Researching for a play
A blog post by Philip David Jones who volunteered at Shropshire Archives last year as part of his English Degree.
‘No, Father, not everything is available on the Internet. It was actually during a school trip to Shropshire Archives that I discovered a Victorian entertainments bill, which I asked to see and then photographed.’
During the last three years, I have been studying for a degree in English at University Centre Shrewsbury, and instead of a dissertation, I chose to write an 8,000-word play.
With an interest in local history, and the desire that something should be learned from every piece of creative writing, I had the idea that not only would The Lion Hotel in Shrewsbury make an ideal setting but its historical references could be humourized.
As a bonus, whilst completing work experience at Shropshire Archives as part of my degree course, I came across an entertainments bill that, in addition to the more widely known history of The Lion Hotel I had already researched, added further factual detail and humour to the play. The fact that Professor Devono, a magician, had performed at the hotel between 28 and 30 October in 1875, led me into researching his magic act, hence a comical section about the magician’s cat.
The entertainments bill featured can be found catalogued at Shropshire Archives. It is very long, as the Victorian ones were, but upon my request and to my amazement, the two halves were able to be digitally and seamlessly stitched together, restoring it aesthetically to one long entertainments bill, as was originally the case. This is just one of many additional services offered by Shropshire Archives.
The extracts from the play I hope will demonstrate and inspire other writers into using history in a creative way, and its readers into finding out more about the history associated with setting.
Holding a significant amount of local history, Shropshire Archives is a wonderful place to visit for any writer. Every story needs a setting, so why not a local one?
You can download an extract from Philip’s play ‘The Lion Hotel’ (PDF) or visit Shropshire Archives and read the whole play (reference D 85 v.f.)