51 years of Mikron – The Archive
A full list of items and how to visit can be found on the Heritage Quay website.
Organisational archives relating to Mikron’s activities since 1972, and related material from founder Mike Lucas’ career in theatre prior to establishing Mikron. The collection includes an extensive number of Mikron original scripts, and documents Mikron’s working processes as well as containing more ‘finished’ products like albums. Lucas’ contributions to the Company as actor, writer, director, artistic director, tour manager and fundraiser from 1972-2005 are particularly well-recorded. As Mikron uniquely tours by canal narrowboat, many of their plays and often administrative material concern canal history, the restoration of Britain’s canal network and issues around transportation.
The archive contains records relating to Mikron’s heritage including pre-1972 plays and other material relating to early incarnations of Mikron and Mike Lucas’ early career, material donated to Mikron by staff and supporters (particularly photographs), recordings of Mikron performances (audio and film), scrapbooks and files compiled as ‘heritage’(eg Mikron’s own digitisation projects), an oral history interview with Mike Lucas for the Unfinished Histories archive and reference material such as books, dissertations and other publications featuring Mikron. This section includes Mike Lucas’ published memoir: ‘I’d Go Back Tomorrow’ as well as books and other publications collected by Mikron as research material and for tour planning purposes.
Administrative and corporate planning records encompass Mikron Council of Management files, AGM files and annual reports and a small number of legal records. There is a substantial section of the archive containing records relating to Mikron’s involvement in the running of Marsden Mechanics’ Hall and events held there. This includes Marsden Mechanics Management Committee papers, Mikron at the Mechanics material, and records of the Marsden Jazz Festival (of which Mikron were joint-founders and organisers). Administrative records also include material relating to the Marsden Community Association and Marsden Business Association, general correspondence files, and records relating to the management assets and facilities, chiefly Mikron’s narrowboat ‘Tyseley’. Related to this are documents related to planning and managing tours, such as tour logs, Master Plans, Show Bookings files and correspondence with venues.
The archive contains material related to the function of managing Mikron’s relations with its local community. This includes particularly the archive of the Mikron Youth Theatre group, as well as the records of particular education and outreach projects.
There are a substantial number of files relating to Mikron’s fundraising activities, including applying for and managing grants from government and charities. This section also includes material relating to Mikron’s search for, and relationships with corporate and individual sponsors. Friends of Mikron, the fundraising and advocacy group, is also well-documented, and there are examples of Mikron merchandise sold to generate income, alongside documents relating to other fundraising schemes.
The archive holds some material relating to financial management including bank statements, correspondence with the bank, budgets and returns, show sales information, cash books and show reports, insurance records and a small sample of records relating to government tax-relief schemes.
Mikron’s administrative staff have long monitored commercial publications featuring Mikron and collected press cuttings. A series of press cuttings scrapbooks dates back to the Company’s early years, and press cuttings files continue to be created. Mikron also kept recordings of broadcasts on radio and television in which they featured, and their dealings with broadcasters are documented in the archives.
Marketing, advertising and press relations records include a substantial collection of advertising material (eg posters and flyers), programmes, a large number of press and publicity photographs, press releases and press packs and working files.
Perhaps the largest section of the archive is the collection of scripts and directors’ files. Scripts often include drafts and different versions, as some plays were re-worked when they were revived in subsequent years. Over the years Mikron has performed almost exclusively original plays, and each new Mikron script began with a carefully planned research stage. This has generated a large number of research files, many of which include notes from ‘workshopping’ a script, as well as notes and ephemera collected from external bodies. The Mikron research phase often included seeking out individuals with expertise or personal involvement in the topic in question, and conducting oral history interviews. These interviews are held within the archive, alongside permission forms governing their use.
Mikron ran a small number of projects for which the outputs included a filmed performance and these films have been transferred to Heritage Quay. Mikron shows always include a strong musical element, with original songs being written for each play. Many of these songs have subsequently been professionally recorded and released on albums, which are available in various formats within the collection. There are also some files documenting the recordings and the working processes of Mikron’s musical directors and song-writers.
Further records relating directly to Mikron performances include casting files, job applications from freelancers and technicians, rehearsal Records (eg recordings of actors rehearsing), backdrops, a sample of props, costume and set designs.
The archive holds a mixture of analogue and digital records (including digital copies of traditional formats). Note that digital copies have been made for preservation purposes, and are not to be used commercially.
Recurring themes in Mikron shows and performing life: transport and especially canals, pubs and craft beer, feminism and women’s history, industrial history and working class life. The oral histories and research files contain lots of material on these subjects, and the artistic treatment of these themes can also be explored through the scripts and performance records.
There are possibilities of studying individual writers and their creative processes, as well as Mikron’s play development process.
There are excellent sources for the history of the company itself, as example of a small arts/ culture organisation. Also its relations with local government, Arts Council England and its regional bodies. Other potential areas of research would be looking about central and local arts/ culture/ voluntary organisations policies and their effect on local bodies, or the development of individual philanthropy and corporate sponsorship in the arts and culture, particularly from the 1980s onwards.
There is also the potential to trace the careers of particular performers or the effect of a spell in a local company on actors’ careers. Cast members have including Buffy Davis (Jolene in ‘The Archers’) and Mark Williams (The Fast Show, Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films). Other celebrities/ well-known figures who might be of interest & were involved as patrons: Margot Fonteyn, Timothy West, Prunella Scales, Viscount Beaulieu.
Music might also be of interest. As well as albums and recordings of performances, there is a small amount of sheet music and some working material.