Do you remember Chapter in the 1970s?

Posted on: 21 Oct 2013 by Kerrie Reading

Do you remember Chapter in the 1970s? Did you attend theatre and performance work in Chapter’s early years? Were you there when the arts centre opened its doors for the public for the first time?

In August 2012 I was awarded a doctoral studentship, financed by the AHRC Arts and Humanities Research Council for a collaborative PhD with Aberystwyth University and Chapter Arts Centre. The research is focused on what strategies Chapter employed to engage its different audiences in the decade after it first opened its doors in 1971.

I have spent the last year researching, reading, visiting Chapter and settling into life as a student in Aberystwyth. From September of this year (2013) I am going to be based in Cardiff for a few months, and this blog marks a new chapter for my research.

The title of the advertised PhD project was: How to Build an Arts Centre? Historical perspectives on engaging local audiences with innovative performance practice: Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre in the 1970s. I was instantly struck by the mention of audiences as my previous research and professional work as a performance had been very much focused on audiences, albeit generally in non-art venues.  Therefore embarking on research that is based within an arts setting and aims to understand how we engage audiences seemed like a natural progression.

The application stipulated that the successful candidate would have access to Chapter’s archives, which was an instant pull – I envisioned myself trawling through countless documents, photographs and video footage of the 1970s art scene. However, once I got into the archives I discovered there was a lack of material from the 1970s. This gap opened up new (and potentially) exciting research areas. It made searching for material more interesting, something I am still doing – trying to find people who witnessed events at Chapter such as Pip Simmons’ production of Woyzeck (1977), which used the whole of the building, or Peter Kuttner’s Edible Rainbow (1973), staged in celebration of Chapter’s first birthday. This has also opened up further possibilities to engage with people directly, rather than relying on documents, which as an artist is much more appealing to me.

During my research stage at Chapter I will also be making my own performances, some of which will call for local input – watch this space for further information in the coming months.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from people who saw performances in the 1970s at Chapter, or remember the centre in its early years. If you have any memories you would like to share – however small and insignificant they seem - please do not hesitate to contact me – your input will be invaluable to my research.

You can contact me at: kerrie.reading@chapter.org

Image: Woyzeck, 1977, courtesy of Dave Hutton

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