My play Moving Pictures was performed at 24:7 in 2005 and went on to win the MEN award for Best Fringe Performance. That really was the start of my career.
Many people now probably don’t remember that once upon a time only the extremely brave few felt confident enough to self-produce and tell their stories in small venues and pubs. Now, you can go out and see at least three plays somewhere in non-theatre venues any night of the week. 24:7 have been instrumental in validating and championing dramatic storytelling and taking risks. And that is the great thing it did for me, and for all of us.
I entered 24:7 in 2006 with the first play I had ever written. Since then I’ve gone on to work professionally as a writer in theatre and radio. The opportunity that 24:7 offered me has been absolutely invaluable – had the festival not existed I’m not sure I would have dared to have a go.
The festival offers so much to writers, actors, directors and others, both in terms of the valuable experience of producing a play at what has become a prestigious and important event in Manchester’s theatrical calendar, and the chance to showcase work and to get it seen by many.
Our play ‘Billy, The Monster and ME!’ was part of 24:7 in 2013, after the festival worked with us for a year developing the script. This support, as well as the festival experience itself, has really been the foundation for our company, Colour The Clouds. Over the last 18 months we have received ACE funding for the development of a new piece of children’s theatre, and a hugely successful northern tour of ‘Billy’. We have been lucky enough to take ‘Billy’ to the prestigious Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh for a 2 week run, and we are resident associate company at Oldham Coliseum. Without the continued support of 24:7 we would not have met, and be working with, such talented and welcoming people. Our plans for 2015 include further touring for both ‘Billy’ and our new work, ‘Maggie and the Song of the Sea’ as well as the development of a very special Shakespeare experience!
As a developing writer in fringe theatre you also have to be a ‘hands-on’ producer involved in every aspect of your play. 24-7 makes you confront and get on top of those skills as you are not just ‘The Writer’ but the person with responsibility for casting, choosing a director, promoting, financing, even finding props and bits of costume – so the whole deal really. I am grateful to 24-7 for enabling me to develop these essential skills and take charge of my writing in a very practical, invaluable way.
I directed Alistair McDowall’s play 5:30 at the 24:7 Festival in 2009. It was the first time my work had been performed to a neutral, public, non-student audience and represented an important step in my early career as a director.
Today, I am still working as a freelance director and have directed at the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Live Theatre in Newcastle as well as spending a year training at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury on the prestigious Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme. I am currently attached to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on the REP Foundry Programme.
When I graduated from University I knew I wanted to work in technical side of Theatre but whenever I went for any job interviews I was told I need more practical experience. 24:7 Theatre Festival helped me gain that: I started as a show technician in 2005, and worked my way up to be a venue technical manager for the Festival. These experiences directly led to me getting my current job as a Production Technician at the University of Salford. The Festival has also enabled me to build links with other companies and individuals: I’ve worked on other companies’ shows as a technician, touring around the North West and to other Festivals like Buxton and the Edinburgh Fringe; I’ve also created my own theatre company. I’m now Technical Director of the Festival as a whole, and am able to empower others to create work and gain experience that allows them the opportunities to achieve a career in the arts. Just like 24:7 Theatre Festival did for me. I’m in the privileged position that I’m paid to do what I love and I don’t know if I would be in that position if it wasn’t for 24:7.
I graduated from University and a few weeks later directed one of my plays at 24:7. It was my first fringe experience, and the support network it offered me helped me to make the transition from university to the next stage of my career working on the fringe, where you often don’t have people as supportive as the 24:7 team looking out for you.
Now I’m fortunate enough to make a living writing plays, and 24:7 was one of the important stepping stones on my way to this position.
24:7 is a magnificent opportunity for actors,writers and directors alike to work on exciting pieces of new theatre in site specific venues in a wonderfully passionate city. Creative minds come from all over the country to showcase their myriad talent and exchange ideas, opinions forging life long bonds as we each strive to succeed in a fiercely competitive industry. Through 24:7 and the sheer hard work of people like David, Amanda and Kathryn new writing is able to get a credible foothold in the minds of other industry professionals enabling shows at the Bolton Octagon, the Library, The Lowry, The Young Vic, The Arcola and The Cardiff Millennium Centre and of course even a West End transfer. Without fear of Hyperbole I would say that 24:7 theatre festival is one of the most important institutions in this country and am extremely privileged and proud to have been involved. As a performer the accolades I was fortunate enough to garner through my work at 24:7 has led to many more opportunities that I may not have been offered and I will always be grateful to this extraordinary event and the unswerving commitment of the wonderful team that put it together.
I first performed at 24:7 in 2009 in Lub You by Eve Steele, which was chosen to go on to The Octagon Theatre Bolton and The Young Vic.
I can attribute all of my theatre roles since then to that first production at the festival. At 24:7 that year, I met Manchester theatre company Monkeywood (who were premiéring Maine Road). I was subsequently cast in their next two productions; Last Orders at The Royal Exchange and Re:play Festival and Once in a house on Fire at The Lowry. As a direct result, I went on to work in a co-production between immersive theatre company Punchdrunk and BBC Wales – as part of 2011′s Manchester International Festival in the Doctor Who experiential The Crash of the Elysium. And following that, I was cast in Macbeth and The Winslow Boy at The Octagon Theatre, Bolton both directed by Olivier award winning director David Thacker – who I first met thanks to the festival in 2009 and who went on to direct me in The Towers of Babel in 24:7 festival 2012. My story is one of many that can be attributed to the festival. Writers have gone on to be commissioned by some of the countries top theatres and productions have been propelled to the bright lights of the West End, gone on national tours and found themselves in the Radio studios of the BBC.
24:7 provided me with a springboard into a professional career.
When in 2007 my play Flying Solo was selected for the festival, I gained invaluable experience as Executive Producer of my own play and embarked on a huge learning curve.
Since then I’ve been commissioned by M6 Theatre Company and DIY Theatre Company, had several radio dramas broadcast on the BBC and my stage-play, The Demolition Man, was premiered in the main house at Bolton Octagon.
I’m now on the Board of Trustees at 24:7, act as a mentor for emerging writers, occasionally direct and am diversifying into novel writing.
I took part in the 24:7 Theatre Festivals of 2007 and 2009. Both events changed the course of my professional life.
The company that we created – Ensemble 52 – in order to bring those productions to 24.7 is now a resident company in Hull and was instrumental in the bid for 2017 Hull City of Culture. It also now produces more new writing than any other Hull theatre company. We have also produced regular Theatre in Education programmes for the NHS in Salford between 2011 and 2014.
The play I brought in 2009 called ‘As We Forgive Them’ was adapted into American Justice and ran for a month at the Arts Theatre, in London’s West End. I’m currently under commission with Hull Truck Theatre and my new play ‘Dancing in the Shadows will be produced by them in the Autumn of next year. 24:7 has given me not only the platform but also the confidence to make writing a part of my everyday life and part of the way i earn a living. Such a change of life was inconceivable to me before I came to 24:7.