The Centre aims to provide links to materials and archives at Sussex which may be of interest to practitioners, students and scholars of creative and performing arts.

  • Richard Attenborough Papers

    The papers provide a very comprehensive record of Attenborough’s career as actor, film director and producer. There are documents, correspondence and photographs from his film-making and acting work over seven decades. The papers also have material about the acting career of his wife Sheila Sim.

    There is correspondence, production notes and scripts for most films that Attenborough was involved in. These include Oh! What a Lovely WarCry Freedom and Shadowlands. There are several boxes of papers about the Oscar winning film Gandhi, including “Call sheet 55” which details the particulars of filming Gandhi’s funeral sequence in which over 300,000 extras were used. This scene still holds the World Record for most extras ever used in a film.

    There is extensive correspondence with people from all professions and backgrounds: actors, writers, film directors, theatre producers, journalists, broadcasters, businessmen, politicians, public figures, family and friends. Well known figures include Lawrence Olivier and Dirk Bogarde.

    The papers demonstrate the varied interests of Richard Attenborough who was Chancellor of University of Sussex between 1998 and 2008. He was chairman, president and trustee of many organisations, ranging over the film and theatre industries, the arts, charity work, broadcasting, education, politics and other areas of society.

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  • Barrie Gavin Film Archive

    The University Music Department has acquired access to some 80 films on musicians, composers and their music by the distinguished film director Barrie Gavin. His close collaboration with composer Pierre Boulez, lasting 40 years, resulted in a series of analytical documentaries on key figures in 20th century music. During the 1970s Gavin worked with folk writer and musician A.L.Lloyd to produce a series of documentaries on folk music and culture in the UK and parts of Europe. 

    The archive can be studied by students and visiting researchers to the University via the School of Media, Arts and Humanities Resources Centre.

    Featuring interviews with composers and performers, footage of rehearsals and performances from some of the world's most esteemed orchestras and ensembles, the work is a valuable resource for music and film researchers alike. The films consist of a number of portraits of composers including Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Toru Takemitsu, and more.

    As well as an insight into particular composer's methods and major works the collection illustrates the development of modern composition as a whole, dealing with the historical, cultural and philosophical origins of 20th century art music. In particular such films as The New Language of Music and A Different Beauty both presented by Boulez, explore the beginnings of atonal music, charting comparisons with that and contemporary abstract art.    

    Along with the series of composer portraits is a series of films focussing on individual pieces. The Beyond the Score series of programmes originally shot for the BBC during the 1970s and 80s features in depth analysis of several major works of music including The Planets, The Brandenburg Concertos and more.  

    Shot from the early 60s until the present day, the films present a unique insight into music documentary making throughout the years. Many of the early documentaries are shot on film and later works include several pieces of digital abstract film accompanying famous works, notably some by Toru Takemitsu and Jonathan Harvey. Most of the documentaries were made for the BBC, including some Omnibus editions.

    Barrie Gavin spoke about his work to Ed Hughes (Prof of Composition in Music, University of Sussex) on 10 July 2019. Barrie recalls working with several of the composers represented in the Sussex collection, including Jonathan Harvey, Pierre Boulez, Oliver Knussen and Toru Takemitsu.



  • Altman-Koss Video Jazz Archive

    The collection was donated to the University's Music Department by an alumnus, the distinguished film and television composer and producer, John Altman. The collection comprised approximately 1600 VHS tapes of footage of jazz performances recorded off-air from television broadcasts. Altman, along with his colleague the late Eric Koss, established a network of collectors who had been exchanging and sharing the footage over a period of some years.

    The School of Media, Arts and Humanities has started to digitise this footage in order to enhance access to the collection for students, and for visiting scholars.

    The Centre is highlighting this to improve knowledge and understanding of the collection. This will allow the collection a new lease of life, preserving footage that might otherwise have been lost from studio archives. Having the collection in one place provides the opportunity for researchers to look at it in a broader context and to readily compare material across a wide range of sources.

    The physical collection also includes meticulously hand typed index cards which will be documented along with the footage, as well as a number of notes to and from various collectors, along with newspaper cuttings from some of the broadcasts. It also includes several revised catalogues with details of when and where the material was collected. Over time the carefully catalogued tapes have been subject to the slow shuffle of entropy, so it is hoped that the digitisation of the collection will preserve their order. As an artefact, the collection bears the marks of a community of avid collectors who put huge amounts of time and effort into an area of study that Heile notes had hitherto been overlooked. As the title of one of the catalogue attests, the collection is the extraordinary result of the dedicated efforts of a 'video freak'. The collection will be made available through the School of Media, Arts and Humanities Resource Centre to current students and to visiting scholars.