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New Attenborough archive opens to the public

This photo of Michael and Richard Attenborough, backstage in the mid 1980s, is one of more than 25,000 images in the Attenborough Archive.

Theatre director and University of Sussex graduate Michael Attenborough discussed the archive of his late father, actor and filmmaker Richard Attenborough, on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Film Programme’ on Thursday (7 June).

The collection has been donated to the University of Sussex by the Attenborough family, in recognition of Lord Attenborough’s 40-year association with the University, which culminated in 10 years as its Chancellor until 2008.

It contains thousands of never-before-seen photographs, letters, script notes and more spanning Richard Attenborough’s extraordinary life and career.

The wealth of material includes family photographs and letters from his brother Sir David Attenborough; general correspondence with everyone from Charlie Chaplin and Laurence Olivier, to The Queen and Dirk Bogarde; and items from Attenborough’s acting and directing career, covering the making of Gandhi, Oh What A Lovely War!, Jurassic Park and much more.

The feature on ‘The Film Programme’ covers a range of material, including the controversy after Cry Freedom - set in late-1970s apartheid-era South Africa - was released there in 1987, when apartheid still existed; and Richard Attenborough’s personal autograph collection, from people such as artist Pablo Picasso and Roman Catholic missionary Mother Teresa.

Michael Attenborough says: “This massive archive reflects my father’s breathtakingly active life, not only as a movie actor and director,  but also as an indefatigable fighter for human rights and social justice, through the many causes, political and charitable, he believed in so passionately.

“The range of people he knew intimately - from Noel Coward to Nelson Mandela, from Laurence Olivier to Princess Diana - is unprecedented. This archive now offers the world a real insight into this completely unique life.”

After 18 months of painstaking cataloguing, working closely with the Arts Council, the collection will be available from next week (Monday 11 June) for the public to explore at The Keep, the purpose-built archive near to the University’s campus at Falmer. See more information and register as a reader to view material.

The Film Programme’ is available online and will be repeated on BBC Radio 4 at 11pm on Sunday (10 June).

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Thursday, 14 June 2018

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