St. Albans Pageant, 1907: Queen Elizabeth at Gorhambury.

Courtesy of St. Albans Museums.

An Interview with Chloe Ratcliffe

Chloe Ratcliffe is our King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow (KURF), who is working on our project this August-September and will be assisting with our Historical Pageants conference at the Institute of Education in September. King’s provides funds every year for students to gain experience on projects such as ours, and given how soon we are launching the database any help is greatly appreciated! I caught up with her and asked her about her experiences of the first few weeks of pageanteering. 

What attracted to you to the project and what is your previous experience of pageants?

I’d already read the blog a few times – It was retweeted by King’s History – and thought it might be fun to contribute when the project came up. I had wanted to apply for the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship last year and the only one on British history was on electoral politics 1830s. This year Pageants leapt off the page (it was the least boring)!

 I have done work for the Family Museum for London Metropolitan Archives, including an exhibition on disabled foundlings which featured the Pevensey Pageant (1908). I worked for the Llancaiach Fawr living history museum in Wales where I’ve was involved with the performance of history. It makes you question what you’re doing/why you’re there. My job was very different from actors. For one thing, I was told not to talk to any of the guests because I couldn’t speak 16 century English (though they gave me a book to try and learn)!

 One day there in August it was really hot and there was no one there. I still couldn’t break character and spent the whole day sweeping and picking berries!! This gave me an insight into how it must have been in a pageant.

 How have you found research work compared to usual undergraduate stuff? Was it what you had expected?

Actually yes! The data collection is surprisingly straightforward. Until you’re writing up the essays which go with every pageant entry, it doesn’t require much thought. I suppose you could say it’s the academic version of knitting.

 Tell us an experience about working in the Archives

When I was sat in Bedford in a pageant-induced coma one afternoon, I found myself staring out of the windows. I saw a swan crossing the bridge, intimidating people and stopping the traffic. Two policeman came to arrest the swan. One was obviously afraid of swans and held back the traffic whilst the other chased it away. Also the master of the archives was pretty intimidating!

 What’s an interesting thing you’ve discovered about Pageants.

How to spell the word pageant!

How do you think this research will benefit you, both as a historian and from the kind of skills you hope to acquire from this?

It made me sure of the direction I want to go in, doing a research masters rather than a taught one. It has shown me I can just get on with things myself and that I can be very self-motivated. I want to do a PhD eventually but not right away. I already have my foot in the door, volunteering at the V&A where I would love to work. I would ideally like to build up experience curating exhibitions, and also work on educational liaison. I work for King’s in the widening participation – you have to win young people over. Working on pageants really shows you that there are many ways in which people 

have presented history.

Chloe Ratcliffe

comments powered by Disqus