About the book
In the coming months, I’m going on a bit of an adventure. I’m going to travel around the UK, visiting around twenty theatres that are in some way special or unusual - getting off the beaten track to visit some of the theatres that aren’t necessarily the most famous or the most celebrated, but have a story worth telling – the ones in unusual locations, that have thrived in unlikely circumstances, or where people have, in one way or another, rethought what a theatre might be. And I'll be writing a book about my trip.
My book will be a love letter to the art form, celebrating the passion of the individuals who created many of these theatres, and the communities they have cultivated around them. Rather than attempting anything comprehensive, the book is unapologetically personal, as much a poetic retelling of my experience of the journey, the places, the individuals I meet, and my own relationship with theatre, as it is a thoroughgoing history. It strikes a tone that borrows from writers like John Berger and Olivia Laing, and I hope will have something valuable to say about why theatres matter, and why it's more important than ever that we sustain them in the current historical moment.
The theatres featured include:
Theatre Royal Stratford East: the home of Joan Littlewood’s iconic Theatre Workshop. Joan, often called ‘the mother of modern theatre’, most famous for Oh What a Lovely War! lived and slept at the theatre throughout its restoration. The venue became an icon for social inclusion in the arts.
The Minack Theatre, Cornwall: the stunning open air theatre perched atop Cornish cliffs with a view across the Atlantic, built by hand from 1930s onwards by an enthusiastic amateur called Rowena Cade, who continued to build it into her nineties.
The Theatre of Small Convenience: The UK's smallest theatre, accommodating just twelve audience members at a time, and situated in a former Victorian gentlemen's toilet (of course!)
The Comar: one of the UK's more remote theatres, situated in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, celebrating the rich local culture of the islands.
The 'Blue Box': a unique 'theatre on wheels' that toured post-war Britain, taking theatre to towns and cities with no active theatres, ultimately becoming the original 'Theatre by the Lake' in Keswick.
This is the realisation of a bit of a dream for me. For many years I've been writing short stories, non fiction pieces, media articles and plays, and have been pleased to have quite a bit of publishing success. But it's only now that I finally feel confident enough in my own writing voice to take the leap and attempt to write a full length book (they're bloody long, you know!). I'm hugely excited - and also terrified!
I’m chuffed to bits the lovely folks at Penned in the Margins have agreed to publish it, and I was also lucky enough to receive the Michael Meyer Award from the Society of Authors, which has helped with some funding for the project. I've also been offered some amazing support-in-kind - like the great folks at the Slunglow Hub, who are letting me stay in their 'artist dormitories' for a few days.
But in spite of all the fantastic support I've received, I still need to raise some additional funds to make this happen. This is where you come in! I am taking three months' unpaid leave from work to complete this project, so things will be financially tight (does anyone know what subsisting on beans on toast for twelve weeks straight does to a person?!). In particular, meeting the costs of my travel and accommodation is going to be a challenge. This is exactly what your donation will contribute to - national express tickets, petrol, nights in airbnbs, and general living costs... not glamorous, but absolutely vital to my project.
This is not just about covering the costs of the trip (although that's very important!). It's also about building a community of supporters behind me - I am certain that there are going to be times when I feel less confident, and I waiver in my resolve, but knowing that you have all backed me will be a huge motivation spurring me on. I want to know that I owe this book not just to myself, but to all of you.
And I've dreamed up some fun rewards, that will hopefully make handing over your hard earned cash a little bit more pleasurable...
Your support - however large or small - means the world to me. And - if you're able to share this through your social networks, I'd be really grateful.
Thanks so much,
Photograph of the Minack Theatre taken from Trip Advisor.