often untold.

Diversity and Representation
On 26 May, Louisa Adjoa Parker - a writer and leader of projects exploring ethnically diverse heritages – will chair a panel looking at how communities with diverse heritages including African diaspora people, South, East and South East Asian diaspora people, and recent immigrants to Exeter and Devon are represented in the theatre’s archive. How has diversity and inclusion been approached historically and what does this legacy mean for anti-racism in the South West today?

Local History and Place
On 23 June, in partnership with Exeter Local History Society and Exeter Memories, the theatre will explore local history and reminiscence about former Northcott productions and projects with its local community.

Access and the Arts
On 15 September with Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director and CEO of Graeae Theatre and Plymouth based Producer Dan Baker, the Northcott will discuss accessibility and the arts - particularly for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and disabled people – and how this has been approached historically and what needs to change moving forward.

The Role of Regional Theatre
In October, to coincide with Exeter Fringe Festival the Northcott’s Artist Development Producer Helen Bovey will chair a conversation about the changing role of regional theatre.

Future of Theatre
And finally, in November the archive’s commissioning circle of local community representatives will host an event asking “What would we like the theatre archive to contain in 50 years time?” to imagine and plan for what comes next.

These panel events kick-start a wider project, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, which through workshops, oral history collection, new artworks and exhibitions will gather a wide range of perspectives and voices from audiences, artists and communities.

This spring the Northcott will be running in-depth workshops with groups including disability action charity CEDA and diverse groups of young people to enable them to select archive items that resonate and shape the discussion they want to have. Members of these groups will form a commissioning circle, to select and guide artists to create new pieces of work inspired by the archive.

The archive material and responses to it including the live panel events will be available at An evolving exhibition will be installed at the theatre from September this year.

Date: 9 March 2021

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