Martin Stiles Comedy Collection

Jon Shepherd, Assistant Archivist, writes about a new collection to the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive, the Martin Stiles Comedy Collection:

Alternative comedy: a style of comedy that rejects established stereotypes (especially racist or sexist) and often containing a political component.

In the 1970s traditional club comedians of the time often relied on jokes targeting women and minorities. A dislike of this led a group of performers at London’s Comedy Store to begin to pioneer an approach in opposition to the mainstream of British comedy.  It eschewed a reliance on a standardised structure of a sequence of jokes and punchlines, tending instead to be somewhat more free-form.  What resulted was more akin to comedy’s answer to punk.

Martin Stiles was and no doubt still is a keen fan of comedy.  He spent many years as a devoted follower of live stand-up, and both radio and tv comedy shows.  This led him to do two things.  Firstly, he created a detailed comedy index of comedians, producers and writers.  For each he listed the individual’s tv and radio comedy credits, often including the relevant year of transmission for each.  Secondly, he assembled a wonderfully impressive collection of comedy scrapbooks.  Stiles attended as a member of the audience the recording at the Paris Studio in Lower Regent Street, London of a vast array of comedy shows.  This he did several times a month, sometimes several times a week!  Each scrapbook includes newspaper cuttings, many from the Radio and TV Times, tickets for the shows and flyers sent out by the ticket unit to promote the recordings of the shows.  Some of these items are autographed by the performers featured.  The shows involved include many famous programmes such as Red Dwarf, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Whose Line is it Anyway, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and Knowing Me Knowing You…With Alan Partridge.  Many were pilots and by necessity includes some shows which didn’t make it beyond the pilot stage.

Martin Stiles comedy scrapbooks

This methodically assembled collection reads like a who’s who not just of British comedy from this delightful period of change but also more generally of British cinema, theatre and public life then and now.  Casual fans and aficionados of the following performers may be interested in the collection; Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Robbie Coltrane, French and Saunders, Tony Robinson , Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Hugh Laurie, Lenny Henry, Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Harry Hill, Paul Merton, Rory Bremner, Adrian Edmonson, Rik Mayle, Nigel Planer, Jonathan Ross, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie, John Cleese, Alexei Sayle, Jack Dee, Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Ruby Wax, Tracey Ullman, Mark Steel, Jasper Carrott, Floella Benjamin, Humphrey Lyttleton, Clive Anderson, Robert Llewellyn, Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Graeme Garden, Roy Hudd, June Whitfield, Leslie Phillips, Shane Richie, Jim Broadbent, Andrew Sachs, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Peter Capaldi, Eddie Izzard, Geoffrey Perkins, Rupert Graves, Patricia Routledge, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Frank Skinner, David Jason, Sandi Toksvig, Ronnie Barker, Douglas Adam, Bob Geldof, Kenneth Williams, Wendy Richard, Martin Clunes, Danny Baker, Ulrika Jonsson, Morecambe and Wise, Meera Sya, Frankie Howerd, Les Dawson, Noddy Holder and many, many  more…

Items from the Martin Stiles Comedy Collection

If you fancy delving back into the fascinating world of comedy of the late 80s and early 90s then please contact us on specialcollections@kent.ac.uk or +44 (0)1227 82 3127.

Martin Stiles Comedy Card index

Special Collections & Archives is on the move!

The eagle-eyed social media followers amongst you may have noticed something exciting going on recently: our new basement area is finally finished and our collections are on the move to their 21st-century home in Templeman Library A!

The benefits of the move are going to be huge for us (and for you, too): our collections will all be stored in the same space again, so it will be much easier and quicker to access material than previously. Details of this will be coming in future, but for the moment here’s what you need to know whilst the move is going on:

Our Reading Room will remain open during the move. We took some time this summer to get our collections ready for their relocation, so we’re very happy to be able to keep our daily service running. However, as collections will be travelling across stores, we need as much notice as possible if you’d like to come in and see material – ideally a week. It’s very unlikely we’ll be able to retrieve material at short notice during this time, but we’ll give you as much information as we can about when you can access material.

If you’re a student booked in for a group visit, it’s still happening! All seminars, inductions and groups are going ahead as planned.

If you’re an academic who’d like us to host a group visit, get in touch. We’re still taking bookings for seminars this term (and next year), but it may not be possible to host a customized session at the last minute unless it’s already booked in so we’d appreciate as much notice as possible.

The move is scheduled to take about three weeks. However, as with any project this size things are subject to change, so we’ll keep timings updated here and on the SC&A website.

The collections are moving, but we are not. Having completed our office move in 2015, we’re still very happy in our first floor area – you’ll be able to find staff either working with collections near the Reading Room or over in Templeman D.

It’s full steam ahead for our Christmas pantomime extravaganza! What is that, you ask? All will be revealed soon…

As ever, if you have any questions or queries about the move, please get in touch with us.

 

Playbills in the Spotlight: theatre needs you!

After a busy summer preparing our collections for their big move back to our new basement stores, SC&A is back for the new term with a host of new projects and – excitingly – we need your help.

Next Thursday (28th September), SC&A are hosting a workshop in conjunction with the British Library to trial their new crowdsourcing project. ‘In the spotlight’ seeks to gather information about the extensive playbill collection held at the British Library, and we get to see the project first!

As you may be aware, we are no stranger to playbills – we hold over 2000 in our collections, and they’re a fantastic source of information about how theatrical and popular performances were advertised in the 19th – 20th centuries. (They also have some utterly brilliant examples of typography, and it’s really interesting to see how plays were described to the public…) The British Library are particularly interested in what we think about their project because some of the first playbills they’re exploring are from Margate – just down the road from us.

So, if you’re free next Thursday afternoon, why not come to our workshop and discover more about how you can help with the project? There will be talks from British Library staff, and the SC&A team will also be on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Interested? Book a place today by emailing specialcollections@kent.ac.uk. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

‘Prescriptions: artists’ books’ exhibition

Special Collections & Archives are displaying an exhibition called Prescriptions: artists’ books in the Templeman Gallery. The pieces on display are from a collection accessioned into SC&A last autumn.

Florascript: Wild Garlic, Yarrow, Foxglove, by Cas Holmes. Photo by Egidija Ciricaite

The artists’ books in this collection were first shown at Prescriptions, an exhibition at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in Canterbury (21 April—25 September 2016), curated by Dr Stella Bolaki and Egidija Čiricaitė.

The Prescriptions exhibition at the Beaney was structured around the book art of Martha A. Hall (1949-2003), a former teacher and professional weaver. Martha was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, and in 1998 she began documenting her experiences with breast cancer and her interactions with the medical community through book art.

 

Other artists were invited to submit artists’ books for the exhibition, reflecting on the themes of illness, grieving, surgery, birth, recovery, mental health, aging, treatments, and wellbeing. Over 200 artists worldwide submitted nearly 250 works, of which 88 were selected for the exhibition. 71 of these were deposited with Special Collections & Archives at the University of Kent in autumn 2016.

Core Sample, by Allison Cooke Brown. Photo by Egidija Ciricaite

We are really excited about this collection, one of the most recent accessions into SC&A. The works in Prescriptions: artists’ books complements the teaching that occurs through seminars held in Special Collections & Archives (particularly those which interrogate materiality and the physicality of books), and also demonstrates SC&A’s commitment to preserving collections of varied formats which actively support current research and teaching at the University.

Prescriptions takes place as part of a wider research project on artists’ books and the medical humanities, organised by the University of Kent and the University of New England (Maine Women Writers Collection), and supported by the Wellcome Trust. You can find out more information on that project on the Artists’ Books and the Medical Humanities research project site and the School of English web pages.

Prescriptions exhibition in the Templeman Gallery

 

 

Reading room closure 1 August – 18 September 2017

We are unable to take bookings to access Special Collections & Archives material during the period 1 August until 18 September. This is because we are moving our collections back to the Templeman Library following major building work. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause over the summer.

We’ll be providing updates via our webpages and twitter account but if you need to get in touch, please email us (specialcollections@kent.ac.uk) with any enquiries or phone 01227 823127.