Mikron Theatre Company Archive

Scope and Content

Organisational archives relating to Mikron's activities since 1972, and related material from founder Mike Lucas' career in theatre prior to establishing Mikron. The collection includes an extensive number of Mikron original scripts, and documents Mikron's working processes as well as containing more 'finished' products like albums. Lucas' contributions to the Company as actor, writer, director, artistic director, tour manager and fundraiser from 1972-2005 are particularly well-recorded. As Mikron uniquely tours by canal narrowboat, many of their plays and often administrative material concern canal history, the restoration of Britain's canal network and issues around transportation.

The archive contains records relating to Mikron’s heritage including pre-1972 plays and other material relating to early incarnations of Mikron and Mike Lucas’ early career, material donated to Mikron by staff and supporters (particularly photographs), recordings of Mikron performances (audio and film), scrapbooks and files compiled as ‘heritage’(eg Mikron’s own digitisation projects), an oral history interview with Mike Lucas for the Unfinished Histories archive and reference material such as books, dissertations and other publications featuring Mikron. This section includes Mike Lucas’ published memoir: ‘I’d Go Back Tomorrow’ as well as books and other publications collected by Mikron as research material and for tour planning purposes.

Administrative and corporate planning records encompass Mikron Council of Management files, AGM files and annual reports and a small number of legal records. There is a substantial section of the archive containing records relating to Mikron's involvement in the running of Marsden Mechanics' Hall and events held there. This includes Marsden Mechanics Management Committee papers, Mikron at the Mechanics material, and records of the Marsden Jazz Festival (of which Mikron were joint-founders and organisers). Administrative records also include material relating to the Marsden Community Association and Marsden Business Association, general correspondence files, and records relating to the management assets and facilities, chiefly Mikron's narrowboat 'Tyseley'. Related to this are documents related to planning and managing tours, such as tour logs, Master Plans, Show Bookings files and correspondence with venues.

The archive contains material related to the function of managing Mikron's relations with its local community. This includes particularly the archive of the Mikron Youth Theatre group, as well as the records of particular education and outreach projects.

There are a substantial number of files relating to Mikron's fundraising activities, including applying for and managing grants from government and charities. This section also includes material relating to Mikron's search for, and relationships with corporate and individual sponsors. Friends of Mikron, the fundraising and advocacy group, is also well-documented, and there are examples of Mikron merchandise sold to generate income, alongside documents relating to other fundraising schemes.

The archive holds some material relating to financial management including bank statements, correspondence with the bank, budgets and returns, show sales information, cash books and show reports, insurance records and a small sample of records relating to government tax-relief schemes.

Mikron's administrative staff have long monitored commercial publications featuring Mikron and collected press cuttings. A series of press cuttings scrapbooks dates back to the Company's early years, and press cuttings files continue to be created. Mikron also kept recordings of broadcasts on radio and televsion in which they featured, and their dealings with broadcasters are documented in the archives.

Marketing, advertising and press relations records include a substantial collection of advertising material (eg posters and flyers), programmes, a large number of press and publicity photographs, press releases and press packs and working files.

Perhaps the largest section of the archive is the collection of scripts and directors' files. Scripts often include drafts and different versions, as some plays were re-worked when they were revived in subsequent years. Over the years Mikron has performed almost exclusively original plays, and each new Mikron script began with a carefully planned research stage. This has generated a large number of research files, many of which include notes from 'workshopping' a script, as well as notes and ephemera collected from external bodies. The Mikron research phase often included seeking out individuals with expertise or personal involvement in the topic in question, and conducting oral history interviews. These interviews are held within the archive, alongside permission forms governing their use.

Mikron ran a small number of projects for which the outputs included a filmed performance and these films have been transferred to Heritage Quay. Mikron shows always include a strong musical element, with original songs being written for each play. Many of these songs have subsequently been professionally recorded and released on albums, which are available in various formats within the collection. There are also some files documenting the recordings and the working processes of Mikron's musical directors and song-writers.

Further records relating directly to Mikron performances include casting files, job applications from freelancers and technicians, rehearsal Records (eg recordings of actors rehearsing), backdrops, a sample of props, costume and set designs.

The archive holds a mixture of analogue and digital records (including digital copies of traditional formats). Note that digital copies have been made for preservation purposes, and are not to be used commercially.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Mikron Theatre Company, the UK’s most prolific professional theatre company, was founded after a trio took a show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1963. MIKe Lucas, Sarah CameRON (later Sarah Lucas) and RON Legge (aka Danny Schiller) were the founder members. 'Mikron' also means small in Greek so it was an apt description of the company. The name was used intermittently over the following years until in 1972 Mikron established a permanent footing, and began touring the canal network and waterways. Mikron sought to bring theatre to new audiences in unusual venues, generally outside of London.

In 1973 Mikron became a charity, enabling them to apply for grant funding. They began to pay wages (rather than simply sharing in any profits from shows). In 1975 they obtained their first grant from Arts Council England. In 1985 the Arts Council announced that Mikron would no longer be a 'regularly funded organisation'. The company launched a campaign to appeal the decision and find alternative sources of funding. Out of this campaign the Friends of Mikron supporters' group emerged, fundraising and providing advocacy with various governmental and grant-giving bodies, as well as 'in-kind' support such as hospitality for touring actors. Friends receive a newsletter three times a year and are invited to fundraising events. The Friends remain an active group.

Alongside Arts Council funding and donations from Friends and other individuals, Mikron has often received support from Kirklees Council and sometimes other local and regional bodies. They have bid for grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and have obtained corporate sponsorship from large and medium-sized firms such as solicitors Alan Bridger & Co and the Co-operative Group. Mikron has also produced and sold branded merchandise since the 1970s, including t-shirts, bags and badges.

Patrons of Mikron have included actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West, as well as ballet dancer Dame Margot Fonteyn.

The Company has performed almost exclusively original material: over 60 new shows and over 360 new songs since 1972. Many of the first plays were based on the history of the canals and the people who lived and worked on them, fulfilling the company's mission to inform and entertain audiences. More recent themes have included the history of ice cream, bee-keeping, allotments, women’s rights, environmental activism and the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute. Up until 1985 the cast each year would research and write each show as a team under the guidance of Mike Lucas, listening to oral history interviews and workshopping scenes to develop a play. From 1985 onwards the shows were written by one or two members of the company, including by musical director and song-writer Jim Woodland. Mike Lucas is credited as author or co-author of over 30 plays. Researching each play took the form of consulting not only published sources, but visiting museums and other heritage organisations, consulting primary sources in archives, and recording oral history interviews with people who had direct experience of the subject.

In 1985 Mikron recruited its first musical director, Jane Griffith, as one of its four performers. Subsequent Musical Directors have included Jim Woodland, Janet Russell and Rebekah Hughes. Some of Mikron's musical output has been captured on record, as the company recorded and sold several official albums.

Four actor musicians perform all the roles in Mikron’s plays and all play a variety of musical instruments. Cast members have including Buffy Davis (best known for her role as Jolene in BBC Radio 4's serial drama 'The Archers') and Mark Williams (The Fast Show, Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films). Joining the cast in 1983, Williams was made an associate of the Company in 1985 and co-wrote the plays 'Still Carrying', 'Manchester-super-Mare', 'A View from the Hills' and 'Just the Job.'

Mikron has always been a touring theatre company. In summer they travel the UK’s canal network and alternate performing two different shows in pub gardens, village halls, restaurants and marinas. Since 1975 Mikron has toured in the narrowboat 'Tyseley'. Initially she was owned by a friend of the team, John May, who allowed Mikron to use the boat each summer. In 1979 he sold the boat to Mikron for £8000, paying for a new engine block himself. Maintenance, repairs and refurbishment of 'Tyseley' have periodically benefitted from specific appeal campaigns. From 1981 onwards Mikron has also toured by van across the north of England in the Autumn months. These road tours were originally known as 'South Pennine Tours'. In addition to Mikron's regular UK tours, in the 1980s they twice toured Belgium and northern France.

Since establishing the Company on a formal footing in the 1970s, it has been run by the Mikron Council of Management. Members have including long-standing chairman and canal historian Anthony (Tony) Burton. From 1977 Mikron has been based in Marsden, West Yorkshire, with administrative headquarters in the Marsden Mechanics Hall. This relationship led to Mikron's active involvement with the Marsden Community Association as well as the Mechanics; campaigning for its restoration and creating a programme of concerts, artists' exhibitions and plays by external touring companies under the banner of 'Mikron at the Mechanics'. Mikron was also a founder organisation behind the Marsden Jazz Festival. Mike Lucas and other Mikron staff were involved in selecting performers and artists, organising events, securring funding from Kirklees Council and other bodies, promoting events, selling tickets and artwork.

In the early days of the company, Sarah Lucas acted as Mikron's administator, tour coordinator and press officer, often operating from the back cabin of the boat. From 1985 onwards she became more office-based, running Mikron's 'Keep Mikron Afloat' campaign and increasingly acting as the company's 'trouble-shooter'. Mike Lucas acted as tour supervisor, responsible for its day to day running, for many years. He kept logs of each tour, initially just written but from 1990, supplemented by audio recordings. In 1995 he handed over the tour supervisor role to Richard Povall.

Due in part to Mikron's unique way of touring, there has been long-standing media interest in the company. Newspaper and magazine articles, as well as television and radio programmes such as 'Women's Hour' and 'England their England' have reported on the company.

In 2005 founder, long-serving Artistic Director and Manager Mike Lucas stepped down and his role was divided between Artistic Director Richard Povall and Producer Pete Toon. After initially joining Mikron as an actor in 2003, Marianne McNamara held a variety of positions in the company before taking over from Povall as Artistic Director. According to Mikron's website, the Artistic Director is responsible for 'show choices, commissioning writers, directors, designers and actors and monitoring and assessing the quality of [...] productions', whilst the Producer has 'overall non-artistic responsibility for the day-to-day running of the company.' Mikron also employs a General Manager responsible for office administration, Press and Fundraising officer in charge of publicity and funding applications, and Production Manager who divides her time between administrative and artistic duties.

Since its foundation Mikron has performed to around 400,000 people.

Information about Mikron Theatre Company can be accessed at: http://www.mikron.org.uk. This website includes complete chronological lists of Mikron plays and actors. Further information is also available in ‘I’d Go Back Tomorrow’, a memoir by Mike Lucas, as well as in the oral history interview he conducted as part of the Unfinished Histories Project (see Related Material, below).

Arrangement

The archive has been arranged in a functional classification scheme, and the records have been maintained in their original order where discernable.

MKN/AV: Mikron’s heritage

AV/1: Mike Lucas’ Early Career records

AV/2: Heritage Material Donated to Mikron

AV/3: Mikron Heritage Projects

AV/4: Mikron Heritage Reference Material: including the Mikron Reference Library.

MKN/CP: Corporate Planning and Administration

CP/1 Mikron Council of Management files and AGM Papers

CP/2 Legal Papers

CP/3 Marsden Mechanics’ Hall Papers: including Marsden Mechanics Management Committee, Mikron at the Mechanics records and Marsden Jazz Festival papers

CP/4 Marsden Community Association and Marsden Business Association

CP/5 General Correspondence files

CP/6 Managing Assets and Facilities

CP/7 Planning and Managing tours: Contact with Venues and Waterways authorities, tour logs, Master Plans.

MKN/CR: Community Projects

MKN/CR/1 Mikron Youth Theatre

MKN/CR/2 'Pennine Passage' Project Files

MKN/CR/3 Marsden Community Play

MKN/CR/4 'Traveller’s Fare' Educational Workshops

MKN/CR/5 Community Play,‘Village Voices’

MKN/CR/6 'Life on the Cut' Project

MKN/CR/7 Various Mikron Community Projects: Arranged chronologically.

MKN/FD: Fundraising

FD/1 Grant Funding Applications, Correspondence and Supporting Documents

FD/2 Sponsorship Files

FD/3 Friends of Mikron

FD/4 Merchandise

FD/5 Various Fundraising Schemes

MKN/FN: Financial Records

MKN/FN/1 Bank Account Statements

MKN/FN/2 Correspondence with Bank

MKN/FN/3 Charities Official Investment Fund Account Statements

MKN/FN/4 Budgets and Returns

MKN/FN/5 Cash Books and Show Reports

MKN/FN/6 Invoices

MKN/FN/7 Insurance

MKN/FN/8 Deeds of Covenant and Gift Aid Files

MKN/MD: Media Relations

MKN/MD/1 Press Cuttings Scrapbooks

MKN/MD/2 Press cuttings Files

MKN/MD/3 Broadcasts featuring Mikron and Related Papers

MKN/MK: Marketing Records

MKN/MK/1 Advertising Material: Posters, Programmes etc.

MKN/MK/2 Programmes and Tickets

MKN/MK/3 Press and Publicity Photos

MKN/MK/4 Press Releases and Press Packs

MKN/MK/5 Marketing Files: Audience surveys and Print Distribution Files

MKN/PF: Plays, Albums and Artistic Production Papers

MKN/PF/1 Scripts and Directors’ Files

MKN/PF/2 Research files.

MKN/PF/3 Oral History interviews (play research)

MKN/PF/4 Mikron Theatre Company Films

MKN/PF/5 Mikron Albums: LPs, cassettes, CDs.

MKN/PF/6 Music and Sound Effects

MKN/PF/7 Casting Files and Job applications from Freelancers and Technicians

MKN/PF/8 Rehearsal Records

MKN/PF/9 Backdrops, Props, Costume and Set Designs

Conditions Governing Access

Original available for consultation by appointment

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The archive contains material in a variety of formats including textiles (backdrops and merchandise), 1 sign, 5 boards, audio cassette tapes, UMATIC video cassette tapes, VHS magnetic tapes, vinyl records and printed material including large posters. It also contains digital material held on floppy disks, minidisks, CDs, DVDs (digital optical disks), a camera memory card, and external hard-drive.

Appraisal Information

Surplus copies of Mikron albums (all formats), programmes, posters, tour leaflets, branded folders have been removed. Non-Mikron related newspapers, some personal photographs, office supplies and very generic theatre props (e.g. tea pot) were returned to the depositor. Petty cash receipts and most Deed of Covenant papers have been removed. A random sample of three Deed of Covenant files was retained, covering a range of dates, in order to illustrate this aspect of the Mikron's work as a charitable organisation. As there are relatively few financial records in the collection, bank account statements have been retained.

Custodial History

Originally in storage in the Marsden home of Mike Lucas, co-founder of Mikron, before being transferred to storage areas accessible by the company in Marsden Mechanics Hall in the 1990s. Later files have come directly from the Mechanics to Heritage Quay.

Related Material

The Mike Lucas 'Mikron Library' is held at the University of Huddersfield Archives (Ref: MLL).

The Unfinished Histories Archive of alternative theatre troupes from the 1960s-1990s is held at the Bishopgate Institute Archive, and includes some material related to Mikron. The project also has its own website, http://www.unfinishedhistories.com/.