2016 BAC Cataloguing Grant for Business Archives related to the Arts Winner

2016 winner of the BAC Cataloguing Grant for Business Archives related to the Arts

The Business Archives Council is delighted to announce the winners of the BAC cataloguing grant for business archives related to the Arts, 2016. The Arts grant was launched in 2013 to support an under-represented area of business archives and to complement wider initiatives for archiving the arts by The National Archives and the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives.

As with previous years the judging panel was very impressed with the high standard of the applications that were received from across the country, but ultimately decided to present the award to Special Collections, Leeds University Library & Red Ladder Theatre Company for the cataloguing of the Archives of Red Ladder Theatre Company.

Red Ladder Theatre Company

Red Ladder is a highly regarded radical theatre company with 46 years of history. Founded in 1968, the company is acknowledged as one of Britain’s leading national touring companies producing new theatre, contributing to social change and global justice.  It started as a collective of theatre makers creating street theatre in 1968 – most notably joining the anti-Vietnam War protests in Grosvenor Square led by Vanessa Redgrave. Since that time the company has been an important influence on British political theatre and indeed the wider theatre industry. Notable artists who began their career with Red Ladder include Michael Attenborough, Rona Munro, Meera Syal, Chris Reason, Jenny Sealey, David Edgar … the list is long. The current artistic director of The Bush, Madani Younis started his career at Director of Asian Theatre School, a Red Ladder project. The company moved to Leeds in 1973 where it sits beside the mainstream theatres in the city. Born into an era of riots, demonstrations and revolts, Red Ladder has grown up, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century, where it continues to fight, to entertain, and to agitate in as equal measures as possible.

The grant will fund the cataloguing of the records of Red Ladder, dating from 1971 to 2014.  These contain board minutes, tour plans, articles, scripts, set drawings and publicity materials. Currently, the lack of hand or box lists means that the collection is inaccessible and so the project to catalogue it in-depth will make a clear difference.

The judges recognised that the Archives of Red Ladder Theatre Company could be not only a strong research resource for theatre and performance (a subject strength within special collections at Leeds University Library), but also in the under-represented area of radical theatre. As the company has focused on disadvantaged communities and multiculturalism, and working with living playwrights, it also has the potential to open new avenues of research into the arts and performance in West Yorkshire and beyond. “Red Ladder were and remain absolutely pivotal…, being, now, the longest lasting of all the groups that came out of 1968. Their history is also the history of alternative and community theatre over the past 40 years, and so it offers a unique and irreplaceable perspective.” (Dr Bill McDonnell, Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University).

The project plan for the cataloguing of the archives of the company was clearly presented and explained the high level of professional expertise that would be offered to the project cataloguer. Evidence of a secure deposit agreement and strong letters of support from different institutions were also included. All of these elements satisfied the judges that the cataloguing project was realistic, would provide value for money, and have a lasting impact. 

Read the report