There was a recent remembrance of Stuart Hall by Clancy Sigal in the London Review of Books. He recalled late-1950’s times in the Partisan coffee shop in Carlisle Street in Soho and clashes (mild and verbal) with Raphael Samuel. Along with the hang-out of the CP Historians Group [Dona Torr, Dorothy Thompson and others] and the editorial meetings of Universities & Left Review they evoke a moment in the manifestations of the post-war British left that attracts an aura and promise that ‘what was once, might be again’. But …
The streets aren’t aflame on a regular basis.
Reverently I went with a good friend to Kate Crutchley’s memorial at Oval House Theatre. It was a composite show of Women’s theatre from the 70’s and 80’s, when she was Artistic Director. Fifteen minute pieces of comedy , drama and song. It was part of Re-staging Revolutions : Alternative Theatre in Lambeth and Camden 1968-88. My friends all had been very active in writing and acting in the theatre at that time. They restaged their plays and what was amazing was I felt they were fresh and undated, and relevant, not as a political movement but as an historical one now.
Oval House, and Kate Crutchley’s work within it, was more than a space for performance. It was the hub of a politically supportive network that sought to give practical encouragement to confront the politically initiated and socially divisive economic policy of those decades.
Kate Crutchley didn’t work alone: The Theatre of Black Women, Gay Sweatshop, Sadista Sisters, Welfare State International, Mrs Worthington’s Daughters for example were part of a multitude of pre-figurative structures that responded to the moment.
It is poignant that her passing comes at a moment when hard-knuckle, socially-engaged art needs space and that space is more controlled that we can recall.
Lesley Brew (b 1958) is a British photographer whose work aims to deconstruct conventional interpretations of portraiture. The projects often deal with the notion of identity and belonging and show the relationship to the environmental .
Additional material by John Levett