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Dennis Potter Heritage Project

capture.jpgFrom 2008, Dr Joanne Garde-Hansen worked with the Dean Heritage Centre, Voices in the Forest and Jason Griffiths from the University of Gloucestershire (UoG) to raise funds to purchase the written archives of the screenwriter, journalist and author Dennis Potter (1935-1994). Funded by the Heritage Lottery in 2010, the project to bring the archive to the Forest of Dean was completed in June 2013. The final celebration event organised by Joanne and Jason brought together members of the community with television researchers Prof John Cook, Dr Glen Creeber, Dr David Rolinson, with input from television producer Kenith Trodd. Working with the Rural Media Company, members of the Forest of Dean community, volunteers, PhD students, Potter scholars, TV producers and the Dean Heritage Centre, Joanne continued to be instrumental in influencing the project after her move to the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies. The project produced a community film, an exhibition, an audio tour, digital storytelling, oral history interviews, archive donations and two PhD scholarships. For more about the project and its sponsorship by Lord Melvyn Bragg click here.

Dennis Potter was a controversial figure both regionally and nationally. Yet, his key works Pennies from Heaven (1978), Blue Remembered Hills (1979), and The Singing Detective (1986) are considered classic television dramas. His final interview with Melvyn Bragg on The South Bank Show in 1994, where he discusses mortality as well as offering a critique of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, is considered one of the greatest television interviews, click here.

How and why Potter’s archive should be remembered, engaged with, and used have been important questions that have driven the academic component of the heritage work. Critical issues have emerged in inheriting screen media practice. Ownership – to whom does Dennis Potter’s legacy belong? Creativity – what are the underlying economies of creativity in this particular region of England? Archives – to what extent are archives of creative output more than just records to be managed and preserved? Memory – what are the competing narratives of personal, social and collective memory mediating around Potter’s oeuvre by audiences, fans, producers and extras (who worked directly on the productions on location)?

Some of these questions are addressed in Remembering Dennis Potter through Fans, Extras and Archives (Palgrave Pivot, 2014). Mostly, they will be interrogated by the future scholarship of the two PhD students working on the Dennis Potter archive and heritage: Hannah Grist (University of Gloucestershire) supervised by Ros Jennings (UoG) and Joanne Garde-Hansen (Warwick); and Laura Earley (Glasgow Caledonian University), supervised by John Cook (GCU), Ros Jennings (UoG) and Joanne Garde-Hansen (Warwick). We look forward to their future findings and to more research on television (as) heritage. For updates and news see Potter Matters blog.

Follow on impact project July 2015: Dennis Potter in Place: The Beast with Two Backs....Is Back!beast

Joanne Garde-Hansen collaborated with Jason Griffiths and Hannah Grist at the University of Gloucestershire on a HRF funded 'impact' project in the Forest of Dean, to bring a rarely seen television play to an audience that remembers the value of television for their community.

Saturday July 18th, 2015
Lydbrook, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

In 1968 a Forest of Dean village became home to a made for television film as actors, directors, cameras, costumes - and a bear! spent a week there making Potter's Wednesday Play, A Beast with Two Backs. Using local school children and adults as extras, and the local pub as hair & make-up head quarters, on-location filming took place in the village and surrounding area. Nearly 50 years on the play returned for a day of recollection, talks, exhibition, and the first ever theatrical screening of the play itself.

This event was put together by the partnership of the University of Gloucestershire and the University of Warwick, with the support of the British Film Institute, Forest of Dean Local History Society, and Dean Heritage Museum.