The Peter Slade Collection

  • Reference
      GB 133 PS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      7.2 linear metres (8 series; 215 items).
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate

Scope and Content

Papers of Peter Slade (1912-2005), pioneer of educational drama, dramatherapy and children's theatre. The archive contains a wide range of material in a variety of media illustrating the work of Peter Slade and the Educational Drama Association, including correspondence, manuscripts of Slade's writings, scrapbooks, photographs of creative drama performances with children and adults, and audio-visual material.

Administrative / Biographical History

Peter Slade is best remembered for his life-long struggle to prove the importance of drama (as opposed to theatre), as a means of personal expression and development of the self: for over 60 years, he has campaigned on behalf of educational drama, dramatherapy (as a means of combatting delinquency, disability and personal inadequacies) and children's theatre.

Born in 1912 in Fleet (Hampshire), Peter Slade studied German, economics and psychology at Bonn University before returning to England to take up acting. During the early 1930s, his interest in children and children's theatre was already apparent; he formed theatre companies dedicated to playing for children and started his own theatre school near Swiss Cottage. In 1936, this experience led to a position with the BBC as its youngest ever 'uncle' and a post as temporary Head of the BBC Children's Hour Department in Bristol, which he had to resign due to partial blindness.

Slade was appointed Honorary Drama Adviser for Worcestershire, but left to work with a medical therapist, taking the opportunity to develop his theories and use them to help backward and disturbed children, and becoming the first person to speak on what he called 'Dramatherapy' before the British Medical Association.

Having been invalided out of the army during the war, Slade again began work as the first Drama Adviser for Staffordshire, founding the Pear Tree Players (the first fully professional group entirely devoted to theatre and drama in education) and the Youth Experimental Theatre. Between 1943 and 1947, when he accepted the post of first Drama Adviser to the City of Birmingham Education Committee, Slade was widely involved in educational activities, becoming a member of the First National Committee for Drama in Education, of the Theatre News Service, the Youth Theatre Committee of the International Theatre Institution, the British Children's Theatre Association and the Drama Advisers Association, and also being invited to be the only Drama Adviser on the National Working Party for Drama in Education.

As Drama Adviser for Birmingham, Slade worked from the later world famous Rea Street Centre, developing his theories on Dance Drama, running sessions for delinquents and working towards a permanent acceptance of his teaching for drama in schools.

In 1948 he was elected Director of the recently formed Educational Drama Association, and, in his own words, 'developed it out of all expected proportions', organising courses and conferences, greatly enlarging the Theatre for Children and directing adult theatre groups. An EDA magazine, 'Creative Drama', was initiated, as were summer schools for teachers.

Out of this increased awareness of the importance of child drama evolved special courses for 'Peter Slade Leaders', a full-time Teacher/Actors Group, a University Course for Drama in Education at Newcastle and a Certificate Course in Child Drama which was established by Birmingham Education Committee in 1968. The benefits of Slade's methods were also extended to adults, such as shop assistants and management groups: in 1962 he established and directed a Personality Course for Industry and Retail Trades, choosing Sylvia Demmery as Assistant and General Tutuor.

Peter Slade remained the driving force of this renaissance, abroad as well as in Britain, writing numerous books, pamphlets and articles and speaking at conferences such as the Conference on Drama and Education planned by the Ministry of Education (1964). His first book, Child Drama, written in 1954, was hailed as the bible of drama in education, and remains a seminal text today. Other books followed, including Introduction to Child Drama (1958), Experience of Spontaneity (1968) and Natural Dance (1977). His last book was Child play: its importance for human development (1995). Slade was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 1997. His principle of the importance of individual self-development through personal and projected play and the need for careful stimulus and encouragement by adults, has been widely accepted as a part of British cultural life, and it is still being developed today.


The collection arrived in an assortment of boxes and carrier bags; parts of it have been bundled together and headed with a note by Peter Slade himself, whereas other parts seem more jumbled. It has proved impossible to reconstruct the original order of the collection, due to the dismantling of his personal papers by Slade himself, who wished to retain much of the material in order to carry on his work. Therefore, the bundles created by Slade himself have been retained as PS/1, and contain an assortment of papers, mainly consisting of correspondence, but in some cases including such items as programmes, newspaper cuttings, pamphlets and minutes.

The remainder of the collection, which was disorganised, has been arranged for easiest access into classes based upon physical qualities, as follows:

  • PS/1 Correspondence and papers (sorted by Peter Slade).
  • PS/2 Manuscripts and typescripts.
  • PS/3 Books.
  • PS/4 Pamphlets and journals.
  • PS/5 Scrapbooks.
  • PS/6 Photographs.
  • PS/7 Recorded material.
  • PS/8 Recent material

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Individuals have the right to make a request to see data relating to them held by the JRUL which falls under the provisions of the DPA. Access requests must be made formally in accordance with the provisions set out in the DPA and all enquiries should be directed to the University's Data Protection Officer.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Custodial History

The archive was deposited at the Library by Peter Slade in two instalments, in 1988 and 1989. A few documents were added in 1996 (listed under PS/8 Recent material), and more are expected.


Anthony R. Jackson: 'Archives of an Educational Drama Pioneer: a Survey of the Peter Slade Collection in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 72, no. 2 (1990), pp. 153-66.

P.A. Coggin: Drama and Education: An Historical Survey from Ancient Greece to the Present Day, (London, Thames & Hudson, 1956).

Gavin Bolton: Drama As Education: An Argument for Placing Drama at the Centre of the Curriculum, (Harlow, Longman, 1984).