Chichester Festival Theatre Archive

The Pass It On Project is a three year project funded by the Heritage Lottery fund which began in January 2013. The aim of the project is to explore, collect and share the history of Chichester Festival Theatre and create the Chichester Theatre Archive. As part of the Pass it On project members of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre (CFYT) used items from the archive to inspire short works which will be performed as part of Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2014 season.


The Pass It On Project is lead by small project team and is delivered through partnership working, for example with West Sussex Record Office, Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, and the Young playwrights scheme in partnership with New Writing South.

The project comprises a number of different elements:

  • listing the archive (May 2013 to December 2016): the project team is working with West Sussex Record Office and a team of trained volunteers to list the 1,000 boxes that comprise potential material for the CFT archive
  • working with the Youth Theatre (September  2013 to November 2013): members of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, who range from ten to 19 in age, devised short plays which they performed to each other and to writers from the Young Playwriting scheme using items from the archive to stimulate creative thinking
  • supporting playwrights to develop short plays (January 2014 to July 2014): the playwrights will write 20 minute short pieces inspired by the ideas and themes emerging from the pieces developed by the Youth Theatre. These short pieces will be performed by members of the Youth Theatre to the public as part of Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2014 season


Promoting the Pass It On Project Project and the Chichester Festival Theatre Archive to  new audiences – 700 members of Chichester Youth Festival Theatre and the 14 Youth Theatre practitioners. Members of the project team gave a short talk on the archive and the project at the start of each of the sessions where members of the Youth Theatre performed their play to provide a context for the individual items the groups had been working with.


Using the archive as stimulus to creativity meant  achieving the right balance between the maintaining the relationship of the archive to history and allowing young people’s ideas to drive the devising processes for their short plays.

What were the outcomes?

  • 36 short pieces of theatre inspired by items from the Chichester Festival Theatre  archive, performed to other Youth Theatre groups over ten sessions at Chichester Festival archive in November 2013 and one session at the Capitol in Horsham in February 2014
  • taking part in a Youth Theatre created the opportunity to explore the themes in a creative and supportive environment

For  the Pass It On Project:

  • a significantly increased awareness of the Chichester Festival Theatre archive among Chichester Festival Youth Theatre members and practitioners
  • a significantly increased number of young people interested in becoming more involved with the heritage project
  • a stronger sense of connection with Chichester Festival Theatre and its uniqueness as a whole amongst Chichester Festival Youth Theatre members

What went well? What didn’t go quite as well?

Achieving the balance between engagement with history and the freedom to inspire creativity worked better for some groups and practitioners than for others.

  • There was debate whether an initial introduction to the project would help youth theatre members understand better the significance of the items used in their plays or create a barrier to engagement with the archive
  • Training sessions for practitioners on the history of the Chichester Festival Theatre would have enabled them to steer their individual groups of youth theatre members through the process in a way that worked for them
  • Giving the group members a range of stimuli to choose from themselves might have increased their ownership of the project

The breadth of engagement was considered by far the biggest success of this project with increased numbers of people  becoming  involved with the Pass It On project as a result.

Future developments

The project has provided a foundation for future engagement between the Youth Theatre and Pass It On Project. This will include training members of the Youth Theatre  to give tours of the Festival Theatre building illustrated with scanned items from the archive, and to act as archive ambassadors taking items into the community to trigger memories of the theatre.

Find out more about the project.