Keep Smiling Through: Humour and the Second World War exhibition

Keen ears might have heard some music echoing through the Templeman Gallery lately! To find out more about our latest exhibition, read on…

KEM: "C'est encore ce sacre Churchill..." published in Le Petit Parisien, May 1940

KEM: “C’est encore ce sacre Churchill…” published in Le Petit Parisien, May 1940

Keep Smiling Through: British Humour and the Second World War explores the use of humour in cartoons, letters, books, ephemera and artefacts from the First and Second World Wars. This exhibition has been curated to support the symposium of the same title held here at the University of Kent on 12–13 September 2019 with the assistance of Special Collections & Archives’ inaugural exhibition interns.

Using the British Cartoon Archive’s extensive collection of cartoons, ephemera, letters, and artefacts, this exhibition explores how humour was used throughout the Second World War to discuss politics, military campaigns, and improve morale both on the front line and at home. It also explores how the British press portrayed other theatres of war. The exhibition offers an insight into the reactions of the British public and traces responses to the present day as contemporary cartoonists echo the iconography pioneered by 20th century artists. The archives of Carl Giles and KEM, held here at Kent, are showcased extensively – including films made by Giles for the Ministry of Information during the War.

Entry is (as always) free and the gallery is open during the Templeman Library’s opening hours. The exhibition runs until 25 October. We hope to see you soon!

Alternative Comedy Now

In the summer of 1979, two things happened which changed forever the face of British stand-up comedy. On 19 May, the Comedy Store opened in Soho – and a few weeks later some of the performers who had met there formed a group called Alternative Cabaret, described onstage by founder member Tony Allen as “a sort of collective of comedians, musicians, dope smokers, dole scroungers, tax evaders, sexual deviants, political extremists.” Taken together the Comedy Store and Alternative Cabaret kicked off a movement that became known as alternative comedy. This led to a radical reinvention of stand-up in terms of both form and content, and created what grew into today’s live comedy scene.

1984 flyer for Brave New Comedy, a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, featuring a young Paul Merton, then known as Paul Martin.

Alternative comedy was a youthful, iconoclastic thing, and many have made the point that it did for light entertainment what punk had done for music just a couple of years earlier. So it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that we were starting to approach its 40th anniversary. How could something so young and vibrant have started so long ago?

Clearly, such a milestone could not pass without being marked in some way, and the University of Kent was particularly well placed to celebrate it. Our Special Collections & Archives department contains the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (BSUCA), which has an unparalleled collection of material relating to the beginning of alternative comedy. Its donors include key figures in the movement like Tony Allen, Alexei Sayle, Andy de la Tour, and Jim Barclay. We also have material from people who helped it spread across London and beyond, like Ivor Dembina, Monika Bobinska, Mark Thomas, and Ray Campbell. Indeed, BSUCA was started after we acquired the archive of the late Linda Smith, who cut her comedy teeth on the alternative comedy circuit of the 1980s.

Originally a venue, The Comic Strip collective quickly embarked on a national tour, released an LP and produced TV series “The Comic Strip Presents…”

A large selection of this material has been used to stage the Alternative Comedy Now exhibition. In it you’ll find publicity materials, photographs, press coverage, scripts, LPs, business records, and more. All of this is arranged into seven themes: the Comedy Store; Alternative Cabaret; the Comic Strip; the Spread of the Circuit; the Small Comedy Club; the Edinburgh Fringe; and Politics. The team from Special Collections & Archives have done amazing work in putting the exhibition together, particularly Elspeth Millar, Mandy Green, Karen Brayshaw, Clair Waller and Tom Kennett.

Poster, 1980. Smaller pub-based clubs were the lifeblood of the comedy circuit. The publicity materials took the form of homemade art that could be reproduced on a photocopier, like this striking example.

I’m particularly pleased that Jim Barclay and Andy de la Tour had time to visit the exhibition on a recent visit to the University. As Andy put it: “The exhibition is remarkable, I was quite bowled over by how much you’d manage to display.”

Oliver Double

‘Kent, its Regiments, and the First World War’

The Queen’s Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment Collection was given to the University of Kent by the Regimental Association of The Queen’s Own Buffs in 2017, and is cared for as part of Special Collections & Archives. It consists of mainly printed and published material from the 19th century to the present, along with some archival material.

New and Old Colours of the 1st Battalion, The Buffs, from The Dragon March 1892

Over the past year we have undertake a year-long project, funded by the Regimental Association of the Queen’s Own Buffs Royal Kent Regiment, to catalogue the Collection and selectively digitise some of the regimental journals held in the Collection.

To celebrate this project we are launching a new exhibition in the Templeman Gallery, ‘Kent, its Regiments, and the First World War’, and Professor Mark Connelly will give a lecture entitled ‘The East Kent Regiment, Canterbury and the Great War’ to launch the exhibition at 2.30pm on Monday 29th October 2018. The talk will explore the links between Canterbury and the Buffs during the First World War. It will show how the city and surrounding region maintained a great interest in the actions of its local regiment, even after conscription led to great changes in its demographic. Home and Fighting fronts are often thought of as very distinct and separate entities, but this lecture will highlight the degree to which they were inextricably linked and that communication between the two was continual. This lecture is open to all, with tickets bookable via eventbrite. Attendees are welcome to visit the exhibition afterwards, which is held in the Templeman Gallery and will be running from 29 October 2018 to 4 January 2019.

Men of the 1st Battalion, The Buffs at Bois-Grenier, winter 1914

During this event, we will also be launching our new project ‘Diaries of the Here and Now‘, where we are inviting everyone to record their experiences of 11 November 2018 for future generations, and deposit their diary with Special Collections & Archives.

Diaries of the Here and Now

‘Kent, its Regiments, and the First World War’, Templeman Gallery, 29 October 2018 – 4 January 2019.

Diaries of the Here and Now: diaries will be available to collect in the Templeman Library from the 29 October until 11 November, and need to be returned by 25 November 2018.

Re-Engineering History: A Playful Demonstration

Here’s a fun fact for you: one of the world’s first computers was constructed out of Meccano! Built in 1934, engineer Douglas Hartree created the Differential Analyser for about £20 (which seems like a bargain to us).

A young Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in action. Maybe.

Very excitingly, next week Special Collections & Archives are going to be hosting a reconstruction of this ground-breaking machine in our Reading Room! PhD student Tom Ritchie is the man behind this brave challenge, and he’s going to be hosting a very special event to explore the Differential Analyser next Tuesday (9th October). Intrigued? Why not come along and learn more?

The best thing to happen in Special Collections & Archives since we changed our Reading Room hours

As an added bonus, you’ll be able to view related material from our wonderful collections on the day too. This will include items from our recently-explored Maddison Collection, which charts the history of science from the 16th century to (almost) the present day. What more could you want on a Tuesday evening? Tea, coffee, and wine? Well we’ve got that covered too! (Just not near the books)

Like table football, but more useful

‘Re-Engineering History’ takes place between Monday 8 – Thursday 11 October. The seminar, demonstration and Q&A is being held on Tuesday 9 October at 5.30pm in Special Collections and Archives. 

Because the author of this blog is in no way a scientist, please visit the IS Science Team’s blog here and Tom Ritchie’s excellent explanation here to find out more about this very exciting project.

 

Linda Smith Lecture 2018: Barry Cryer

May is always one of our favourite times of year here in Special Collections & Archives, not least because it heralds the annual Linda Smith Lecture.

Established in 2015, the Linda Smith Lecture is a celebration of comedian Linda Smith’s life and work, and examines the role of stand-up comedy in today’s society. We’ve had some fantastic guest speakers in the past, including Mark Thomas, Andy Hamilton and Susan Calman.

This year, we’re delighted to welcome Barry Cryer to the University to give the Lecture. A personal friend of Linda’s, Barry has contributed to this country’s entertainment industry for over 50 years. He has written for some of our highest rated shows and for many of our most popular comedians. His brilliant wit is still enjoyed by millions – in theatres, on television and radio, notably the iconic I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

The Linda Smith Lecture takes place next Thursday (31st May) at 7.30pm and is held in the Gulbenkian Theatre on the University of Kent Canterbury Campus. Tickets cost £6, and we’d love to see you there – please book your place now!

If you want to find out more about our incredible Stand-Up Comedy collections, please visit our website, our Stand-Up Comedy Archive blog or listen to the (brilliant, in our entirely unbiased view) ‘A History of Comedy in Several Objects’ podcast.