Power to the paper gatherers

If our late President Betty Dawes hadn’t squirreled away programmes, receipts, correspondence and miscellaneous papers from the early days, the 70th exhibition would have been very tame.

Betty was an enthusiastic paper gatherer from the get-go; an archivist in the making.  When husband Ralph, daughter Amanda, current Wick Theatre archivist Peter Joyce and long time members Margaret Davy and Susan Whittaker met in Park Lane Southwick in the spring of  2017, to sort through Betty’s  collection of papers and photographs, little did they realise an exhibition was in the making.

Ralph and Betty were in at the start of the company in 1948. Each maintained their own collection of memories, Ralph in a number of scrap books, Betty [Betty Carpenter until 1959] in boxes and files.

When Wick’s web site was started in 2002, Peter Joyce was keen to deliver more than just a means of publicising the next production and how to buy tickets.  He saw no reason why the site should not be an online archive that recorded productions with details of cast, crew, publicity pieces and reviews.

Although living in Scotland at the time, Peter regularly made forays into Southwick, returning with both Ralph’s books and folders of material Ray Hopper was gathering.  Ray was long time Wick’s archivist with a dedication to keeping neatly ordered binders of productions related material and photographs. A keen photographer, Ray’s publicity work and dress rehearsal pictures followed in the footsteps of Ian Elliott, Ian Leavey and George Laye.

When gathered that spring day a missing link in Betty’s collection was soon observed; no order and often no details of which play the pictures were of.  Here Margaret and Sue were to prove vital; their memory for faces was encyclopaedic.  Margaret first had responsibility for properties in our 27th production, “The Hollow” in 1958.  Sue’s first production was “Butterflies Are Free” in 1978.  Together they had been involved with all the plays since. And they remembered the obscurest of photographs.  Ralph, now 68 years into his Wick career identified many from the earliest of days; his memory not dimmed.

As the collection was organised, memories jogged and anecdotes spilled, the ingredients for a celebratory exhibition emerged.

But Brazil’s National Museum fire also supported our initiative to safeguard our heritage.