April 25, 2018, by Sarah Colborne

Work placement with Manuscripts and Special Collections: the Stephen Lowe papers

This is a guest post by Georgia Cannon, second year undergraduate music student.

Papers of Stephen Lowe including photos and typescripts

Some materials from the Stephen Lowe collection

As part of my Music degree, I chose to do a work placement module. I never realised there would have been an opportunity for working at Manuscripts and Special Collections, but I put it as my first choice knowing it would be interesting to do something a bit different!

I was given the task of assisting with working with the Stephen Lowe Collection, an accession of around 58 box files that came from Stephen’s house. These were full of materials from across his career including scripts, publicity material, VHS and cassette tapes, photos and some intriguing letters from famous people.


In the first few weeks I went through each box file one by one and logged their contents onto an Excel spreadsheet, noting down the names of the works the material related to as well as researching information such as dates, points of interest and the location of first performances. I found this part of the placement really interesting as I got to look at many different types of material and go through an entire career. After I had completed this part of the task I began the job of moving the materials into new archive boxes. I chose to organise the materials by grouping them by the title of work and created bundles of all the materials that related to that work. I wrapped the materials in acid free paper and placed them into folders before placing them into archive boxes and labeling them. I had to create a new spreadsheet to show the contents of the new boxes which was much easier to navigate. It was very rewarding when I completed this task and I hope that it will be useful for future researchers who view the collection.

Volunteer wrapping items in acid free paper in the Reading RoomAbout Stephen Lowe

Stephen is a highly acclaimed local playwright and has had many successes in the world of theatre and television. He is president of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, who wrote a tribute celebrating his recent 70th birthday – https://nottinghamcityofliterature.com/blog/stephen-lowe-at-seventy-a-tribute

He was a writer of over 100 episodes of Coronation Street as well as a writer of scripts for episodes of Dalziel and Pascoe. He worked with Lakeside Arts, and with Nottingham Playhouse, most notably with his production of ‘Touched’ which explored the role of women during WW2. In the 1980’s he set up Meeting Ground Theatre Company with his wife Tanya Myers, an actress.

What can you gain from a placement at MSC?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Manuscripts and Special Collections and have gained many skills that will be useful for my future whether I choose to join a career in the heritage sector or not. Time management and organisation skills were key to my role to ensure I completed my task on time and in an efficient manner. It also allows you to become more independent and I made a number of decisions by myself as to how I felt the organisation of the materials would be appropriate. You are also given manual handling training on how to handle materials and also learn about how to preserve materials which is very useful. Finally it is a great opportunity to write about on a CV! I would highly recommend doing a volunteering placement at Manuscripts and Special Collections as it allows you to work with a great team and do something different!

Trolley loaded with archive boxes

Some of the completed archive boxes I created.

Work is ongoing to produce an online catalogue description of the Stephen Lowe archive. For more information about Manuscripts and Special Collection visit https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/index.aspx

For information on Stephen Lowe visit his website http://www.stephen-lowe.co.uk/ and the Meeting Ground Theatre Company website http://www.meetinggroundtheatrecompany.co.uk/

Posted in Guest blogs