I’ve been working on Imaginate’s archives for eight weeks now! Here’s a quick-fire update on the project:
- Our physical archive is looking nice and neat thanks to some very glamorous new cardboard boxes. I’m also writing a maintenance guide, so that future Imaginate staff can easily update it.
- Our digital archive is filling up! I’ve digitised almost everything (apart from a mountain of press clippings) and am focussing instead on finding video and digital documentation of the Festival and other Imaginate projects.
- Marion and I held another filming session, this time in the Lyceum’s lovely upper circle. It was really fascinating to hear all the memories of our interviewees and to match them up with our big stash of festival programmes.
- I carried out some more fact-finding missions! Thanks to Rhona Matheson for discussing Starcatchers’ amazing history, Gill Robertson for talking all things Catherine Wheels, Jennifer Cummins for her memories of nine years working for Imaginate, and to our own Fiona Ferguson, who talked me through the organisation’s many creative development projects.
- Plans are taking shape for our interactive mini-website. I’ve been (badly) sketching potential designs (which I’ll not be sharing here!) and have started writing copy about Imaginate’s most exciting milestones to date.
I’ve become really interested in the festival’s history of accessibility. The three festival directors – Duncan, Tony and Noel – have each worked really hard to ensure that there’s a show for every age group, and to remove some of the barriers that might prevent a child from attending. I’ve still got lots to research, but here’s what I’ve found out so far.
- The festival has always been accessible to wheelchair users. This was one of Duncan’s priorities when establishing the Inverleith Park tented village, but proved trickier for Tony, when in 1998 he decided to move the festival inside. Many of Edinburgh’s arts spaces are far from accessible, but, as he told me: “We had to make a decision – if a child can’t get into a venue, then we can’t have it.”
- The travel subsidy offered to schools and groups has existed, in some form, since the first festival in 1990. It started as a discount offered by local transport operators, and has become a 100% refund for special schools and groups, and an 80% refund for all state nursery, primary and secondary school groups. This scheme is absolutely integral in ensuring that hundreds and hundreds of children can attend every year, from Edinburgh and beyond.
- Relaxed performances, touch tours, audio description and BSL have been built into the festival programme for almost twenty years. I’ve learnt from our producer Pam that the team is always led by their audiences; they collaborate with regularly-returning schools to ensure that they get it right.
These initiatives (and so many more!) are supported by public and corporate donations, and our fundraising officer Molly is trying to raise £10,000 to safeguard them for the next five years.
That’s all from me for now – I’ll leave you with some brand new cardboard boxes!