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University of Bristol Theatre Collection celebrates 60th anniversary with first Artist in Residence

Nick Smith

4 August 2011

Bristol artist Clare Thornton will become the inaugural Artist in Residence at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection as part of the diamond anniversary celebrations of this internationally renowned theatre and performance archive.

Clare will focus on the Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Collection, recently acquired by the University, which totals more than 2,500 boxes of archive material relating to British theatre history.  Clare will reveal some of its hidden treasures and make new work inspired by the holdings.

This residency is part of Clare’s wider “Unfurl” project which includes a performance installation at the Red Lodge Museum, located in close proximity to the Theatre Collection, on Saturday 3 September from 1 to 4 pm.  The performance involves unravelling over one kilometre of ribbon throughout three hours, gradually obscuring the performer and model who sits waiting for his painter; the audience are free to come and go as they please.  A photograph documenting this unique performance will be permanently accessioned into the Theatre Collection’s holdings.

From Monday 26 September to Friday 11 November, there will be an “Unfurl” exhibition at the Theatre Collection, 21 Park Row.  On Tuesday 18 October, as part of InsideArts, the University of Bristol Festival of the Arts and Humanities, Clare Thornton and Jo Elsworth, Director of the Theatre Collection, will give tours of the exhibition, and on Thursday 3 November at 6pm, there will be a public ‘In Conversation’ event at the University.

Jo Elsworth, Director of the Theatre Collection said: “We are very excited to be able to celebrate out 60th anniversary with Clare’s residency.  Visitors are often piecing together stories, old and new, from the objects in our holdings.  It seems fitting then to be working with Clare whose work is inspired by and responds to collections and collecting and who is interested in exploring the stories we fold into objects.”

Clare’s work on the “Unfurl” project is supported by Arts Council England.

Clare Thornton

Clare Thornton is currently the University of Bristol Theatre Collection’s first Artist in Residence.  Clare draws on performance, visual art and craft methods to create objects and events that bring people together for social and critical exchange.  She is interested in collections and collecting: collecting stories and curiosities, assembling archives of memories and making objects inspired by these gathered materials.  She is currently working with a variety of ‘fragile’ materials to unfold memories and explore our making of meaning.

University of Bristol Theatre Collection

The Theatre Collection, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, is an accredited museum and home to one of the world’s largest archives relating to British theatre history.  It is open to the public and welcomes a wide range of visitors, from family history researchers to international scholars as well as those with a general interest in theatre and performance.  Its collections cover all aspects of theatre history and include documents, photographs, artwork, artefacts, costumes as well as AV and digital media.

The world-renowned Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Collection was acquired by the University of Bristol Theatre Collection in 2011.  In its 2,500 boxes, there are more than half a million items such as playbills, posters, programmes, engravings, cuttings, production photographs and personal ephemera.  There are files on every actor and actress of note in the British theatre and sections on circus, dance, opera, music-hall, variety, dramatists, singers and composers, together with many engravings and pictures.  The Collection also contains props and costumes, set and costume designs, paintings and other artwork plus 500 ceramic figurines.

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