Oral historian and AMOHG member, Margaret Leask, has spent some of the past six years on a major project for the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. Asked originally to write a history of the Trust, she agreed instead to undertake extensive research into musician/administrator Warwick Ross’s long standing involvement with the Trust and conduct an extended oral history interview with him. This was recorded over 10 x 3-4 hour sessions in the second half of 2015. The Trust decided to have the recordings transcribed and in 2017 the decision was made to edit the transcription (some 500 pages), for publication as an e-book on-line, illustrated with images from the Trust’s extensive archive, some of which is on-line, with the intention to continue scanning and uploading material as time and resources allow.
Editing, while retaining Warwick’s turn of phrase and vocabulary, fact checking, adding footnotes and deciding on images took some time, particularly given Margaret’s other projects and Warwick’s work on the Trust’s Music Scholarship Program. During this process, the Trust connected with the National Library (where much of its archive is housed) and was linked to Trove to facilitate researchers and those interested in the Trust’s history.
Gradually the story took shape. Attempting to follow a chronological path through an oral history interview has its challenges. Memories are provoked by other memories, not necessarily in date order, and part of the editing process involved making sure there was minimal repetition and that stories were placed in some kind of order to effectively illustrate Warwick’s unique journey of music management alongside the fortunes and misfortunes of the Trust.
Once the copy was close to being ready, a designer, John Senczuk started to work on the layout, chapter headings, links to be embedded, and images for the on-line version. All this was happening as Covid impacted on any face to face work, so there were many zoom sessions regarding corrections, image captions, fonts etc. By this time the exhaustion factor had kicked in for Warwick – he was over talking about his past and keen to work on the future! As November 2021 approached, with the plan to get the e-book on-line before Christmas, the Trust decided they would also like a print version. This meant preparing an index, changing the layout, getting printer quotes while remaining clear headed enough to find some lurking errors and inconsistencies in the copy. Luckily both John and Margaret are theatre historians!
The downloadable e-book was up on-line before Christmas and the print version became available on 15th December 2021. For Margaret it has been a thought-provoking experience about the oral history process and outcomes. Warwick’s first-hand experience put into print in this way (as opposed to an interpretation through the words of an historian), is a fascinating outcome, particularly for Margaret being part of the process from research, through interviewing, editing and annotating to publication. Here is a short description of the outcome.