Derby Theatre is located in the intu shopping centre in the centre of the city. Formerly known as Derby Playhouse, the theatre was founded in 1975 and has been in run in collaboration with the University of Derby since 2009. Through this partnership, it is both a learning and producing theatre – providing undergraduate and postgraduate students with the opportunity to work alongside academics and theatre professionals in an active producing environment. There are two theatre spaces within the building: the main auditorium seats 530 people and the studio theatre has a capacity of up to 110.
In 2019, the Derby Theatre Research Group, headed by Caroline Barth, Creative Learning Director, decided to pursue a project on the theatre’s history, with the key aim of sorting and digitising the theatre archive, most of which was uncatalogued and held in storage facilities in the city. The Citizen Scholarship model developed with the Theatre Royal Nottingham provided a route into the project.
In April 2019 the Citizen Scholarship team presented the research model to members of the Derby Theatre Research Group and interested parties from across the Theatre and University. The workshop – led by Jo Robinson and David Longford – began with an introduction to the citizen scholarship approach and an overview of the Theatre Royal Nottingham project as an example of this work. This was then followed by a series of facilitated discussion activities which prompted reflection on the organisation’s existing resources, aims and next steps.
The activities were centred on the following questions:
- What kind of material is the organisation working with? What does the archive currently look like and what resources are available?
- Who will be working on the project?
- How does your organisation use technology at the moment? What are the challenges? Who will be the audience?
- What is your vision/ambition?
- How will you measure impact? What will the value be for the organisation, the volunteers and the audience?
Copies of the slides with prompts and resources that we use in our workshops are available on the resources page here.
Creative Learning Director, Derby Theatre, says:
The Citizen Scholarship approach is now listed as one of our key objectives on the Research Group website: ‘To support a sustainable and accessible theatre archive through a co-curated, “citizen scholar” approach – a learning and research community resource for all’ (https://www.derbytheatre.co.uk/learning-theatre-and-research).
This objective is central to our ambition to bring research and practice together and key to the sustainability of our heritage practice. We no longer see the archive as a discrete project, but instead an ongoing venture that will continue to build and tell our story, and inform bigger research projects as we secure further funding.