The Ayckbourn Archive

Celebrating Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular at 50

The Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives

Founded in 1953, the Borthwick Institute for Archives is part of the University of York Library, Archives and Learning Services. Its mission is to support and expand the University of York’s cultural endeavour and contribute to human understanding through collecting archives, preserving them and making them widely available for research to all people, now and in the future.

Few universities have archives with the range and quality of those at the Borthwick - from the medieval to modern periods, from York to Cape Town, and from Shanghai to Washington DC. The archive holds some of the earliest archbishops’ registers in the world, the archives of path-breaking psychiatric hospitals, business collections including the chocolate factories Rowntrees & Co Ltd and Terrys of York, and much more.

Thanks to generous funding from the Samuel Storey Trust the Borthwick Institute set up the Samuel Storey Writing and Performance Collection within the University Library and Archives. This enabled the acquisition of a number of archive collections, including those of playwrights
Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Julia Pascal and Peter Whelan, playwright and screenwriter Charles Wood, novelist and playwright David Storey; comedy writers Laurence Marks, Maurice Gran and Barry Took; actor and writer Yvonne Mitchell and BBC TV Comedy Producer and Musician, Ernest Maxin. More recently was the acquisition of the Frankie Howerd archive in 2021. This previously unknown and unexplored collection of scripts, correspondence and contracts is believed to be the only archive personally curated by renowned comedian.

The Borthwick Institute for Archives supports teaching across a wide range of departments and provide work experience and skills teaching across archive and archive conservation work, ranging through digital archives, parchment codices, photographic prints and negatives and reel-to-reel tapes.

The Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives

In 2011, the Borthwick Institute for Archives acquired the Alan Ayckbourn Archive for the nation thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Samuel Storey Charitable Trust, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries.

The archive - which contains thousands of items including original stage sketches, working manuscripts, plot diagrams and correspondence - is part of the internationally important Samuel Storey Writing and Performance Collection at the University’s Borthwick Institute.

The entire archive is available for public use and also forms a major teaching resource for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the School of Arts and Creative Technologies. It provides a unique research resource, due to the completeness with which it documents one of the most outstanding theatrical careers of our time.

The Ayckbourn Archive maps Sir Alan's pre-eminence as playwright, theatre director, and Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre ranging from his theatrical debut as an actor in 1956 to his decision to step down as Artistic Director of the SJT in 2006. Future instalments of material will continue to bring the Archive up-to-date with material relating to the past two decades.

The archive documents the composition and preparation of both his plays’ first productions and their subsequent runs elsewhere in the UK and abroad, as well as including many theatre reviews. It includes working drafts, holograph manuscripts and revised typescripts, showing Sir Alan creating some of the most complex comic structures of modern times. There are notes on plots, diagrams of relationships between characters, sketches of stage settings, and positionings and movements of characters.

Correspondence with playwrights, actors, directors, producers, designers and agents, reads like a Who’s Who of theatre from the second half of the 20th century onwards. Peter Hall, Peggy Ramsay, Trevor Nunn, Michael Winner, Stephen Sondheim, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Alan Plater and Martin Jarvis are among the familiar names which appear.

This website neither collects nor stores personal data. Whilst the website host may use cookies to analyse information on site performance and usage to ensure the best experience on this website, this information is anonymised so that no user-identifying information is shared