Eve Nicol, 27 January 2014

Who was present: Eve Nicol, Hannah Elsy

Hey! What’s the big idea?

A curated print journal of online theatre writing.

Okay, I’m listening. But why?

This action session was called in response to discussion from Eve Nicol in Jake Orr’s

Session What’s next for theatre criticism/theatre writing (let’s dream).

The rise in quality writing about theatre has rocketed in recent years. Andrew Haydon

writes that whilst theatre blogging is fourteen years old, 2013 was “probably the best

year yet for coverage”.

Alongside the established voices writing for the national press, those who are

interested in intellectual discussion about theatre are spoilt for choice by the personal

offerings of individual critics (Catherine Love, Dan Hutton), the multi-authored

magazine blogs (Exeunt and A Younger Theatre) artists (Chris Goode, Bryony

Kimmings) and the experienced press working under their own steam (Maddy Costa,

Libby Purves).

These platforms offer regular quality debate, often covering the areas traditional press

just can’t reach. Yet with each of these sites running from self-hosted sites or through

WordPress or Blogger what happens if the service goes down? Influential debates and

insightful reviews can be all too easily lost.

In 2009, 38 million user-built pages vanished when Yahoo! acquired Geocities and

shut the free website making platform down. A depository of niche information

compiled by enthusiasts vanished almost over night. It was a digital Skara Brae. We

have a fear the same could happen to the debate and discussion that is happening

online about theatre.

By compiling the most provocative, witty, creative, informative reviews and articles

freely distributed by writers unattached to publications with their own archives, a

journal can protect some of this work for prosperity and for the enjoyment and learning

of the next generation of theatre writers. We propose to create a biannual indexible,

searchable, physical documentation of this important work that can be distributed to

the shelves of university libraries, theatre archives and the coffee tables of passionate


So what’s in this journal exactly?

Published twice a year, each issue would contain a specially written introduction, one -

three articles (which may be peer reviewed) and ten-twelve reviews. A print issue

would be sent out to subscripted institutions and individual subscribers and available

to download. An accompanying website would link to the material where it was

originally published as well as having a permanent DOI (Digital object identifier) URL.

How do you get the material?

The majority of the work would be included by invitation. The editorial team will also be

responsible for keeping and ongoing eye on what has been published online and for

inviting exciting writers to have their work included in the journal.

In addition to invitations, writers can submit materials already published elsewhere

online or new material for consideration. The only criteria to submissions would be that

this material would not be archived by an existing body.

There was some discussion if materials which had been produced in exchange for

payment should be excluded from submissions but it was agreed that this would limit

the interesting work being done by theatre writers as part of a company, as in the case

of embedded criticism.

It was noted that by having a submission, individual writers or artists may be

incentivised into writing by the lure of having a piece included in print.

Any other benefits?

*There’s so much of it

The volume of material being uploaded everyday by passionate amateurs and

seasoned experts can present an impenetrable wall of words. By compiling work in

retrospect, we can considered those woeks which have been most impactful over the

previous season and create a digest for those looking for an entry point.

Our relationship with screens is different to print

In the session it was noted theatre reading from screens tended to take part in short

intervals. Work is scanned. We discussed how print materials offer a space for

contemplation, a physical relationship with what your reading and invite closer

analysis. The journal would be intended as something to be set aside to be read over

a relaxed afternoon with an ample supply of coffee.

Back it up

The website for the journal would feature simple how-to guides for the most popular

blogging platforms to encourage individual publishers to create their own digital

archives of their material should they need to back up in the future.


In the session it was noted that in a recent university essay, Eve had used a number

of online sources from personal blogs. Should the blogs be removed in coming years,

the citations in the essay would be unable to be verified, making a new body of work

based on the initial research and thinking of others unusable. By providing permanent

URLs, and print copies d


It was agreed that the main aim is to get the journal on the shelves of academic

institutions though it was noted that there was the opportunity of offering personal

subscriptions to the printed material too. These streams of distribution would put the

work of the original author in the hands of those who might not have come across their

work otherwise.

Documenting the fringe.

Theatre Record sets an admirable ambition of compiling press reviews of every new

show that opens in London. As theatre writing includes productions often untouched

by mainstream press both inside Lodon and out, an opportunity arises for fringe

companies to have their work documented in a way previously unavailable to them.

How to get there?

A quick Google pointed us towards Starting an Open Access Journal: a step by step


This site indicated that the costs of making a journal indexible is £225 a year in fees

to. Though this excluded the costs related to staffing the journal, it was felt that this

was a modest outlying cost in relation to its potential benefits. The work related to

these costs appeared to be straight forward administrative tasks.

The greater challenge lies in legitimising the journal. We identified that we would

required the backing of established professional organisations and individuals as well

as drawing on the support of theatre writers and magazine blog editors.

We identified organisations we were currently involved with or had a connection to

who could provide support for the project and we could approach

• University of Glasgow /Scottish Theatre Archive

• King’s College London/ King’s Cultural Institute

• National Theatre Young Studio

• A Younger Theatre

• University of Reading

• National Theatre of Scotland

• London Student

We also identified other publications, organisations we would like to talk to or to be

involved. Though by no means an exhaustive list, we identified or were recommended

the following

• Andrew Haydon

• Catherine Love

• Daniel B. Yates

• Dan Rebelatto

• Dan Hutton

• Duska Radosavljevic

• Dominic Stevens

• Jake Orr

• Lyn Gardner

• Libby Purves

• Maddy Costa

• Matt Trueman

• The Public Reviews

• Rex Burnett

• Terri Paddock

• V&A

What about the money bit?

We didn’t talk too much about this but mostly spoke that this was a not for profit

project. There was desire indicated that funds should be raised to fund editorial hours.

Any income made from print subscriptions would be divided between all contributors.

There was an interest that this could provide perhaps even a little bit of money to

people but the main benefit was making existing work archived.

What makes you think you can do this?

We identified what skills we had between us

• Build websites

• Bases in London and Glasgow

• Skills in creating content

• Skills in drawing content together

• Researching

• Design

• Writing

• Negotiation

• Both current students (undergrad English and postgrad Playwriting and


• Existing affiliations

• Social media

• Producing print

What we need

• Editorial help

Writers to submit work

In roads with as many universities as possible

Some high profile professionals to back us as an “editorial board”

Some clever passionate folks to serve as editors and put in some hours

Discussions with university librarians

Thoughts about what problems we might face

People to nod and say, oh, this sounds like it might be interesting”

Next steps

Our main action is to find an “academic buddy” in Glasgow and in London who could

provide support identifying channels, funding, sharing experience and best practice.

It was also agreed that there might be interest in a closed Facebook group involving

those who might be interested in offering their editing services, written material or to

other involvement.

We intend to approach writers who we admire to see if they would be interested in

contributing to the public archiving of their work.

So, the aim is to protect some of the finest online writing by making it physically

archive-able in case everyone’s laptops go on fire at some point, at least it will

be safe in a bunker somewhere.


archiving, universities, Archiving, Critics, Documentation, documentation, critics,

academia, journals, publications, theatre writing, theatre criticism