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Blackadder and Time Team star Sir Tony Robinson: ‘I lived in a Kentish Town squat’

Sir Tony Robinson at the opening of Re-Staging Revolutions. Picture: Nigel Sutton. Sir Tony Robinson at the opening of Re-Staging Revolutions. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Friday, February 14, 2014
9:00 AM

Actor and TV presenter Sir Tony Robinson has revealed he lived in a squat in Kentish Town during the early days of the alternative theatre movement which raged in Camden throughout the 1970s.

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Project leader Dr Susan Croft. Picture: Nigel Sutton.Project leader Dr Susan Croft. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Sir Tony, famed for playing Baldrick in legendary BBC comedy series Blackadder, spoke about his squatting days as he opened an exhibition exploring the history of alternative theatre in Camden at Camden Archives in Holborn Library on Tuesday.

The former Time Team presenter, who was knighted last year for his public and political service, told the Ham&High: “I lived in Camden for a lot of the early ‘70s. I lived in a squat in Kentish Town and we were doing a lot of alternative theatre work.

“It was one of these squats that Camden Council allowed us to live in because it was inexpensive for people who couldn’t afford big rents.”

Sir Tony, 67, a St John’s Wood resident, gave a speech about his time in alternative theatre to a packed crowd inside the archives room at the library, in Theobalds Road, Holborn, before officially opening the Re-Staging Revolutions exhibition on Tuesday evening.

The exhibition, curated by Heritage Lottery-funded project Unfinished Histories, traces the ­development of alternative theatre in Camden and Lambeth after the lifting of old censorship laws ­administered by the Lord Chamberlain in 1968.

As a result of the new-found liberation, alternative theatre championing ideas unrepresented by the old order – such as work by feminist, gay and disability groups – flourished throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, especially in Camden.

Sir Tony said: “It’s weird ­because on telly if I talk about forgotten history I tend to be referring to the Lollards or the Chartists but this is forgotten history of our own lifetime. Forgotten history that I was actually part of.

“It had a massive influence in retrospect and so much of it ­either wasn’t recorded or was lost. It needs to be pulled together.”

Dr Susan Croft, director of Unfinished Histories, who curated the exhibition with the help of volunteers, said: “When I looked at the alternative theatre directory for the time – to map this burgeoning movement – Camden addresses came up over and over again.

“Fifty per cent of the companies seemed to be based in Camden. Camden had a really vibrant alternative culture anyway. There were so many squats in Camden so artists could live very cheaply.

“A company called Stirabout, which was the first company to perform in prisons, rehearsed in a squat in The Bishops Avenue.

“It just enabled people to live very cheaply and create art, rehearse, explore and experiment with different theatrical forms.

“They weren’t necessarily illegal squats, they were licensed squats or church halls that were very cheap to rent but these days would be turned into luxury flats.”

Re-Staging Revolutions runs at Camden Archives until May 10. For more information, visit www.unfinishedhistories.com

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