New playwrights from the University of Leeds bring 133 years of M&S history to life

The M&S Company Archive turned to students on the MA Writing for Performance and Publication for their expertise in scriptwriting.

Postgraduate students Elizabeth Godber and Shreya Sikka from the School of Performance and Cultural Industries were chosen for internships with the archive, which is based on the University of Leeds campus.

The internship saw the students co-write a script for a theatre production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse that is infused with the history of Marks & Spencer and showcases how the company came to be what it is today.

As part of the internship, the students spent time in the archive tracing the firm’s history since 1884, learning about the characters they would be writing about, before coming up with the script for Dressed in Time.

The play, which features actors from the local community, will reach new audiences using fashion and music to tell the fascinating story of M&S from Leeds market stall to international retailer. It premieres on Saturday 18 November.

Katharine Carter, M&S Company Archivist, said:

“We are delighted to bring the fascinating story behind M&S to life. This much-anticipated, one-off event is an exciting opportunity to showcase some of the fashion gems from the Archive collection and share the history of M&S.”

The scriptwriting internship is just one of a wide range of collaborations undertaken as part of the partnership between Marks & Spencer and the University. The opening of the custom-built M&S Company Archive in 2012 formed the basis for a broader partnership between the two institutions, with a shared vision to develop a distinctive collaboration, focused on long-term future value.

The partnership enables M&S to access cutting-edge academic expertise and research funding, as well as top student talent. It also enables M&S to support the University in providing employability opportunities for students and pathways to greater research impact.

Shreya Sikka, MA Writing for Performance and Publication student said:

“I’ve had the most wonderful two months working on Dressed in Time. I’ve learnt so much and had a chance to display my scriptwriting skills gained on MA Writing for Performance and Publication. The fact that it’s going to be performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse is a big deal to me. When I was first applying to the course, I read about the School’s partnership with the Playhouse and was very eager to work with them at some point.

“This project has made me more confident about my writing. I take pride in the fact that I’ve been involved in a project that includes big names like M&S and West Yorkshire Playhouse. I’m very lucky to come across this unique opportunity whilst studying at the University of Leeds.”

The School of Performance and Cultural Industries and the West Yorkshire Playhouse have a formal partnership focused on developing new and emerging playwrights.

Garry Lyons, MA Writing for Performance and Publication Course Leader said:

“Dressed in Time gave two of our students the fantastic opportunity to collaborate with an internationally important archive, and see their writing staged at a leading regional theatre.  This is another demonstration of how our work in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries is impacting on the wider community, and extends our growing relationship with West Yorkshire Playhouse.”