The Gallery: Into the archives

A few years ago, my mum and dad got my old photo albums out of the loft and gave them to me. I was a pretty prolific photographer by late 80s/ early 90s standards – although I still probably took less photos in a month than people these days take in a day.

The albums were full of school friends on exchange visits and end of exams, as well as birthdays, Christmases and a lot of pet rabbits. My mum and dad had hair that wasn’t grey, my sister was still a child and my brother was slim and wore glasses. My friends wore a variety of outfits which speak so loudly of those times, even though we liked to think we were somehow individual or alternative.

So what to share? How to summarise those times? Long-lost friends in bright, baggy clothes would be good, but I went for this. Because it says so much and reminds me of so much about my teenage years.

From the age of 14 to the age of 18 I spent every day of the summer holidays at a children’s theatre group. We put on a play from scratch, made the costumes and sets and sorted out the lighting and music in those six weeks. All without adult help. We were very proud of that bit, it made us unique. We stood our ground firmly whenever it was suggested that maybe adults should play a part. We took the younger kids over the busy main road to the park at lunchtime where they played hide ‘n’ seek near a stream. It was a health and safety nightmare which fills me with horror now, but parents were willing to trust kids as young as 6 with a group of teenagers.

At the age of 16 I started playing a more active role in the backstage stuff, while also playing Aunt Polly in Tom Sawyer. At 17 and 18, I was the director of the show. The first play was a bit crap, the script wasn’t great and we got a poor review in the local paper (imagine the local paper criticising a group of kids – it was acceptable in the 90s). But my final show was a triumph. I directed Alice in Wonderland, which had always been a favourite story of mine, and it was brilliant. Brilliant acting, brilliant sets and a fantastic review in the local paper.

The rules stated that you had to leave the company at the play after your 18th birthday, so I went out on a high.

This is me on my final night, surrounded by flowers and in floods of tears. I’m wearing a proper evening dress, as I always did to every night of the run – and I never wore the same one twice. The dresses were mainly bought from Vivien Smith Simply Clothes – a rather fuddy duddy ladies’ dress shop I worked in on a Saturday – because I got a discount and nabbed the best stuff as it went in the sale.

I’m crying because it’s all over – four years of fun, friends, great experiences and sheer hard work. I’m crying because people loved my show and loved me (yes, even small children in an amateur performance get proper ‘lovey darling’). And I’m also crying for the future. In a few short weeks I would leave my home town to go to university. I was happy with my family and friends. I wanted the new experience, but I was scared and sad because I loved my simple life and my home town.

I’m linking this to The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers. Pop over to see how others have interpreted the theme ‘Into the archives’.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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20 Comments

  1. Bravo! What a great idea to delve into the archives and retrieve those dreamy memories x.

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  2. That is a brilliant memory! I did a summer school for a few years and we put on plays but never with as much freedom as you guys! Bravo!!

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  3. Wow, a post brimming with memories! What a wonderful thing for teenagers to be able to do – keeps them out of mischief for the whole summer! It’s a shame that things like this can’t happen these days; it would never be allowed would it?

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  4. That’s such a brilliant and fun thing to do – I think I would have loved to have worked in the Theatre for a wee bit. Shame you had to leave after your 18th birthday but guess they make space for new teens looking for adventure too 🙂

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  5. wow! that is a good way to spend the summer! great memory

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  6. Such a great pic and a whole host of wonderful memories. Treasure that archive of prolific photography! It’s my mission to get people to dig into their archives and preserve them!!

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  7. You can clearly see the emotion in your face. Such a great photo to have of such a huge changing point in your life.

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  8. Thanks very much, everyone! They are still precious memories and I can still smell that theatre if I think about it!
    I don’t feel sad now, Franglaise, just quite proud that I did something unique. The only thing I feel slightly sad about is that I haven’t done any acting since, but never say never!
    It wouldn’t be allowed now, Suzanne! To be honest it fills me with horror that we had that much freedom!

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  9. Sport Sarah anonymous is Hayley smith don’t know how to put my name on xx

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  10. LOVED reading this Sarah! It brought it all back for me too! I was lucky enough to spend about 9 years with the CCTA – best summers ever! Loads of memories that I will treasure forever! Will always remember your rendition of ‘bringing up a boy’ we still have the video somewhere!! Not sure if the CCTA is still going but I know it was a few years ago! Can’t believe we had so much responsibility when we were so young! Think Bex and I had 40 children to supervise one year! Crazy but brilliant. Thanks for sharing xxx

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  11. Oh, what an amazing experience, and such lovely memories! Loved this post x

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  12. Thanks very much, Hayley, I knew it was you! Nine years – amazing! Makes my four look pretty pathetic. Cringe at the thought of ‘Bringing Up a Boy’, but I still know the words! It certainly was crazy, but brilliant 🙂 x
    Thanks very much, Sara, I really appreciate that.

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