Hard as it may be to believe, by Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website – www.alanayckbourn.net – has just turned 20 years old.
The website now consists of more than 3,500 pages covering every aspect of Alan Ayckbourn’s professional life from all his plays and works to his many different careers within theatre. It is regarded as the single largest online resource to a living playwright in the world.
Yet it began with very small ambitions in 2002 when Simon Murgatroyd M.A. – not even appointed Alan Ayckbourn’s Archivist yet – had just finished his M.A. studies researching the playwright. Disappointed by the lack of support at the university, he decided to try and help future Ayckbourn researchers.
From this came the 25 page Alan Ayckbourn Resource Guide which primarily was a listing of the books, articles, multimedia and other resources which might be useful when researching the playwright and his works.
The website soon came to the attention of the playwright himself, who gave it his official endorsement in 2003 with Simon becoming Alan Ayckbourn’s Archivist full-time in 2005. During that period, the website’s title was changed to The Alan Ayckbourn Guide and began to grow.
By 2005, the site – now renamed again as Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website – included basic details of every full-length play written by the author – including the first accurate and approved play-list – as well as a brief guide to Alan’s playwriting and directing careers.
The website was originally programmed as WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website and it’s first significant visual change came in 2007 when Simon began programming the site himself and began to take on the structure it holds today and it passed the 500 page mark,
By the playwright’s 50th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn’s first play in 2009, the website had moved past 1,000 pages with in-depth sections on every play covering a wide variety of topics connected to each play. It was soon joined by an Encyclopaedia offering both at-a-glance information and links to more in-depth resources.
In 2013, all 1,500 pages of the entire website were reprogrammed, redesigned and revised as it moved to the Rapidweaver platform, allowing far more flexibility in page design. From this point, the website began to expand exponentially with sections added covering all of Alan Ayckbourn’s professional careers including his five years at the BBC.
This coincided with in-depth sections for every play he had directed, an index of actors from every significant production, as well as a comprehensive collection of articles written by and interviews with the playwright from the 1960s to the present day.
In 2015, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, a new in-depth Ayckbourn and the SJT section looking at the playwright’s home venue was added including pages for every single production from 1955 as well as many other aspects of the theatre’s life. This section has recently been completely revised and amended to offer an in-depth perspective of Alan’s time with the company from 1957 to 2009, when he stepped down as Artistic Director.
During lockdown, the website launched its own YouTube Channel which now has more than 75 videos relating to the playwright and his plays and has recently been joined by an official channel on Apple Podcasts offering further scope to explore the playwright, his works and to reach new audiences.
Most recently, the website launched a mini-site at www.absurdpersonsingular.com to explore the discovery of the once-thought lost original Absurd Person Singular manuscript and other recent discoveries pertaining to the play. It is hoped the website will be announcing the results of more archival discoveries in the coming months.
As Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website celebrates its 20th anniversary, the intention is only to keep moving the website forward and to expand its remit to cover as much of Alan Ayckbourn’s playwriting and careers as possible – all whilst remaining free to use.
So from a year-by-year look at Alan Ayckbourn’s achievements to advocates of his work, his influences to all his various careers, every single play and work in-depth, an encyclopaedia and calendar of significant dates, actors he has worked with to adaptations of his work in other media, publications by and about the playwright to articles by and interviews with the playwright and so much more, it’s all there waiting to be discovered on his official website.
It’s been remarkable journey and the support for the website continues to grow. 2022 is looking as though it will be the website’s most successful year yet. Here’s to the next 20 years!
Happy Birthday Website 🙂
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