Howard, Pamela (6 of 11)  An Oral History of Theatre Design

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  • Recording date

    2006-06-26, 2006-07-13, 2006-08-09, 2006-08-14

  • Recording locations

    Various locations, London

  • Interviewees

    Howard, Pamela 1939- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: Continuation of story about art school; what this taught PH about looking things up in books. Telling parents about going to art school; refugee families who want to avoid being noticed; lack of knowledge about rights; living a quiet life. Feelings about getting away from KNGS; turbulence of this time. Description of the sickly smell of chocolate from the Cadbury’s factory; tours of the factory. [0:05:09] Parents’ knowledge of incident with the maths exam; tension between father and mother caused by PH; PH’s perception of life at that time; feeling on the outside. Mention of going to the Slade School of Fine Art [SSA] aged 18; effects of being older than her two sisters. [0:07:43] Story about physics lessons with Miss House; subjects that PH was good at; doing badly at subjects that disinterested her. Importance of music to PH; piano playing; being told she would not be a concert pianist; playing the keyboard. Music teacher, Sylvia Fenby who was taught buy composer Frank Bridge who was taught by [Frederick] Delius who was taught by Franz Liszt. Finding a world to belong to; importance of music to PH; awareness of music before learning the piano; piano lessons. Being a good self-motivator; hope that grandson will be musical. [0:16:46] Lack of friends at KNGS; social life outside of school; organising events and exhibitions. Seeing plays at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre [BR], the Hippodrome and the Theatre Royal; going to plays alone; going to see the ballet alone aged 12 or 13; seeing into the wings in the theatre. Reasons for deciding to be a theatre designer; why PH was first prompted to first go to the theatre; trip with youth group; going to rehearsals of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Finding a way into theatre; the variety of people who applied to Central School of Art and Design [Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design] [CS]. [0:24:16] Awareness of the theatre designer’s role; story about overhearing two men at the theatre talking about the designer. Story about first going to art college; taking autograph book of drawings; going to office of principal, Sir Meredith Hawes. Story about going to the education offices to obtain a student grant; filling in forms; learning about things in retrospect. Story about being made to learn embroider; being told to go and see the teacher of theatre design who was assistant to Paul Shelving [PS] at the BR; work of PS with George Bernard Shaw at the Malvern Festival; work of Sir Barry Jackson at BR. Being invited to work with Finlay James [FJ]; not realising that BR was not the art college; colouring in FJ’s costume drawings; spending 1954-1958 at the BR; National Diploma of Design. Learning useful skills at BR. Mention of going to SSA in 1958; state sponsorship. Comments about making things happen in life; PH’s determination. [0:40:02] How PH learnt skills at BR; system of resident designers and assistants in repertory theatres; work as a bucket cleaner; priming stage-cloths; making leaves to cover old flats; the designer’s progression through leaf-making; enlarging FJ’s drawings onto cloths. Story about the origins of the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry [BTC]; arrival of Albert Finney [AF] at BR who spoke to PH about John Osborne, Arnold Wesker [AW], Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright; AF’s plans to drive to BTC if the M1 motorway was finished in time; newspapers’ fear of motorway madness. Mention of meeting Jocelyn Herbert [JHe] at BTC; hearing about Bertolt Brecht [BB] from her; her design for a play by AW; seeing ‘Look Back in Anger’. Comments about the influence of JHe on PH.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Pamela Howard (1939-), theatre designer.

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