When is it fun to be an archivist? Hold me back.
But imagine my joy last week when I came across the audiocassette below in Dennie Briggs' collection, digitised it, and heard an iconic moment in the history of therapeutic community come alive: "The Concept off-broadway play (improvisations) with ex-addicts PBS 18.ii.71 WQED Pittsburg".
How many people have that experience? But it gets better.
In May 1968, Dr. Richard Crocket, Director of the Ingrebourne psychotherapeutic community, went to see "The Concept" live in New York City. We have Richard Crocket's archives, which have been fully catalogued thanks to a grant from the family, and in them are the transcribed diaries of the trip Richard took to the United States in May through June 1968 to explore mental health provision in the States (read those here!). In his diary entry made Sunday the 19th he says:
...we collected tickets which I had booked for the "Concept" in Sheridan Square Theatre. The performance was at 10 p.m. and we went and had a very crowded, but large and excellent Spanish meal elsewhere in Greenwich Village meanwhile.
"Concept" was evolved as a script, recording personal historical experiences and comments of members of the organisation known as Day Top. This is a body of ex-drug addicts, who have completely established a community on an island in the Catskills (?) near New York. They display in this script the procedures and experiences of treatment in the Day Top regime. It was a skilled and moving performance, although the actors are not professionals. (I believe that the play is produced professionally). The theatre is a small one, and is in the round, or rather, in the square. The stage projects into the auditorium with the audience seated on three sides. The theatre accommodates about 300-400 people. It was packed. The content of the play was entirely characteristic of the content of any typical phase of the work of the Ingrebourne Centre. If I had wanted to exhibit what we do, on the stage, it could not have been improved upon. All the community mechanisms were there, even though the culture was very different indeed, and very rough at times.
When I interviewed Dr. Crocket in 1999 he referred back to the play, which took him in a very interesting direction:
...because the content [of the play] really is a typical phase of the work of the Ingrebourne Centre. At that time, the Centre was changing. It went through an evolutionary change, as it were, from being an active acute general psychiatric unit to permissive, interpretive psychotherapeutic set-up. This was a progression which really happened because of my interest in interpretive group therapy. And I gradually shaped, or made use of changes in the organisation of the Centre in that direction, because that's where of course my skills were. At this time, when we were being more directive, we were halfway between being a general hospital psychiatric unit, taking people who'd attempted suicide, schizophrenic patients, drug addicts and so on, treating them with drugs and E.C.T. So the concept demonstrations were demonstrations of directive therapy. People going into the community. It was being authoritarian - Daytop was being authoritarian, and directive in the way they related to those being admitted. And so there is of course that additional comment to make about this, that it was the way things were at the time. But later on it became much more interpretive and permissive, and group orientated. Whereas with directive treatment of this kind you had to be more individualistic. And you can't really mix directive and non- directive psychotherapy in one person. The only one way you can do it is by separating off the directive element, and making it self-contained, which means changing the patients from the one milieu to the other, rather than trying to modify the milieu to take care of different kinds of patients. Just a point, a quite important ......... is that the task of organising services for an area, or for a population, it's so tempting to think that you've set up a unit and it will be able to deal with whatever comes...
(CF329, Richard Crocket interviewed by Craig Fees, 3/11/1999)
Being an archivist is fun on so many levels. But when disparately aggregated objects, people, ideas and events begin to bounce off one another - when a record created in 1999 with one therapeutic community pioneer meets a recording accessioned in 2016 from the collection of another, and meet together with another record accessioned in 2000 but created in 1968...when time collapses because of the persistence of the archive itself, and the lives, and love and care of people who have fed their materials into it ...that is a very special moment. But it gets better.
Saved within Richard Crocket's files is the programme from the 1968 performance itself, and an insert.
The title page from the programme:
And it gets better!
But not on this occasion.Out of time.