I had just graduated from LJMU with a 1st class BA (Hons) in English Literature when I heard about the internship. At first I assumed (never assume) that the internship would not be for graduating students. After speaking with Dr Rebecca Bailey I was assured otherwise, and I quickly sent in my application.
The main interest for me was the historical aspect. Though my passion is English literature, my great love is history, and the early-modern period is such an interesting period that I was incredibly excited by the project. The opportunity to help out at a symposium with Rebecca and Dr Eva Griffith, an independent theatre historian, was a fantastic prospect as a student…and to have the opportunity to spend some time at the London Metropolitan Archives was almost too much excitement. So, I went to my interview with everything crossed. I was thrilled to be one of two interns chosen.
My fellow intern, Alina Burwitz, second-year undergraduate student on the BA (Hons) in Drama & English was in Norfolk for the summer. We liaised through text and WhatsApp, and set up Twitter and Facebook accounts to generate whatever interest in the project we could. The distance was, at times, challenging, but we overcame the obstacle effectively enough to help create a sell-out event. Rebecca was adamant that Alina and I gained from the internship on a personal level, as well as experiencing the wonderful possibilities at our fingertips, including the chance to organise the event, being hands-on with all aspects of the process, and meeting and liaising with all involved. These became obvious additions to our CVs.
We were soon off to London!
On our first evening Eva took us on a short walk from Covent Garden to where, it is believed, the Cockpit-Phoenix theatre stood. Now a carpark, tucked away from view, it is riveting to imagine that such a splendid place once existed. Trying to tune in to a different time amongst the pleasures of modern day life; cars, neon lights, and modern housing, was no easy feat: but Eva’s enthusiasm for those long forgotten foundations are infectious, and we were soon lost in our own imaginations.
The next day we were off to the London Metropolitan Archives where we met Tom Furber, LMA’s Development Officer, and a crowd of wonderful RSC actors, including Nigel Hastings who appeared in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Tunji Kasim who appeared in Trainspotting 2. So, whilst Alina spent time with the actors I went on a tour of the archives with Rebecca and Tom. It was an absolute pleasure. Suddenly the hidden historian in me was awake, and wanted to while away the hours looking at dusty old books and documents, long forgotten by time. Alas, much needed to be done, and work began on setting up for the symposium the next day.
We returned to London Metropolitan Archives the next morning bright and early. There was a lot to do, yet Tom made time for me to help him, and Eva, lay out the documents (17th century documents no less) ready for the guests. In such a whirlwind of activity I was probably more hindrance than help, but I was made to feel a part of the archives for a short period, and I relished the opportunity. I cannot thank Tom enough for accommodating me, it has left me wanting more and with a desire for more archival experience.
The speakers of the conference were all brilliant. All of them opened up possibilities of discussion and debate. Eva began the event with her paper, ‘Christopher Beeston and the Cockpit in Documents’ and was followed by Rebecca’s paper on ‘James Shirley and the Cockpit-Phoenix Stage’. Other papers included; Dr Lucy Munro (King’s College London), ‘Queen Henrietta Maria’s Theatrical Patronage Revisted’, Dr Eoin Price (Swansea University) ‘Reviving Failure at the Caroline Cock-pit’, Dr Christopher Matusiak (Ithaca College New York), ‘The Cockpit at War, 1642-1656’, and Stephen Watkins (University of Southampton), ‘Davenant at the Cockpit’. Professor Elspeth Graham concluded, with a talk ‘Introducing Shakespeare North’. There was a lot of information, research and questions to absorb, including Eva’s opening question of whether the Cockpit Phoenix Theatre was actually the beginning of the West End?
The actors did a wonderful job of recreating old plays, though they were limited by time and space. To see the actors at work, and to be given an idea of what the plays were like, was a real treat. There was plenty of positive comments afterwards, both at the symposium and on social media, for example; @KeithpHill said ‘A wonderful, inspiring intriguing day, thankyou. How much more do I not know?’ and Patrick Boyce tweeted ‘Many thanks…1st EM drama symposium I’ve been to-so yr friendly& inclusive approach was v.welcome’.
And that was not all…there were musicians, a harpsichord, and theorbo to add to the atmosphere.
For us interns the symposium was not the end, only the beginning, with opportunities to write pieces for the LMA and BSA, and to develop our CVs and prospects no end! We were given amazing access and possibilities through this internship, and I would recommend anyone to grab these opportunities with both hands! They are there to give you an advantage, to develop your skills, and award you with experiences that you might not have again.