Harrogate Theatre column with chief executive David Bown
I'm going to start by referring to a speech that my predecessor here at Harrogate Theatre, Sheena Wrigley, made at a conference last week.
Sheena is now executive director of the arts venue Home in Manchester and she says that venues should be thinking about a “multiple occupancy model”, where a number of companies and initiatives are based in one building. She claims this would increase the diversity of work on offer and attract new audiences.
“It is time we considered dismantling our regional theatres. I say that because I think they are a critical part of the ecology of our industry. Dismantling them creates the opportunity to reassemble them and that is what is really interesting – we can reassemble them with a more collaborative, diverse and less hierarchical model.”
I couldn’t agree more with Sheena and it’s something that Harrogate Theatre has been working towards for a number of years. In 2015/16 we worked with a wide and varied number of theatre companies and practitioners.
Back in the summer of 2015 we toured a production of Edith in the Dark – by Philip Meeks in association with Reform Theatre – to Edinburgh Fringe Festival (to great critical and audience acclaim).
We also hosted a production of Rachael Halliwell’s Project Juno – which is now lined up for a London run.
In addition we provided development support for a number of companies including: Tom Adams and Howl at the Moon, Laura Mugridge and her show WILD, Square Peg’s The Maids, Everything I Own Theatre and Somebody I Used To Know, Barrel Organ’s Some People Talk About Violence, Ship of Fools Theatre and Birds of Paradise, Odd Doll Theatre and Red Rust… I’ll stop there. It’s a long list, but, in 2015 we worked with or supported over fifteen independent theatre companies.
We also had a number of residencies that included Fidget Theatre with a delightful young people’s piece called Molly’s Marvellous Moustache. This was a one week’s residency in our education space – Hive. Then at the other end of the scale the internationally renowned Northern Broadsides took up residency across all our spaces (Hive, the studio and the main house) for the rehearsals and opening of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, which then embarked upon a national tour to much critical acclaim.
Referring back to Sheena’s comments – imagine the rich artistic diversity this brings to the building. Not only are we providing time and space for emerging work to develop we are also creating a context for our audiences to engage with new and innovative work. The old model of having a single artistic voice that leads the programme is gradually being moved on as the arts are very strongly encouraged to embrace diversity in every sense.
With this in mind there are two things to look out for this summer. We are working once more “in association” with Oldham Coliseum in July to bring you The LadyKillers written by Graham Linehan (of Father Ted fame). It’s a dark comedy about an old lady pitted against a ruthless gang of criminals, inspired by the classic Ealing black and white film that starred Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. Should be good summer fun.
Our relationship with Oldham is a further example of partnership working that has brought us many diverse productions over the years from Look Back in Anger, through to the Return to the Forbidden Planet, Private Lives and many more.
At the other end of our diverse spectrum, I strongly advise that you check out the 2016 2’s Company festival, which involves a number of our associate companies and is astride of June and September this year.
Petrification sees theatre go on a pub crawl. Starting on June 20 at The Mitre Inn, Knaresborough, then on to The White Horse in Ripon on June 21 and finishing at The Tap and Spile in Harrogate on June 22, it’s a play about change and memory.
Haunt has been developed working with writers who have experienced homelessness in Harrogate. A ghost walk with a difference.
Hear and see the stories that haunt Harrogate – some familiar and some untold – like the sulphur and chalybeate that run in the waters beneath the streets.
Intense Attachment sees International dance theatre and film company, Wayne Sables Project, invite people to become silent witnesses to the deeply personal journey of becoming a parent. It’s an unforgettable site-specific performance where dance, film, live music and new technology collide. You will be contacted with venue details prior to the show.
Bookish will be performed at Harrogate Library by award-winning performers Tom Adams and Laura Mugridge. Together they are presenting a show about books, which will be chosen by the audience in the run up to the show. For more details, visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk.