View From Here: Northern Ireland

This blog was featured in Miro Magazine in the run up to View From Here: Northern Ireland, February 2018.

View From Here: Northern Ireland is set to bring a carefully curated selection of new Northern Irish writing to London. Hear about the idea from producers Philippa Mannion, Katherine Nesbitt & Isabel Sharman – and why it’s important to tell stories from all over the UK.

Over the past few years Isy, Katherine and I have been building our new writing connections across the UK, presenting work at London’s Theatre503 that showcases a selection of the new writing scene from Scotland and Yorkshire. We have brought together fantastic emerging and established writers with a team of skilled directors and actors. After two successful festivals under our belt, we set our sights on a project close to our hearts: new writing from Northern Ireland.

Under the guidance of our Northern Irish producer Katherine, we contacted a few Northern Irish theatre companies to discover the best of Northern Irish playwriting. We teamed up with Hanna Slattne, a freelance dramaturg who has been working in writers in Northern Ireland for over 11 years, including Tinderbox Theatre Company. She advised us on potential writers to contact and has collaborated with us to build the foundations for our event. For each of our festivals, it’s become more and more vital to have a local partner who knows the lay of the land and how best to represent an area of the UK in London:

“With each festival we have gone from strength to strength. We’re learning more which format works for audiences, as well as learning how best to support our artists”, reflects our producer Katherine. “It’s important that we do as much as we can, within our modest means, to respond to each region and not impose a one-size-fits-all approach. And in return, we’ve found artists responsive and supportive of what we’re trying to achieve.”

View From Here Theatre503

We aim to engage with writers from different backgrounds, who bring stories from all across the country. Our work so far has engaged writers from Leeds, Glasgow and Belfast, but also from Moray, York and Newry. We are strengthening our own learning of what different pockets of the UK are like, facilitating exchange between artists and audiences and, at the same time, supporting our company’s artistic development. Each festival that we curate gives us an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone and learn as we go, while still being dedicated to our audience in putting on high quality new work. Emerging playwright Patrick Dunlea considers sharing his work with a new audience at our latest festival:

View from Here presents an amazing opportunity for artists from outside of the UK’s major theatre bubble. To engage with a different kind of audience, build new connections and celebrate underrepresented regions in London’s often overwhelming theatre world is huge for anyone involved. For a playwright not only does it give you a voice in a crowded marketplace but also further experience, recognition and drive when returning to your local scene. Not only do you feel more connected to the wider UK theatre world but also a stronger voice for your area.”

For our Northern Ireland event, we have received brilliant work in the form of a short play from David Ireland and an excerpt from Lally The Scut from award-winning playwright Abbie Spallen. Both have been incredibly generous in sharing their work to sit on shared billing with two emerging writers – Alice Malseed and Patrick Dunlea. This mixed programme is what makes View From Here a bit different, giving audience a flavour of what new writing looks like in an area of the UK.

We’ve also been working with playwright Alice, who has written with the festival in mind:

“My play North Street is brand new. With it, I have tried to illustrate an atmosphere that I feel is currently ominous in Belfast. We are simultaneously approaching the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and experiencing over 13 months without a government. A real juxtaposition between hope and the unknown.”

View From Here Theatre503

Our aims have always been political with a small ‘p’. We explore and acknowledge shared and diverse cultural values and our proximity across the UK, arguing that every area have something to offer not only London audiences but audiences across the UK. Our ambition is to keep using the exposure of the capital to have these conversations, as well as aiming to start bringing our work out to a wider audience. As Alice adds:

“It’s very important to me as a Belfast based theatre maker to have my work seen and presented outside of Belfast and Ireland – otherwise, it can feel like there is a real glass ceiling on what can be achieved. Having a wide and varied network of partners, collaborators and audiences, is important too, so being introduced to the View From Here team has been a great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to the festival.”

We’re thrilled with the wealth of talent coming out of Northern Ireland right now and we can’t wait to share it with you.

View From Here Festival: Northern Ireland plays at Theatre503 on 25 – 26 February 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.

View From Here: Yorkshire

View From Here: Yorkshire is set to bring a carefully curated selection of new Yorkshire writing to London. Katherine Nesbitt explains where the idea came from – and why it’s important to tell stories from all over the UK.

Last year I produced a festival of Scottish new writing over four nights at Theatre503 with two creative friends, Isabel Sharman and Philippa Mannion. Having all met in Glasgow, my recent move to London had brought us together to celebrate work from the place that first inspired us to be theatre-makers. We wanted to showcase work we thought was brilliant by people who should be household names across the UK, as well as using it as an opportunity to introduce audiences to playwrights who maybe wouldn’t otherwise reach them.

After the success and positive reactions to View From Here: Scotland, we decided to reach out a little further and out of our comfort zone, and make contacts in a region where we didn’t know anyone. This has been an ambitious move, and whilst not as straightforward as putting our Scottish event together, is developing us as a team and widening our networks.

We made contact with West Yorkshire Playhouse’s literary manager Jacqui Honess-Martin, whose enthusiasm for the project and for emerging writers in Yorkshire has brought us two exciting writers. She also introduced us to their former trainee director Ruby Clarke, who has embraced this project and been one of the best partners we could ask for!  Earlier this year, Ruby began a new writers’ group with the support of West Yorkshire Playhouse, offering dramaturgical support and a chance to nurture work in a supportive environment.

The aim of putting on View From Here: Yorkshire is to learn more about what’s happening around the country; we wanted to discover new playwrights for ourselves, and in the process introduce them to you, our audience.

David Jarman, a poet and playwright whose work Junction will feature as part of the festival:

“Writing can often feel like a solitary art. Musicians make time to jam together outside of gigs and structured rehearsals, but unless you’re attached to a particular company writers often get little or no time to engage with directors outside of specific projects. Because Ruby and I had time to suss each other out in a professional context in the writer’s group, we then felt well prepared to make something together when the opportunity arose to work on View From Here. Also, established theatres can often feel like impregnable fortresses to a writer, so the fact that West Yorkshire Playhouse are prepared to offer regular time and space for writers to be in the building serves as a much appreciated acknowledgment of their awareness of, and commitment to, aspiring artists in the local community. I think this is also evident in the intent of View From Here. Trying to stage a piece of your work in London can feel like an impossible dream if you’re a writer working in the north, so I think that it’s fantastic that Theatre503 are reaching out to engage with voices from across the country and I’m really excited to be a part of this year’s festival.”

Our ambition is to keep growing our network of playwrights and makers across the country, creating new connections and potential for collaboration. As Dave says:

“Working as a poet in Yorkshire does present its own challenges. Mostly geographical to be honest. London has its own scene, but my scene covers the whole of the north of England so you’re chasing gigs in York, Hull, Manchester, Newcastle and everywhere in between.  Obviously this means countless hours spent shivering on train station platforms, but it’s actually a joy because you get to engage with a vast range of voices. And I think that’s really healthy.”

We’re planning more events with companies and writers in Wales and Northern Ireland too, with plans to bring all these regional pieces together at some stage in the future.
Two Yorkshire playwrights further on in their careers, JC Marshall and Zodwa Nyoni, have been generous and enthusiastic in providing us with scripts never before performed on a London stage. I am thrilled to be directing these two pieces alongside the brand new work that Ruby will be bringing you from David Jarman and Kate Stewart.

Along with an ensemble of 6 actors, we’re certain it will be an entertaining night that will have everyone excited for the future of new writing in Yorkshire.

View From Here: Scotland

This blog was featured on A Younger Theatre in the run up to View From Here: Scotland, August 2016.

British theatre is thriving with new writing. But often, playwrights who are creating work in one part of the country aren’t getting exposure in another.  View From Here Festival is looking to change that.

Earlier this year my co-producer Katherine Nesbitt (who had recently moved to London) and I were excited about being able to produce theatre together, having worked together professionally in Scotland for five years. We had a small theatre company called Makeshift Broadcast based in Glasgow where we made shows and podcasts, supporting new writing and artists.

Relocating to a new city can be a bit of shock, especially in theatre, as you have to work extra hard to build those creative connections and find opportunities to network! We thought about how we could stay connected with Scotland and utilise our colleagues north of the border; but also make new connections in London between writers and producers, actors and directors.

Through our work in Scotland, we had previously worked with Julie Tsang and Morna Young and seen scratches and work-in-progress of their writing. There were also established writers, like Rob Drummond, Oliver Emanuel and Johnny McKnight with shows this year at venues across Scotland whose work we admired. The festival is a coming together of all these awesome writers – giving them a chance to work on something new or show existing scripts to a London audience.

After a great conversation with Theatre503 and many phone calls and emails later, we have programmed nine playwrights, with six fantastic directors and twenty-three wonderful actors to bring these beautiful stories to life. It’s been a real team effort promoting and rehearsing the plays, getting them ready to be showcased in London. Each night will be a mixture of script-in-hand works-in-progress and staged readings from the more established playwrights.

We’re also really pleased that we can bring together Louise Stephens from the Royal Court, Jennifer Tuckett from London Writers’ Week and Lisa Spirling from Theatre503 to host a post-show discussion on Monday August 15, where we’ll be gathering together the shows to talk about new writing and regional work. We hope that one of the strengths of the project will be stimulating discussion about new work from across the UK.

We are excited to create what we hope is the first in a series of View From Here festivals focusing on playwriting from all across the UK. Any Welsh writers or Northern Irish writers out there, drop us a line, we would love to talk to you!  We think it’s important to tell stories about where you’re from, and to have those stories heard. We think it’s important to share those stories across the regions of the UK and exchange ideas.

If you can’t be there, because you’re enjoying the Scottish weather and the magnificent Edinburgh Festival Fringe, don’t fret, you can follow us on Twitter @viewfromhere and Instagram for a piece of the action.

But if you’re not able to make it to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, there’s a little pocket of London where you can come to and experience some of the best Scottish new writing on offer. We really hope you can join us!

View From Here: A Festival of Scottish New Writing was at Theatre503, The Latchmere Pub, Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BW in August 2016.