Launching The Ayckbourn Archive

Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website officially launched its latest resource yesterday with a new Archive section.

The new section is a digital archive inspired by the sheer volume of content related to Alan Ayckbourn, which is held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York. The Archive aims to highlight some of this material as well as other interesting material held in other archives.

When the Borthwick Institute acquired Alan Ayckbourn’s Archive for the nation during 2011, more than a tonne of printed and written material was taken in, spanning Alan’s career from 1957 to 2006; a further tranche of papers and material relating to 2007 to 2016 is expected to be added to the Ayckbourn Archive this year.

The earliest known ‘official’ publicity photograph for Alan Ayckbourn circa 1958. (© Haydonning Ltd.)

With so much material including documentation, early hand-written play-drafts, press cuttings, photographs and posters amongst many other things in archive, it seemed the perfect opportunity to highlight the wealth of material on Alan and his plays held in various archives and to draw attention to where these materials can be accessed and researched.

The main archives for Alan Ayckbourn in the UK are the Borthwick, The Bob Watson Archive at the Stephen Joseph Theatre and the British Library. The Archive will highlight material held by these as well as other Archives – both public and private.

The new resource is supported by the Borthwick Institute and one of the inspirations is to draw attention to the wealth of material held by the Borthwick for anyone interested in researching Alan Ayckbourn and his playwriting; key items such as Noël Coward’s telegram to Alan during 1967 and an original manuscript of his first play The Square Cat among many other items are held by the Borthwick and highlighted in the Archive section.

Noël Coward’s congratulatory telegram to Alan Ayckbourn from 1967 (© Haydonning Ltd.)

The Archive will be an ongoing development with new material added frequently. The initial post-launch aim is to have material relating to all the significant Ayckbourn’s plays as well as a selection of interesting correspondence added during 2020.

The Archive will also highlight material relating to Alan Ayckbourn’s home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its founder and Alan’s most influential mentor, Stephen Joseph. As Alan’s Archivist, I feel very strongly that to understand Alan Ayckbourn, you have to understand his six decade relationship with the SJT. It is also an opportunity to highlight the wealth of material relating to the founding of the theatre which is held by Scarborough Library and also publicly accessible for research.

The main aim of the Archive though is to provide an interesting pictorial guide through Alan Ayckbourn’s life and career – one section within the Archive holds many of the official publicity photographs of the playwright through the decades – and throw some light on material that might otherwise be rarely seen.

An extract from the first page of Alan Ayckbourn’s first play The Square Cat (© Haydonning Ltd.)

In the coming months, pages and extracts from rarely-seen and withdrawn Ayckbourn plays will be added to the site, otherwise not available except by visiting either the Borthwick or the British Library. The Archive also has details about the various archives with items relating to Alan Ayckbourn offering a summary of their holdings and how to visit and access them.

I hope you’ll enjoy the new addition to the ever-expanding website (now 4,500 plus pages of material!) and keep returning to it to see some of the new additions and information the website is uncovering over the months ahead.

I’m also grateful to Gary Brannan, Keeper of the Archives at the Borthwick, as well as the Borthwick Institute for its support of this initiative.

The Archive at Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website can be found at http://ayckbourn-archive.alanayckbourn.net.

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