King's Head Theatre Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains the records of the King's Head Theatre dating from its beginning in 1970 until 2010, when the building was leased to another theatre company. The following type of materials are part of this collection:

BMT/1/1 - BMT/1/6 contain records relating to the running of the King’s Head Public House and King’s Head Productions Limited including: board papers, premises records, financial records, fundraising records, correspondence, and other administrative documents.

BMT/1/7 contains general press and publicity material for the venue and its staff.

BMT/1/8 contains materials related to the history of both companies such as awards and production lists as well as biographical material on Dan Crawford.

BMT/1/9 includes the production and events files and comprise of materials on: visiting companies and performers; productions and co-productions involving King’s Head Productions Limited and Dan Crawford; and fundraising galas. Includes records for performances and events that took place at the King’s Head and at other venues.

BMT/1/10: the proposed production and event files, contain material on production and events that did not happen. Both BMT/1/9 and BMT/1/10 comprise variously of: correspondence; contracts; scripts and scores; lighting and stage plans; and press and publicity material.

BMT/1/11 contains photographic material on productions and events, people associated with the King’s Head, and the premises.

Finally BMT/1/12 contains records for two companies with a link to the King’s Head: the Elephant Theatre Club whose Artistic Director Sydney Golder also worked at the King’s Head as Lunchtime Director; and Goswell Estates Limited, a company that carried out refurbishment work at the venue in the 2000s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Daniel Frank Crawford was born 11 December 1942 in New Jersey. An actor and trained barman, he moved to London in 1969 with the intention of establishing a pub theatre. In 1970 he began leasing the King’s Head Public House, 115 Upper Street, Islington from the brewery company Ind Coope. Crawford and his first wife Joan managed the pub which filled the front part of the ground floor. They converted the function room towards the back of the property into a performance venue.

On 18 December 1970, The Empire Builders by Boris Vian became the first work performed in the space. This was not a commercial success. However, the venue’s second show The Collector by David Parker was better received by audiences. A range of entertainments began to be staged at the King’s Head including musicals, plays, mime, comedy, live music and revue shows in lunchtime, evening and late night slots. The theatre became well-known for discovering and promoting new talent including the playwrights Andrew Davies, Stewart Parker, Athol Fugard and Stephen Berkoff and actors Tom Conti, Anthony Sher, Victoria Wood, Ben Kingsley, John Hurt and Nichola McAuliffe and the singer Bertice Reading. It also championed the rediscovery and reappraisal of talents such as Terence Rattigan, Greatrex Newman, Noel Coward and Vivian Ellis. Many productions won awards and transferred to the West End and Broadway as well as national tours in the UK and overseas.

The venue became legendary for ringing up drinks in pounds, shillings and pence long after the conversion to decimal currency, the building's poor state of repair and the occasional financial difficulty. The company was funded through income from ticket, food and beverage sales alongside public, corporate and individual sponsorship. The relatively low level of Arts Council subsidy granted to the venue reached national attention in the 1990s following a parliamentary question asked by Islington’s local MP Chris Smith and a letter writing campaign. The King’s Head ceased to be an Arts Council revenue client in 2000 and the company subsequently restructured.

Dan Crawford died in 2005. Stephanie Sinclaire, Dan's second wife, who had worked in the company since the 1980s, continued to run the King’s Head. A director, producer and writer in her own right, Sinclaire organised a series of successful fundraising galas in 2006 and in the same year also co-directed the feature film A Maverick in London: The Story of the King’s Head Theatre Pub. In 2010 a new company took over the venue.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged as follows:

  • BMT/1/1 - King's Head Theatre company management and administration records
  • BMT/1/2 - King's Head Theatre premises records
  • BMT/1/3 - King's Head Theatre financial records
  • BMT/1/4 - King's Head Theatre fundraising records
  • BMT/1/5 - King's Head Theatre education records
  • BMT/1/6 - King's Head Theatre general correspondence
  • BMT/1/7 - King's Head Theatre general publicity and press
  • BMT/1/8 - King's Head Theatre company history
  • BMT/1/9 - King's Head Theatre productions and events records
  • BMT/1/10 - King's Head Theatre proposed productions and events records
  • BMT/1/11 - King's Head Theatre photographic records
  • BMT/1/12 - Records related to other companies

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Deposit from the Bunnett-Muir Musical Theatre Archive Trust, 2010. Photographs were transferred in 2013.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Custodial History

The King's Head Theatre company records where held at the theatre until 2008. Dan Crawford's widow, Stephanie Sinclair gifted the collection to Rex Bunnett and his trust Overtures: The Bunnett-Muir Musical Theatre Trust between 2009 and 2010.

Accruals

Further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to the King's Head Theatre, as well as individual cast and crew members for productions may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.