Performing the Past

Performing the Past

The ideal story, I have always felt, is a narrative spoken aloud by an illiterate man to a group surrounding a fire in a forest at night, or told by a man to his friends in the pub, or at the table during dinner-hour in a canteen

Alan Stilltoe 1970

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Performing the past is a collaborative research network between the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York. The project seeks to generate new ways of telling stories about the past by bringing together academics and professionals from Yorkshire’s cultural and heritage industries. Over three workshops in 2012 and 2013, professionals, academics and students from archaeology, history, literature, film, theatre, performance and museum studies shared their research and explored the potential for performance to tell stories about the heritage of working class communities in Yorkshire. 

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We worked with the collective to document the diversity of the workshops, producing a bookwork that evoked the wider themes of the project. Keeping the individuality of each workshop, the documentation was bound into three separate sections marking each event. A green concertinaed cover design wraps around and unites the different workshops. The green of the cover echoes with associations of archive folders and canteen table tops — a nod to both the practice of recording history and the working class eateries of Yorkshire — both of which are very different yet equally valid sites of storytelling. 

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The concertina cover further necessitates the reader physically untangles each aspect of the content, getting involved, unfolding and learning about the his-stories in an active manner — a subtle nod to the process of the workshops and the collective’s aim for interactive and engaging research.

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