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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Show and Tell

Here’s an update from Rob Fellman, our resident researcher, who is undertaking a collaborative PhD with us and the University of Sheffield.

Show and Tell

It has been some time since my introductory post, back when I began my journey as Third Angel’s researcher-in-residence. It is fair to say that rather a lot has happened since then! I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a bit of time working in the Third Angel archive between national lockdowns. It became a little safe haven from the very present crisis in the world outside, where I could escape amongst the pages of well-worn notebooks and in the translucent spaces between glossy slides of old photographic film.

Photographic negatives from the archive

As a brief aside, I have also recently been working on a national initiative that teaches secondary school pupils about all kinds of University-level topics. My course teaches them all manner of fun things about theatre archives, documentation, and ephemera… I am biased, of course, though I prefer to use the term ‘passionate’! I have always been interested in how archives exist in-and-around the theatre, as an otherwise live medium. Together with my students we have recently been asking whether, perhaps, a performance is an archive of sorts? And equally so, is the reverse of this also true: do archives ‘perform’? (I wonder, at least, whether their ghosts do?)

An unused prop - there are loads of these

At various times during 2020 I had been writing quite extensively about Third Angel’s Class of ’76. In this show, Alex is the solo performer and Rachael the director. Third Angel guide their audience between a nostalgic reflection of Alex’s own childhood, his current practice as a theatre maker, and his research into the life stories of his fellow classmates. At other times, akin to a classroom activity of show-and-tell, Alex introduces his audience to objects from his childhood, such as a toy army soldier and a set of marbles.

Following on from my writing about Class of ’76, I set about on my adventure in the archive, simultaneously playing archaeologist-detective, sifting through dusty boxes in the hope of finding some clues (to what, I didn’t yet know). As I worked my way along the shelves I uncovered items from various versions of the show, items mentioned in the show (such as a very retro-styled CD cover for ‘find-a-friend’ software), and letters written between Alex and his former classmates.

Class of ‘76 in performance

These items began to add to my appreciation of the show, evidencing and confirming the stories Third Angel had told their audience. I realise now, from the very physical and tactile experience of the archive, that Class of ’76 is as much a performance as it is a dispersed collection of memories, images and objects that are brought (back) together to tell a story-of-stories. It also occurs to me that, on some level, memories are images; stories are memory. Objects are three-dimensional images, physical traces of the past: earthly anchors for the ghosts of memory. As I write this it dawns on me, that all of this, is what an archive is…

Some of those props from the show

I plan to keep you updated on this blog with further musings and discoveries. I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you. If you are interested in keeping a closer eye on what I am up to, you can find me on Twitter @Rob_Fellman so please do feel free to connect with me on there.

Watch this space…

We’re delighted that the second Big Reveal of our New Year, New Team announcements gives us the opportunity to introduce you to a familiar face, although in a different role. The fabulous Stacey Sampson is joining us as our Community Producer, helping us to find new ways for Third Angel to support people to express their own creativity, find their voice and tell their stories. Over to Stacey…

Stacey Sampson  |  Photo Nelly Naylor

Stacey Sampson | Photo Nelly Naylor

If you follow the work of Third Angel, you’ll know that last year marked their 25th anniversary, and to honour that they released a collection of work – There’s A Room. It’s a title that resonates with me because I feel as though I’ve been wandering in and out of that room for the past seven years.

I first worked with Third Angel in January 2014. I remember it vividly because it was my first day back in a rehearsal space after having a baby. I walked in, saw Rachael and Alex’s welcoming faces amid a constellation of dancing paper butterflies and thought – this is a room I really want to be in. That meeting sparked a conversation about birth, which eventually evolved into our ‘verbatim cabaret’ Partus. It became a huge part of my life, and I wrote a blog about it here.

Stacey in Partus

Stacey in Partus at The Crucible Studio, 2016 | Photo Helena Fletcher

Since then I’ve also spent an unforgettable month at Edinburgh with The Paradise Project; chalked city-streets on Desire Paths; delivered industry masterclasses for Future Makers; collaborated with sixty amazing young people to devise Inherited Cities; toured with The Department of Distractions; and proudly took part in the launch of There’s a Room.

So now… It’s 2021 and I’m walking back into that room, but with a different hat on. I’m taking up the role of Community Producer – a post that’s not only new to me, but to the company. They’ve always been committed to creating work that defies boundaries, transcends traditional theatre spaces and actively acknowledges their audiences; But this post will allow for even greater focus on Third Angel’s relationship with groups and communities, forging partnerships and designing projects together.

Stacey in Inherited Cities rehearsal

Stacey in rehearsal with the young cast of Inherited Cites 2018 | Photo JSP Photography

It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time – collaborating with people of all ages in schools, libraries, community centres and theatres; but also parks, take-aways, police stations and disused steelworks… It’s a cliché, but I really am passionate about the arts being for any time, any place, anyone. 

As well as my part-time role at Third Angel, I’ll continue to freelance as a performer, facilitator, writer and dramaturg. The role of Community Producer will give me chance to draw all of these threads together. I can’t wait to get stuck into working with fantastic organisations like Artfelt + Sheffield Children’s Hospital, finding inventive ways to deliver activities to young people during the pandemic and beyond, growing the reach of Future Makers and Desire Paths, and developing new ways of framing arts experiences that massively chimes with my ethos.

Stacey in Desire Paths

Stacey talking to contributors to The Desire Paths in Sheffield 2016 | Photo JSP Photography

Above all, I’m excited to become a more permanent member of this exceptional team. Third Angel are – as individuals, and as a whole, some of the most dedicated, innovative and supportive people I’ve ever had chance to work with. And this ‘Room’ that they’ve spent 25 years cultivating, is a really special place to be. I’m so happy that I now get to take off my coat, pull up a chair, and settle in.

2021 has got off to a cracking start at Third Angel HQ, with not one but TWO new members of staff joining us in January. The two posts, Digital Marketing Manager and Community Producer, are integral to the programme of work we’ll be delivering this year and we’re looking forward to telling you all about that very soon.  

So, without further ado, we’re delighted to introduce Helen Varley, who will be turbo-charging our digital communications. Let’s hand over so she can say Hi in her own words (and pictures. The pictures are important. You’ll see…)

I’m Helen and I’m SUPER EXCITED to be part of the Third Angel team in the role of Digital Marketing Manager.

I’m delighted be working for Third Angel. The arts have been such an important part of my life and personal development and I’m pleased to be in a role where I can share that with others.

A bit about me…

I’ve always been passionate about theatre, art and books. I made my first debut on stage at just nine years old. As I’ve got older, I’ve dabbled in loads of different mediums, from playwriting and crafting to photography, I just LOVE telling stories and experimenting with new ways to share them. Life is too short to have just one creative outlet!

I fell in love with digital content creation while studying for my MA in Journalism in London and turned this passion into my career. I have worked on some amazing factual and scripted shows and events, including the Radio 1 Teen Awards, Tracy Beaker Returns and my personal favourite, Blue Peter. I don’t like to brag, but some of the digital content I have produced has been nominated for awards, including a BAFTA! I’ve also done a presentation to HRH Prince William and met so many amazing people and celebrities, although I still feel a little embarrassed that I once mistook Justin Bieber for the office intern – oops!

I’m a bit of a geek at heart, and loved working with all kinds of stars and performers while on Blue Peter. Here I am with Boogie Storm, a Stormtrooper inspired dance troupe who placed third in Britain’s Got Talent.

I spent eleven happy years at the BBC, but I was made redundant from my post as Senior Content Producer last year as a result of the global pandemic. At the time, it felt utterly heart breaking and terrifying, but looking back it was a blessing in disguise as it meant I could rediscover my true passions exploring and supporting the arts. I’m so happy to be starting this new chapter with a company like Third Angel.

When I saw the Digital Marketing Manager role advertised, I knew straight away that I wanted it. I am very lucky to be working for a small company with big ideas and a bucketload of passion for telling great stories. As it is a part time role, I’m going to be spending the rest of my time working on my debut novel, which is currently on its second edit.

Although I’ve only been at Third Angel a couple of days, I’m itching to get started. I’ve already seen some of the TOP SECRET plans for upcoming shows and all I can say is I hope you are following us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as big news is heading your way and you don’t want to miss it! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list to be the first to hear about it all…

Llamas and alpacas are my favourite! In another life, I’d probably have been a llama farmer…

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