Monthly Archives: January 2015

Alexei Sayle in conversation

Our first ‘in conversation’ event for the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive is taking place on Saturday 7 February at 07:30pm. Stand-up comedian, actor and author Alexei Sayle will be taking to Olly Double about his career and the art of stand-up comedy. Tickets can be booked via the Gulbenkian box office. The series of ‘in conversation’ events will be recorded and added to the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.


Alexei Sayle 'in conversation' poster



First Steps for the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive

Errin Hussey, Digitisation & Data Entry Assistant, writes:

The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive began in 2013 and four collections have formed the basis for the archive so far:

– The Linda Smith Collection
– The Mark Thomas Collection
– The Tony Allen Collection
– The John Pidgeon Collection

One of the first priorities as part of the 2015 Beacon project was to look through the collections and box-list their contents, paying particular attention to the nature of the material and the amount of Audio Visual materials given to the archive.

The Linda Smith Collection

Day 1 began by looking through the vast 25-box collection belonging to comedian Linda Smith. Linda’s collection was donated to the University’s Special Collections by her partner Warren Lakin. This huge wealth of material includes books and folders from her school-days to scripts, press and recordings from her stand-up tours and radio shows. All the boxes were so well organised and labelled that it was easy to get a good footing in understanding the collection.


The large 25-box Linda Smith Collection currently in the Special Collections store.

To start, there were four boxes full of audio-visual materials including CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes & DATs. These materials consist of both published and private recordings from tours, radio and TV shows including ‘A Brief History of Time Wasting’ (BBC Radio 4), ‘The News Quiz’ (BBC Radio 4), ‘Just A Minute’ (BBC Radio 4), ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ (BBC Radio 4) and ‘Have I Got News For You’ (BBC One).

The following 21 boxes consisted of documents including school folders and reports, scripts, set lists, promotional leaflets, photographs and press. Some of the many highlights in these boxes include a variety of early stand-up notes, transcripts for the 1985 ‘Tuff Lovers’ tour with Ann Lavelle and the 1992/3 ‘Hello Cruel World’ tour with Steve Gribbin, contracts, personal diaries, and detailed documents regarding Warren Lakin’s biography: ‘I Think the Nurses are Stealing My Clothes: The Very Best of Linda Smith’ including early drafts and correspondence with contributors.


A clearer view of some of the boxes in the Linda Smith collection: sorted, labelled and donated by her partner Warren Lakin.

 The Mark Thomas Collection

The second prominent collection in the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive is the Mark Thomas Collection.  Mark has donated an extensive assortment of personal material to the archive spanning his career. The collection includes audio-visual material from his stand-up shows through to his TV appearances, personal diaries and notepads, and press cuttings both written by and about Mark. A significant part of Mark’s collection and career centres around his involvement in various activist campaigns. It has been interesting to see how these activities, and his stand-up career provide context and inspiration to each other.

Personal stand-out features of the Mark Thomas collection have to include the detailed notes and plans for campaigns, working with groups such as Action Aid, and tackling problems of the big corporations such as Coca-Cola and events such as the Defendory Arms Fair in countries all over the world including India, China, Mexico, Columbia, El Salvador, Greece and Turkey. There is also a large selection of photographs taken from Mark’s McDemo’s campaigns (McDemo’s was a joint-enterprise project created to enable activists to campaign on behalf of other members of the public- creating posters and chants to demonstrate in central London). In 2009 Mark launched a tour entitled ‘It’s The Stupid Economy’, part of which sought to find the ‘People’s Manifesto’. The Archive holds the original writings of members of his audience suggesting issues they would like to be raised in their manifesto. Each night the audience would decide on the most popular points and Mark went on to publish these in his 2010 book ‘Mark Thomas Presents the People’s Manifesto’.


A quick snapshot of the Mark Thomas Collection including many boxes of AV material, posters and a bag full of campaign ephemera.

Other collections that have already been collected within the BSUCA include the John Pidgeon Collection and the Tony Allen Collection. More shall be written about the exciting material held in these collections in future blog posts.

The next stage for the BSUCA Beacon project is to consider the arrangement of the current collections and formalise a plan for digitization!

Please do send us your thoughts by email ( or tweet us (@unikentstandup)

Our new British Stand-Up Comedy Archive blog

Elspeth Millar, Project Archivist, writes:

Welcome to the blog for the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive and the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive ‘Beacon’ Project, which will be active throughout 2015.

The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive at the University of Kent was established in 2013 to celebrate, preserve, and provide access to the archives and records of British stand-up comedy and stand-up comedians. You can find more information on the archive itself and the Beacon project on the ‘about’ page of this blog, and through our blog postings as the project develops.

The 2015 Beacon Project aspect of the BSUCA will organise the public launch of the archive; catalogue, preserve, digitise, and make accessible the existing collections; publicise the collections and their use; and identify new collections for deposit in the archive. We also have a number of public events planned, including the inaugural Linda Smith lecture, a series of ‘in conversation’ events with Olly Double, and a conference in January 2016.  Further information can be found on the events page of this blog.

In addition to the purposes and aims listed above, within this project we also aim to ask and answer questions and challenges that may arise from an archive of Stand-Up Comedy, such as…

  • What archives do comedians collect and keep? What should we encourage them to keep?
  • Who will use the collections, and how should we encourage and facilitate their use? How will issues of copyright, ownership, and data protection affect this use?
  • How should we store and provide access to the material that we are preserving?
  • What archives/records are within scope?

We hope that the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive and this blog of the project will appeal to stand-up comedians, historians of performance, people who like stand-up comedy, journalists and broadcasters, as well as those interested in the archival and digital preservation issues that we will come across through the project.

Please do send us your thoughts by email ( or tweet us (@unikentstandup).