Simon Murgatroyd - Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist & Professional Writer
What Is An Archivist?
That really depends on the Archivist you speak to! I suspect my job as Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist is quite unlike most other Archivists - even those who work within the theatre community.
The foundations for my job are two-fold, maintaining the Ayckbourn Archive and running Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website - these are the constants.
The Ayckbourn Archive consists of a physical Archive - the majority of which is held in the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York - and a digital archive. The physical archive consists of press cuttings, manuscripts, notes by the playwright, programmes, books and other ephemera collated since 1959.
During 2011, the Ayckbourn Archive was acquired for the nation by the Borthwick Institute for Archives which took receipt of all materials pertaining to the years 1959 to 2006; more than a tonne in wight of written material was put into Archive (more details can be found here). I maintain the Archive for all material post-2006, which is held by the playwright himself. Eventually, the entirety of the Archive will be translated to the Borthwick Institute.
The digital archive is based in Scarborough and covers the entirety of Alan Ayckbourn's theatrical career and includes more than 50,000 press cuttings, articles, interviews, photographs, posters, programmes, manuscripts, multimedia and - essentially - anything related to Alan Ayckbourn!
The digital archive is also the basis for Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website, which I created in 2001 and continue to administrator, curate and write for to this day. The website's aim is to be the single most comprehensive, factual resource related to Alan Ayckbourn, his plays and his careers. It now runs to more than 3,500 pages and includes material drawn from various archive collections.
A Resource For Research
One of the perpetual joys of my role as an Archivist is I am constantly in touch with people interested in learning more about Alan Ayckbourn and his plays - from students to researchers, press and marketing departments to fans. As Alan's Archivist, I'm the first line in to - hopefully - answer any questions about Alan and plays.
This is one of the most important aspects of my role as Archivist: being there to make it as easy as possible for people to learn more about Alan Ayckbourn and his work. I do this in person, through email and through the website, where actually the vast majority of answers to questions about Alan or information about him can be found.
Over the years this role has brought me into contact with people and organisations across the world including other experts on Alan Ayckbourn, theatres producing his plays and researchers for works about the playwright. I've had the privilege of working closely with Alan Ayckbourn's home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, since 1999 and have also worked with the BBC, the National Theatre and the Old Vic amongst others.
And all the rest!
On top of this, my job as Archivist constantly throws up new challenges and experiences. I give talks and lectures on Alan, his plays and the Stephen Joseph Theatre and have curated exhibitions on Alan and his mentor Stephen Joseph.
I've been responsible both for organising and administering major events relating to Alan Ayckbourn as well as acting as a consultant on events and exhibitions.
I'm also Alan Ayckbourn's Media Administrator and responsible for handling press and media enquiries regarding Alan Ayckbourn, which includes running a media centre on Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website.
Archivist for the Stephen Joseph Theatre
I have been the Honorary Archivist for the Stephen Joseph Theatre since 2004 and since 2005 the role has been subsidised by Alan Ayckbourn to make the position financially viable.
This is a more traditional Archival role in which material relating to the Stephen Joseph Theatre - Alan Ayckbourn's home theatre and the UK's first professional theatre-in-the-round company theatre - is stored and cared for.
The Bob Watson Archive - named for its first Archivist - is a small yet important space which holds press cuttings, programmes, posters, manuscripts, prompt scripts, photographs and other ephemera relating to the history of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its productions.
The role also involves advisory work relating to internal and external enquiries regarding the theatre, its history, Stephen Joseph and - of course - Alan Ayckbourn.
If you have any enquiries about Alan Ayckbourn, his plays, the Stephen Joseph Theatre or my work as Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist, please contact me here.