On June 16th London Bubble launched a series of 40th anniversary celebrations with Mavericks and Groundbreakers, a full blooded consideration of the theatre scene in 1972 led by founding director Glen Walford. Also giving their views on the culture and counter culture of the time were Mike Bradwell, Hilary Westlake, David Gale and Jenny Harris.
A full house of theatre makers past and present chipped in with reflections on, and comparisons with, the pioneering days of small scale and alternative theatre. Moderator Sandy Craig described the early 70’s as the tipping point – between 1968 and 1978 the number of companies expanded from 6 to over 150, and Arts Centres and small scale touring venues blossomed likewise.
The idea behind the Bubble, led by the Greater London Arts Association – to set up a company to tour outer London and attract new theatre goers – is difficult to see being repeated in the near future, but the vision of the endeavour was matched in many places by similar outfits touring regions which lacked provision. Out of this came Hull Truck led by Mike Bradwell, and the innovative educational projects of the Brighton Combination which were described and re-valued by the company’s then co-director Jenny Harris.
Unsurprisingly the audience wanted to debate the changing position of Equity and the Arts Council and give opinion on whether things had really improved over the 40 years. People can continue to feed into this during the coming year as the Bubble host events focussing on developments over the 40 years in Children’s Theatre and Young People’s Theatre. Finally the company will look forward 40 years to consider how Community Theatre might look in 2052.
Across the year, London Bubble will also be throwing open its archive of photographs, posters, scripts and memorabilia. The event on the 16th marked the opening of the section of the exhibition relating to 1972- 1982. During the year we will be adding a Bubblepedia section to our website where people can browse images, revisit projects and record recollections.
A video from the event, featuring Glen Walford talking about the original idea and early years of the company, is available here