12th October 2017

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An archive tracing the Lincoln Mystery Plays back to their modern revival in 1969 has been launched at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) in Lincoln.

The Lincoln Mystery Plays Archive (incorporating the Keith Ramsay Collection) has now been preserved, catalogued and curated by Susan Rodda, Collections Librarian at BGU, and Claire Lamb.

The archive was donated to BGU in 2014 and was jointly launched at BGU by the University and the Lincoln Mystery Plays Trust on Friday 6 October 2017.

The Lincoln Mystery Plays (based on the N-Town Plays, a cycle of 42 medieval mystery plays) were revived first in 1969 and again in 1978 by Keith Ramsay, the former Head of Drama at what was then called Bishop Grosseteste College.

The plays have since been regularly performed in Lincoln Cathedral as well as in France, Italy and the United States.

The archive is a collection of ephemera from the first revival of the Mystery Plays to the latest in 2016. It includes more than 500 photographs, 130 press releases and reviews, 50 items of correspondence, programmes, scripts, working scripts, posters, DVDs of productions, television reports and interviews, music CDs and reference books.

The archive will remain in the library but, for research purposes, it now falls under the auspices of the University’s School of Humanities.

Susan Rodda commented: “Keith Ramsay, the driving force behind the revival of the Mystery Plays in 1978 and the director of all of the productions up to and including 2000, was keen that the Lincoln Mystery Plays Trust Archive should come to BGU where he taught drama for a number of years.

“He was delighted to find that I was to catalogue and curate it, as not only had I been one of his drama students, but I was also in his first 1978 production. It has been a privilege to follow Keith’s 20-year journey through the Mystery Plays, and to watch the plays continue to flourish as they head towards their 40th anniversary.

“Bishop Grosseteste University sees the scholarly potential of the Lincoln Mystery Plays Archive for students of medieval drama, community theatre, site-specific drama, religious drama and the practical aspects of staging theatre.

“Prior to the official launch the archive had already attracted visitors, and we hope to attract many more. It also provides a rich resource for future directors of the Lincoln Mystery Plays.

“The archive will continue to grow as the plays continue through the years, a tribute to one man’s dream and ambition and a testament to Lincoln’s commitment to community theatre.”

Mystery plays were plays based on Bible stories which were performed in towns and cities across mediaeval Europe, often in cycles lasting several days.

Lincoln had its own Mystery Plays in the Middle Ages but they had been defunct for centuries when they were first revived in 1969.

The Lincoln Mystery Plays Company has performed the cycle approximately every four years since 1978. The next scheduled performances will take place in 2020.

The archive collection is available to view by appointment only. Email e-mail susan.rodda@bishopg.ac.uk or call 01522 585606.