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FLINT 2014 line-up announced

We’re really pleased to announce the line-up for FLINT on 22 November.

Taking place at Salisbury Arts Centre, the event features

  • 70/30 Split with WHICH
  • Chris Dobrowolski with All Roads Lead To Rome
  • Karen Christopher with Small Trees in Leaf
  • Search Party with My Son & Heir
  • Project O with O

Read more about FLINT 2014 here!

Photo by Tamsin Drury

Near Gone autumn dates

Following our successful run in Edinburgh, there are chances to see Near Gone in a few more places this autumn:

  • Lakeside Theatre, Colchester on 2 October – BOOK
  • Pavilion Dance as part of Bournemouth Arts By the Sea Festival, 8 October – BOOK
  • Derelict in Preston on 22nd October – BOOK
  • Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin on 27 October – BOOK
  • Radar Festival at the Bush Theatre in London on 20-21 November – BOOK

We’re also speaking to further venues about more potential dates, so keep your eye out for more news!

Manpower marketing image

Manpower Ahead

We’re delighted to announce that Manpower has received funding from Arts Council England to enable us to proceed immediately with full production. We’re rehearsing this month in Salisbury and Ipswich, previewing the work in both places.

After that, we’ll be premiering the completed piece in Bath next February — look out for more details soon.

You can see our previews at:

  • New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich on 25 September – BOOK
  • Salisbury Arts Centre on 3 October – BOOK

Near Gone wins Total Theatre Award

Near Gone has won a 2014 Total Theatre Award, for Innovation, Experimentation and Playing With Form. The award was presented this afternoon, and we’re absolutely delighted to have been selected, especially given the strength of the other work on the shortlist.

We’d like to thank all those who worked with us on the piece, and especially Charlotte Vincent whose keen eye and vast experience were really valuable in our making process. We’d also like to thank those who supported the making of the work — Anthony Roberts and Colchester Arts Centre, Sarah Brigham, The Point Eastleigh, Salisbury Arts Centre, Tanya Steinhauser, Nick Sweeting, Orla Flanagan and programmers and staff at those venues who supported the work by taking a risk and booking it early on.

The making of Near Gone was made possible by the support of all these people and organisations, and by funding from Arts Council England.

We’d also like to thank those closest to us, our families, for their support.

Edinburgh Reviews for Near Gone ★★★★★ and Total Theatre Award nomination

Audiences in Edinburgh have been really supportive of Near Gone, and so have the critics who’ve been in.  Here are some of the quotes and links to the full articles…

Fabulously, the show has been shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award in the Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form category!

Jenny Williams gave the show ★★★★★ for BroadwayBaby:

Radeva and Lownie’s harrowing story is told with great beauty, sensitivity and humour, creating art that is truly affecting, memorable and life-affirming.

Total Theatre Magazine‘s Dorothy Max Prior says

Near Gone is a near-perfect show. Wonderful performances by both actors. A beautifully crafted story told expertly through many means and forms – verbal, visual, physical. Spot-on dramaturgy (choreographer Charlotte Vincent name-checked here). A lovely sound design by Tim Blazdell.

In The Scotsman, David Pollock gave the piece ★★★★, saying it goes

beyond the limits of mere language.

With another ★★★★, Edinburgh Evening News‘ Ed Frankl called it

a brilliantly captured performance

TVbomb says:

The precise and subtle performances from both Radeva and Lownie are as fascinating as they are compelling. ★★★

Alecia Mashall in The Skinny says:

Thoughtful and understated – with an unexpectedly hopeful conclusion – this is well worth an hour of your fringe time. ★★★

fest mag‘s Alice Saville calls it

a moving performance with the language-crossing power of a ritual […] this intensely personal performance crafts a bridge of floral delicacy. ★★★

DarkChat gave it 10/10, saying

This isn’t just one of the best shows I’ve seen in 25 years of visiting the Fringe. It’s one of the most powerful and moving pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.

In the Guardian, Lyn Gardner recommended the piece in her Essential Theatre Picks blog in advance, her Hot Tickets article at the start of the Fringe, in tips for the final week with

a winning heartfelt intensity

and in her Fringe roundup at the end of August as

A boon to the flower trade and to audiences too with its passionate, dance-filled look at the gulfs we cannot bridge.

Her review calls it

a brave show that confronts how we can sometimes become locked in grief, and unreachable even to those who love us most, and which uses many different kinds of language to explore the emotional gulfs between us, and the ways we can reach out and connect.

Finally, audience members interviewed by STV gave their views here.

First preview at Summerhall

Our first Edinburgh Fringe preview at Summerhall this afternoon got a couple of lovely responses on Twitter, and we just wanted to share them:

…come along and experience it!


Dusty Feet

The bread is baked. The doors are framed. The archive photographs are mounted. The blackboards are clean. The china is encased. Dusty Feet is ready.

It’s a strange moment, this exhibition opening. Not because, as with any exhibition, the opening is when the engagement begins, and that’s exciting and a little bit frightening too. Our engagement began long ago, with the designing of street signs, and bread stamps, and handkerchief embroidering. We’ve already had a couple of hundred people work with us on this project. So this is like a half-way point instead. The beginning of a new phase, where we’re showing things and inviting responses.

We’ve curated an opportunity to leave marks. To write on a door, to draw on cards, to mark blackboards. To type. To stamp.

We don’t know what people will give us back. And that’s really pleasing: to shape an experience, but to give control to each visitor, allowing them to contribute to the experiences of those who come after them.

Leave marks behind.



A week in Cophenhagen at Nordic Performing Arts Days has been packed with discovering more about the work made in Nordic countries, the people who make it and how they work, and some great conference debates on matters from dramaturgy and globalisation to international collaborations and artist-led initiatives.

We’ve been struck by how well supported some of the artists we’ve spoken to are — but the flipside is that there are others who feel excluded from the patronage these enjoy. That’s a difficulty we know well at home, too.

We’ve been impressed by some really finely honed work, and intrigued by some rougher ideas for things to come. We’ve been inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of artists leading venues and collaborations.

We’ve been excited, too, in conversations with promoters and artists and arts managers, about the prospects for the future. Amid warnings about economic crisis (including warnings about using the words ‘economic’ and ‘crisis’), we’ve heard much hope. And it’s infectious. So we return from CPH stage refreshed and enthused and looking forward to where those conversations take us.

Plus, the whole thing ended in the most unlikely way, on midsummers night, with a Swedish band (punk? electro? hardcore? hardcore electro punk?) in fabulous costumes opening the closing party — and then singing American pie with classical guitar accompaniment on the bus home many hours later! Did we mention we’d enjoyed ourselves?


New York New York

A week in the US has been great. We’ve seen such a range of work and spoken to lots of artists and presenters as well as some of those who enable them to keep making and sharing work.

There’s been a lot of curiosity about the public funding we get in Britain, but it seems to be based on misapprehensions. There are public funding streams in the US, seemingly more effective at state than national level for the people we spoke with. And in the UK, public funding doesn’t enable all the things some Americans thought. So there’s been some learning on both sides, which has been great.

We’ve been discovering something about how artists small and large engage with private philanthropy. There’s perhaps a greater willingness to give from people who aren’t especially wealthy in the US, but there’s also a greater willingness to ask for money. It’s interesting to talk with people about where they get money from and how much too: lots of it is very small sums from other artists, so there’s a bit of a loop going on.

At the higher profile end of the scale, we went to Robert Wilson’s gorgeous Watermill Centre in upstate New York. The freedom artists on residencies there have to make work in inspiring surroundings is a fabulous thing — and it’s enabled by lots of private donations. Making use of auctions, of an annual benefit event, of their network of artists who have been helped and want to help others in turn — this is the scale at which this model works well.

Lots to think on as we continue our journey…

Same place, same time, one year later

The flowers are ordered and the train tickets booked for Ipswich. It’s exciting to be coming back to Pulse after a year — it’s where Near Gone started to gather some momentum, where we learned from the audience response that we were onto something.

And, of course, where we won the Suitcase Prize. It’s been a busy year since, as we finished the show and took it on tour and started working on a new piece. We’ve met lots of people, and spoken to many of them about the prize. Ed and Paul from China Plate told us when we were applying last year that they’d created the Suitcase Prize as a way to highlight sustainable theatre. Lots of our conversations have got us onto the question of what exactly that might be.

There’s environmental sustainability. One of the prize rules is that you have to get to Pulse using public transport – the idea was to find shows that didn’t need a van to tour. So we’ve had lots of discussions about travel, and often they’ve come back to audience and how they get to the theatre. Not just the question of whether they drove. But about how far from them a theatre might be. It’s much better for two of us to visit them near where they live than for them to travel to a big city. If the place they live still has a theatre.

We’ve spoken to people about heating their theatres, and the cost of keeping a building that’s empty much of the time. We’ve talked to technicians about the benefits of using LED lamps. We’ve wondered where all the green is, too: so many theatres are fantastic creative spaces set in uninspiring environments with no living plants at all (maybe, living in the countryside, we notice it more than some). We’ve talked about how to reduce the environmental impact of a theatre. When your building is a converted church with huge windows in thick stone walls, you’re restricted in what you can do, but it’s made us think about the footprint of our work, and that’s a really good thing.

There’s another kind of sustainability, though, that Ed and Paul were thinking about, a kind that’s been creeping up the agenda over the past year. The sustainability of artists’ careers is just as hard to tackle as those stone buildings. There have been growing campaigns to focus on the brilliant arts this country produces – BAC’s David Jubb has launched the Food For Thought campaign, which is just part of the work What Next has been doing around the country.

It’s no accident that culture is getting more profile around the European elections. A brief look abroad shows how much more aware of the value of culture some of our neighbours are (we went to IETM in Montpellier and were really struck by how effectively this crosses economic hardships too). The European context gives culture a boost as something that’s much more than a business success for export and tourism.

But it’s the artists who have been rising in visibility. Struck by a blogpost Bryony Kimmings wrote last year, artists and arts managers have started talking about a very real problem. A whole #illshowyoumine movement has been spawned, asking some of the same questions the prize raises. How do we make a living as artists? What’s happening to touring performance? How do we get paid for all the different aspects of our work when we’re producing, writing, directing, designing and performing it all ourselves?

Arts Council England has done a good job of supporting a variety of arts organisations from local arts centres and rural touring schemes right up to the National Theatre. It’s made sure their staff are paid fairly, trained appropriately and by doing that it creates an ecology in which there are great careers in arts management – in selecting and marketing work, in providing the facilities to present it. But there’s nothing like the same opportunity for the artists themselves, who are often (particularly when making devised or solo work) the worst paid people involved. Is that right?

So we won the prize, and we’re still touring the show, and making a new one, and getting ready for an exhibition. We’re really busy. And that makes sustainability matter more.

Sustainability is important if you don’t want artists to feel the need to move into something else so they can start a family, or move into their own home. Sustainability is important if you value diversity in the arts. Sustainability is important to artists thinking about how to plan rehearsals and tours, how to design performances, where to place their work. Sustainability means making sure there’s a future for live performance: for coming together and sharing a space in which something, anything, can happen.

Here’s to passing the suitcase to this year’s winner. To more of those exciting, challenging conversations spreading around the country. And to innovative, engaging live performance!

collaborative performance from Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie