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8 queer texts to read in our theatre library

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Middle Child highlight eight LGBTQ+ works from our theatre library collection in honour of pride month.

Although pride month is close to it’s end, our literary manager Matthew May has headed to the queer collection in our theatre library to recommend 8 texts that are here to check out all year round.

Our theatre library has a collection of over 2,000 free-to-borrow books available to any resident of Hull and the East Riding. All of these plays are available now during the library hours of Tuesday 10am-1pm and Friday 2pm-5pm, or outside these hours on request.

The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell

 

The 1958 Phillip is in love with Oliver, but married to Sylvia. The 2008 Oliver is addicted to sex with strangers. Sylvia loves them both. Alternating between 1958 and 2008, The Pride examines changing attitudes to sexuality, looking at intimacy, identity and the courage it takes to be who you really are.

Chiaroscuro by Jackie Kay

 

Chiraroscuro: (noun) the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.

Aisha, Yomi, Beth and Opal couldn’t be more different, but when Aisha hosts a dinner party, the friends soon discover that they’re all looking for answers to the same question. Does it lie in Aisha’s childhood? Or in Beth and Opal’s new romance? Who will tell them who they really are?

Global Queer Plays by Oberon Modern Playwrights

 

From the legacy of colonialism in India to the farcical bureaucracy of marriage law in Kosovo; from a school counsellor in Taiwan coming out as HIV+, to coming of age in an Israel-Palestine coexistence camp, this is a genre-spanning collection of global writing. A unique anthology bringing together stories of queer life from international playwrights, these seven plays showcase the dazzling multiplicity of queer narratives across the globe: the absurd, the challenging, and the joyful.

And The Rest of Me Floats by Outbox Theatre

 

And The Rest of Me Floats is all about the messy business of gender. Performers from across the trans, non-binary, and queer communities weave together autobiographical performance, movement, pop songs, stand-up and dress-up in this anarchic celebration of gender expression and identity. Playful and powerful, And The Rest of Me explores how it feels to live in a society where you are regularly categorised and policed.

Since U Been Gone by Tabby Lamb

 

When friends die and pronouns change, what’s left of the memories that don’t fit anymore? Brought to life with storytelling, an original pop music score, and way too many America’s Next Top Model references, Since U Been Gone is a moving and powerful autobiographical account about childhood co-stars, teenage rebellion, growing up queer in the mid-noughties, and finding yourself while losing a friend.

Jumpers for Goalposts by Tom Wells

 

Luke wants Danny, but Danny’s got a secret. Joe’s happy in goal, but Goeff wants a headline gig. Viv just wants to beat the lesbians to the league title. Game on. A hilarious and heartwarming comedy about football, friendship and finding your way.

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

 

After someone threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur, performance artist Travis Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. How they are made, how they feel, and smell. How they travel through the air. How the mayonnaise feels on your skin. This play is the climax of their obsession – exploring how trans and gender non-conforming bodies exist and how, by them reclaiming an act of violence, we can address our own complicity.

Angels in America by Tony Kushner

 

America in the mid-1980s. In the midst of the AIDS crisis and conservative Reagan administration, New Yorkers grapple with life and death, love and sex, heaven and hell. Angels in America went on to win two Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize from Drama.

Is there something missing from our collection? Browse our catalogue and get in touch if you want to recommend plays to add to our ever-growing library.

A small boy holds a sign that says "Be kind imagine" from the set of There Should Be Unicorns

Making Middle Child a family-friendly workplace

By | Blog

A work-in-progress list of the things we do at Middle Child to support people with caring responsibilities

6-12 June 2022 is Carers Week and this year’s theme is “making caring visible, valued and supported”.

Over the past few years we’ve been working hard to make Middle Child a family-friendly employer, whether a full-time member of staff or a freelancer working on a one-off project.

It’s important to us that the people we work with can maintain their creative practice and fulfil caring responsibilities, which is why we become a charter partner of PiPA (Parents and Carers in Performing Arts) in 2019.

PiPA campaign to enable and empower parents, carers and employers to achieve sustainable change in attitudes and practices. You can find out more about the amazing work they do on their website.

With PiPA’s support, alongside input from the people we work with, including our Imagine the Future day in 2021, we’ve introduced a lot of family-friendly practices into our workplace – and continue to make improvements all the time.

We haven’t shouted about them much in the past, so with Carers Week 2022 upon us we thought we’d let you know what it means to work with Middle Child as somebody with caring responsibilities.

A small boy stands next to his mum, who is operating a camera on a tripod
A small boy sits by a camera mounted on a tripod

Luca joins his mum, Katie (Fly Girl Films) to film Rapunz’ull

Adjustments for people with caring responsibilities

We ask everyone we work with if they have any caring responsibilities so that we can support and make adjustments as necessary; whether that’s schedule, working times or within our budgets.

Flexible hours and four-day weeks

We have a flexible working policy that is available to everyone we work with, so we can be responsive to people’s preferences and needs. Our core team work compressed hours in order to work a four day week, in order to bring better work-life balance and help with caring responsibilities, and have now introduced this to our rehearsal schedule.

Wellbeing allowance

We allocate a percentage of our annual budget to a wellbeing allowance so that we can offer additional support to freelancers with caring responsibilities, who need it, in their work.

Interviews and auditions

We always offer alternative arrangements to face-to-face interviews and auditions where necessary and are open to dependents also attending an interview or audition.

Breastfeeding-friendly

We are a breastfeeding-friendly organisation for the staff, freelancers and audiences who use our spaces, including our new creative hub, Bond 31. This includes providing breastfeeding parents with breaks when required.

A small boy holds a sign that says

Finn inspects the set for There Should Be Unicorns

Bring children to work

We accommodate children in the workplace where appropriate. Six-year-old Finn already has a rounded knowledge of technical rehearsals.

Timely sharing of schedules

Production schedules are shared at least three weeks in advance with all freelancers and staff members so they can organise their work around any caring responsibilities.

Travel and accommodation

We make a reasonable effort to adapt any travel and accommodation plans to the additional needs of pregnant people and parents of babies, such as when a show goes on tour.

Flexible working and job shares

We include the option for flexible working and job shares across job and artist development opportunities. This ensures we are open and accessible to carers and parents from the widest possible talent pool, reducing possible exclusions.

PiPA case study

Middle Child are working with PiPA to create a case study to assess our processes and policies for maternity leave within our executive team. This case study will be used to pass on learning and develop best practice within the industry. 

Enhanced parental leave

We offer an enhanced parental leave package to members of staff.

Free parenting coaching

PiPA have offered us a free parenting coaching session to core staff and freelancers for parents working in the arts.

Advocacy

We keep up-to-date with changes in the sector and use our platform to encourage other organisations to underpin their work with the same principles. Like this blog!

***

This list isn’t exhaustive and we constantly review our practice. This includes plans to run a survey about caring responsibilities, for both freelancers and audiences, later this year, so keep an eye out for that.

In the meantime though we’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions on other things that we can do to support people with caring responsibilities in the arts.

Feel free to contact our PiPA champion, Paul Smith, with any ideas or feedback on our work.

A close up of a scooter handlebar with pink, blue and yellow tassels in front of a large wooden letter 'G' painted in blue and yellow.

There Should Be Unicorns: Rehearsal diary three

By | Blog

Spotted: A parade of colourful superheroes dancing to funky hip-hop tunes down by the Humber! 

Faster than we could boo Mr. English, tech rehearsals were here. The sets made, the props gathered, the tracks complete, scripts memorised, and all we had left to do was everything. 

What was formerly strewn across our rehearsal space in Princes Quay, our office in old town and a workshop between the big road and the station was now all together, in front of us at Stage @TheDock.

Much like ourselves a month prior, the ability to see everything together in one space was long awaited and we could now begin to finish the job we started what felt like so long ago.  

The purpose of technical rehearsals is to bring together all the elements of a production and see how they work together in the performance space. This means testing microphones and sound levels, alongside costume and set changes. 

Tech can usually be a bit more complex than it was this time round. Given There Should Be Unicorns is an outdoor show we had things like weather to think about, rather than the usual lighting.

It is a period in which to troubleshoot any issues that arise – like a unicorn onesie pulling shoes off that need to stay on during a quick change or figuring out a scene change is actually too long to perform with all the extra stage room.  

Rather than adapting the performance, this is about adapting to the spaces the performance takes place in. We were able to build and use the climbing frames that had only existed in concept until this point.  

The production becomes wider, and with every change more ready to the welcome the audience.  

Once every scene had been tried and tested in tech, there was only one thing left to do – a dress rehearsal! A once through the whole show in costume, no stopping, no notes, no breaks.  

Our tight schedule meant that we only had the one chance to get this dress rehearsal right before opening weekend. A few passers-by stopped to watch as this play came together for the first time as one cohesive piece.  

Only to do it all again tomorrow! 

Now down to a fine art, the tech was set up, the stage was set, and face painting table popped up in the back to start getting people out of Hull and straight into Jasmine’s imagination.  

You lovely people all came down in your droves and costumes to watch this thing, and to each and every one of you that did THANK YOU!!!! 

Thank you to cast, crew, creatives and crowd alike because this show could not have come to fruition without a single one of you.  

There Should Be Unicorns will be touring in England this summer, with Brighton Festival and Hull 1.0 already ticked off the list!  

Keep an eye out to see dates for Hat Fair and Freedom Festival… and maybe some others if you’re lucky.  

An excitable seated audience bathed in pink-red light, in front of giant lit-up letters that spell NSDF

National Student Drama Festival 2022: a “utopia that theatre could be”

By | Artist Development, Blog, Uncategorised

Middle Child company member, Marc Graham, writes about his experience of attending this year’s National Student Drama Festival as an associate – and why the festival matters so much

This was the first National Student Drama Festival back in-person since 2019. In the time between then and now it went digital, winning a Digital Trailblazer Award at the Digital Culture Awards and continued to do what it does best: working with young people and allowing a space for the future generation of theatre makers to flourish.

I first came to NSDF as a student in 2009. I straightened my hair for the show and was mainly carried around on the shoulders of my mates, while we reached for stuff in the distance.

I came back to do another show with the same mates a few years later, after we had graduated and were at the start of our careers, this time with curly hair and this time I shouldered their weight, whilst reaching for more stuff in the distance.

I became an associate in 2019, after having worked with that year’s festival director, James Phillips, in 2017, on Flood. I sacrificed my body by jumping into a freezing cold body of water in an old dock in Hull that winter, while a heavy set, boats and fire swirled around me. That was the job interview. They took two years to get back to me, but I got it.

So, April 2022. NSDF is back for its 66th year, it’s survived the pandemic, it’s a digital award winner, back in Leicester at the Curve and I arrive for kick-off. That in itself is a remarkable achievement and all down to the tireless effort of James Phillips, Lizzie Melbourne and Ellie Fitz-Gerald. JLE.

Under team JLE, NSDF has shifted from a competition to a festival that celebrates and cultivates great work.

This year the festival was free to attend. This year the festival also had access at its heart.

An excitable seated audience bathed in pink-red light, in front of giant lit-up letters that spell NSDF

NSDF 2022. Photo by Beatrice Debney.

First show, DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco, from Chewboy Productions. As I sit down for this I realise that I haven’t seen any live theatre since the pandemic began. I was feeling a little emotional about this, but then the year six tunes began, I settle in, I’m a little too enthusiastic on the audience call and response stuff and I’m just enjoying a night out at the theatre. Then I get really sucked into this world, this character, the performance, the sound design, lights, everything. The show is great, see it if you can.

My first workshop, “Creating a Character from Very Little”, was the next morning. I was led to the space by one of the many incredible NSDF management team, who had forgone writing her dissertation to be at NSDF, a decision I wholeheartedly approve of.

The workshop basically uses some rehearsal techniques that Middle Child use today and some from our early years – before the police fines for disturbing the peace (not joking).

The session ends with me asking the performers to “take their characters for a walk” around Leicester on a sunny Sunday morning, before coming back to partake in a group improvisation. No one gets fined and they all approach the workshop with such drive and passion. Of course they do. They are all excellent.

Next I’m on a panel discussing “Is Theatre Shit? And How Do We Fix It?”

Topics discussed include de-funding the Royal Opera House and subjects of heavier weight, and a lot of this came from students themselves. That’s the best thing about these. Young theatre makers are unafraid to ask the big questions, the necessary ones. They’re inquisitive and it’s needed.

One of the big things here was, where are the routes for emerging theatre makers now? Edinburgh is unaffordable and Vaults has been shut down again. From 2020 we have lost two years of crucial development for emerging companies and, unfortunately, we have lost many companies completely. We didn’t have a specific answer for this right now.

Two performers on stage in front of a multicoloured kaleidoscopic background.

NSDF 2022. Photo by Beatrice Debney.

In between the scheduled programme, films are filming, emerging critics are critiquing, tech teams are teching. Conversations are happening: in the bar, in cafes, in outside venues, in the toilets, between associates, emerging theatre makers, students, professionals, writers, designers, academics and the people of Leicester. This is the real value of NSDF.

Ali Pidsley and I are treated to a viola rendition from Chris Thorpe. Without the viola. He declines every request I make. It’s fine, another show is starting and we’re gonna be late.

It’s also here where you meet emerging theatre makers of NSDF past who have now emerged. I meet the brilliant Definitely Fine Theatre, here with another show. I saw Ezra at Edinburgh uni pre-pandemic. They’re a company finding their voice, experimenting and it’s wonderful. We say hi, they tell me I’m the reason that they’re here, I play it down but only half-heartedly. I discovered them first okay… no I didn’t. But, you know, I sort of did. No, I’m joking. But also yeah, it was me.

RESERVATION. DaDaFest x NSDF. Box of Frogs. A group of young disabled, Deaf and neurodivergent performers having FUN on stage, sometimes at each other’s expense. Is some of it uncomfortable to watch? Absolutely, and that is the point. It is genuinely one of the most joyous experiences I’ve ever had in a theatre.

At the Q&A I’m buzzing and say things really loudly about how I just wanted to join in and dance with them onstage at the end. I later raise a second point which is basically the same as the first because I’m just so pumped up.

This show must have a further life.

It’s captioned, audio-described and BSL-interpreted – as is every show this year. #PissOnPity

An audience invades the stage to dance with their hands in the air under various coloured stage lights

Reservations. Photo by Beatrice Debney.

After their last show, I meet Nickie Miles-Wildin in the bar, on the way to hosting the spoken word night. She says she encouraged the audience to do what I suggested in the Q&A and they joined the performers on stage. She said she got in trouble, something about the Curve’s health and safety protocols. That’s rock’n’roll. I’ll take responsibility for that.

Nadia Emam and I host the spoken word night. It’s on the purpose-built NSDF stage in the bar at Curve. The mic is live and ready to go. Nickie Miles-Wildin is now halfway through a bottle of champagne and is trying to heckle me from the front row, but unfortunately for her 11 years of being a panto dame means I shut her down without giving it a second thought.

The standard is phenomenal. We have actors, producers, technical staff, NSDF alumni, management staff all standing up in front of 100 people and speaking their words. Then we have Viktor. Viktor asks me at the side of stage if they can perform, I say absolutely. Viktor is second from last, Viktor steps up to the mic. Viktor says:

“I’ve never performed my work in front of anyone before. I’m a dentist from Leicester. I don’t know what this is. I’ve been out drinking and was passing by and saw the lights and heard the noise. Sorry, I’m nervous. This poem is Untitled. Thank you.”

It was about how they thought they could never be loved, that they didn’t fit in, in a strange body and a foreign land.

It was one of those true moments of magic.

The day after I ran a second workshop on drama school auditions, with a last-minute offer of help from Hannah Miller, head of casting at the RSC. The second panel discussion was also about drama schools. The main takeaway from that: schools are not doing enough to push for access. It must start there, they could be the industry leaders, if they step-up.

A group of people chatting with drinks in hand at NSDF 2022

NSDF 2022. Photo by Beatrice Debney.

NSDF is partly about the shows, but it’s more about the conversations over coffee, the sharing of experiences, providing a safe platform to experiment and discover.

It’s a place where theatre professionals meet student theatre makers as equals. I mean, many of us were all them at some stage. And if we weren’t students, we had to learn somewhere.

This does not happen in this industry enough. Some of the professionals I met 13 years ago I still work with today. I always say: find the people who share your values and opinions and hold on to them tightly. NSDF is a place where this happens.

It is the utopia of what the theatre industry could be. Every year that goes by in this career I get a little more jaded, a little less hopeful, but each year the next generation of theatre makers at NSDF revitalises that. It may only last a week, but I take the values of NSDF with me for the rest of the year.

On my last morning I’m sitting with Chris Thorpe at breakfast. We both have our phones in hand. He looks at me across his plate of hash browns, he slumps his phone down after losing to me at chess online and says:

“The reality is, is that we probably get more out of this than the young people do.”

There Should Be Unicorns: Rehearsal diary two

By | Blog

There Should Be Unicorns! The past few weeks have seen rehearsals intensify for everyone at Middle Child as the premiere at Hull’s Stage @TheDock gets closer and closer.  

After getting to grips with all the music in week one of rehearsals, the cast were able to bring Luke Barnes’ script off the page and start the process of staging.  

Staging is the operation of building up the components of a production. Movement director, Ryan Harston, began working with co-directors Maureen Lennon and Paul Smith to begin choreographing all the movement that will take place when There Should Be Unicorns is finally on the stage.  

Working with the set pieces, designed by Natalie Young, the cast had the ability to embody their characters and begin practicing their scenes together.  

The various set pieces have been delivered over to the Middle Child rehearsal space as they were made and ready for painting in a myriad of bright colours. Stage management and crew began working on colourising this vision, along with sourcing and fixing up all costumes and props needed in the show.  

The set is made up of boxes of all shapes and sizes that work as interchangeable set pieces for the different environments of the play. They change shape to become the walls and furniture of our heroine Jasmine’s bedroom and school. 

In fact, the set got so big we outgrew our building! 

Moving over to a unit in Princes Quay shopping centre – boxes in tow – the new rehearsal space had all the room we needed to hone the performance and get the show closer to being ready every single day.  

This began by running each scene individually to figure out the ins and outs of each sequence, and eventually led up to going through the entire show from beginning to end. This process is repeated in various fashions right up until show day to fine-tune and refine the production to perfection. 

Co-composers James Frewer and Kobby Taylor worked alongside each other arranging the final tracks and adding the finishing details to all the music and sound of the show.  

Basically, things are wrapping up here! The show is almost ready to welcome lovely audiences dressed up in their superhero costumes and dancing along with the characters.  

Technical rehearsals are set to go ahead just days prior to the shows premiere in Hull. This will set the cast and crew up to not only bring the fun to Hull, but also to gear it up for its festival tour this summer.  

We can’t wait to see you there! 

Sitting down with Steve ‘Redeye Feenix’ Arnott

By | Blog, News, Shows

Erin Anderson sits down with Beats Bus co-founder Steve Arnott to talk about making his theatre debut in There Should Be Unicorns – and inspiring the show.

Steve Arnott in There Should Be Unicorns rehearsals

Steve Arnott bumps fists with co-star Emily Gray, in rehearsals. Photo by Tom Arran.

Perched on a couch in the corner of a small studio on the outskirts of Beverley, a beaming Steve ‘Redeye Feenix’ Arnott watches on as a group of his young mentees learn the group dance that will be included in There Should Be Unicorns, with movement director, Ryan Harston.

Steve has met most of these kids through his organisation, Beats Bus, that aims to reach out to children through the arts.

2017 was the real start for Beats Bus,” he says, explaining how the charity started. “It piloted for the freedom season [of the UK City of Culture programme], so it was a three-month trial that we actually made into an organisation in 2018.

“We teach hip hop to young people and then we mentor the young people, and we release their music on our record label.” 

Having to pull him away from dancing along with the kids from behind the studio set-up, Steve’s passion is unmistakable and the excitement for his work radiates out of him.

“We also teach them a bit of confidence building and self-esteem building, all the elements of hip hop, and also, they get to do live performances, as they’re doing now.”

It’s crystal clear from watching on that Steve and rest of the Beats Bus tutors build strong relationships to develop the creativity and craft of the young people they’re working with. 

Steve Arnott in There Should Be Unicorns rehearsals

Steve reads his script during rehearsals. Photo by Tom Arran.

For what many of us will feel like a lifetime ago – and for Steve likely several – in a pre-pandemic world Steve came up with the idea for a play that told the story of hip hop in Hull entitled ‘Hip-Hop-O-Mine’ and brought the idea to Middle Child.

“Me, Paul [Smith] and Mungo [Beaumont] met, and I just wanted to tell a story of the history of hip hop in Hull.”

This idea would eventually come to be There Should Be Unicorns, a family hip-hop musical about 11-year-old Jasmine whose dad, played by Steve, founds the Beats Bus.

Jasmine experiences bullying at the hands of those who don’t see the world with the same creativity and imagination that she and her dad do, so sets out to change their minds for the better.

“We’ve worked on it now for the last three years and it’s changed course but I’m really, really happy with the final product that we’ve got because it tells the story of hip hop, and it tells a beautiful story about family and friends.” 

Unicorns, as it is often affectionately abbreviated around the Middle Child offices, doesn’t only adapt Steve’s journey with the Beats Bus, but it also details Steve’s own health issues that almost cost him his life in 2019.

“My bowel exploded, and I had to have 7-hour surgery to save my life,” he recalled. “It was such a massive, massive shock and a trauma.”

The toll this took on Steve’s confidence and drive for performing saw him lose 18-months to a long recovery period.

“It’s probably taken me up until January this year to be physically fit enough to be able to do the play.”

In fact, it’s only due to the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the postponement of There Should Be Unicorns, that Steve is able to feature at all.

“When Paul said to me we’d like you to be in the play, I said no, you know, I just physically just can’t do it.”

The mental and physical strain was too severe for Steve, whose health conditions had left him needing to be fitted with a stoma bag that would alter his life permanently.

I want it to raise awareness of the stoma, you know for people to see and it and say yeah, he’s got a stoma and he’s still acting and he’s still running around on stage. That’d be a great thing for me.”

Steve Arnott in There Should Be Unicorns rehearsals

Steve and Emily Gray embrace in rehearsals. Photo by Tom Arran.

After facing his difficulties head on, Steve has found his passion for work again.

“I didn’t realise ‘til I did Beats Bus but yeah, working to live and living to work are two different totally things. I’m in quite a good place at the moment and I’m just really looking forward to it.”

Steve and his fellow Beats Bus tutors Kobby Taylor and David Okwesia have penned many of the lyrics that will be heard when the show premieres in Hull next weekend. 

“It’s exciting but I’m nervous cause it’s the first show in a week on Saturday so I’m like okay… it’s getting very close,” Steve laughs. “I’m sure once the first one’s out the way and it all goes well, we’ll all relax, and we’ll be alright.” 

As well as taking away the core messages of kindness, family and community, Steve hopes most of all for people to have as much fun watching There Should Be Unicorns as he has had making it.

“The whole process with Middle Child has just been amazing. The people that work there are amazing and it’s always fun.”

If you’re coming along to watch, don’t forget to dress up as your own superhero!

“I can just envision everybody going mad and having fun and dancing at the end, and you know, just have loads of fun and dress up it’s just gonna be amazing.”

Steve ‘Redeye’ Arnott will be making his acting debut as Jasmine’s dad in There Should Be Unicorns premiere weekend, 7-8 May at Hull’s Stage @TheDock. 

There Should Be Unicorns will tour festivals over the summer and return to Hull for Freedom Festival in August.

There Should Be Unicorns: Rehearsal diary one

By | Blog

After years in the making, the cast, crew, and creatives working on Middle Child’s hip-hop family musical There Should Be Unicorns began rehearsals!

What has long only been a thing of imagination finally became a reality last week as theatre-makers piled into Hull and made their way down to Middle Child HQ to begin the countdown to the show premiere at Hull’s own Stage @ the Dock on 7th May.

To kick off the week (and celebrate the fact that everyone could finally be in the same room together), introductions commenced.

In true Jasmine Littlehorse fashion, Middle Child CEO and co-director Paul Smith asked us to express our hopes for this production. Some hoped to inspire confidence in the children coming to watch the show, whereas others hoped to look back at this production and be proud of what we had all created together.  

And with that, the script came to life. A table read, guided by the talented cast gave us a first complete read through of the script in the characters own voices.

Rough cuts of the songs co-written by Paul smith and members of the Beats Bus, David Okwesia, Kobby Taylor, and Steve ‘Redeye’ Arnott, and co-composers James Frewer and Kobby Taylor, were played as the script was read and the ball was officially rolling on There Should Be Unicorns.  

The first week of rehearsals was dedicated exclusively to this music. Alongside teaching the cast their parts, re-writes and edits were made to elevate these songs into their final-form, super incarnations.

The stage management team transformed Middle Child’s former ‘Zoom room’ into an in-house studio where existing raps were workshopped, chopped up and put back together all week long.

Working in chronological order each song was learned, rehearsed and performed to piece in the foundations of There Should Be Unicorns to build on as rehearsals continue.  

Co-director Maureen Lennon got to grips with the performers during their character workshops, delving into the characters and getting to know them as well as we have all been getting to know each other here in the rehearsal room.

The week ended with a sitzprobe – a rehearsal designated to bringing the music and the singers together for the first time in a production process.

Everyone together watched the cast run through the musical numbers as finished songs ready to begin the staging and movement work in the coming weeks.  

Two young white women smiling in front of an outdoor patio. Left; Erin, Right; Lucy.

Erin Anderson and Lucy Foy join the Middle Child team

By | Blog, News

Middle Child is welcoming two new members to the team!

Two young white women smiling in front of an outdoor patio. Left; Erin, Right; Lucy.

Left to Right: Erin Anderson, Lucy Foy

Middle Child has hired new starts, Erin Anderson and Lucy Foy, as part of the Kickstart Scheme for young people. 

As digital marketing assistant, Erin will be trying her hand at digital marketing and communications under the audience development manager for Middle Child, Jamie Potter.  

From content development to promotion, she will be learning everything from scratch about both theatre and marketing in a professional capacity. 

Erin said: “I am thrilled to be working with Middle Child. I have always had a passion for the arts and I’m looking forward to channelling that passion into working for such an exciting local company.”

Lucy will be supporting general and production manager Emily Anderton as a production assistant in co-ordinating the productions of Middle Child.  

She will be learning the ins and out of meeting legal and CDM requirements, monitoring production evaluation processes, as well as how to manage the day-to-day goings on of Middle Child and everyone involved.  

Lucy said: “I’m really excited about getting started with a local business with such a unique take on theatre. I’m especially looking forward to the start of rehearsals next week for There Should Be Unicorns for the opportunity of further insight into the company.”

Head over to the Middle Child Instagram on Monday to see Erin and Lucy do an Instagram Takeover for the first day of rehearsals for There Should Be Unicorns. 

An Asian woman in a wheelchair and two white men, all holding scripts, make the cheers gesture

What does a literary department do?

By | Artist Development, Blog

Literary manager, Matthew May, writes about what a literary department does in an organisation like Middle Child and our plans for the next few years.

Middle Child are a new writing company. Writers and new plays are at the heart of what we do. That’s why in 2020 my job title changed, from artistic associate to Middle Child’s first literary manager.

Now we have a literary department, but what does that actually mean? And in particular, what does that mean when you work for a small NPO and your department consists of just you, working part time?

That’s what myself and Paul, our artistic director, have been trying to work out as we plan for the future.

This blog post is an attempt to explain that. It’s written for writers, because we love you and we want you to know what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.

It contains an apology, but also a plan that we hope is honest, achievable and exciting.

This is what a Middle Child literary department aims to set out and do:

  • Support the development of Middle Child productions
  • Identify and form meaningful relationships with new writers who will work with Middle Child in the future
  • Encourage and develop writers within Hull

I don’t think any of that is surprising, or ground-breaking, but I do think it helps for you to know what we’re trying to achieve and for us to say it out loud, so you can understand how we’ve made the decisions we have.

With that in mind, let’s get to the apology.

Open calls

For the past two years our website has said: “Following our 2020 open call out and subsequent launch of the Next Up associate writers programme we will not be accepting unsolicited scripts until Spring 2022. This is to ensure we are able to fully and fairly engage with writers and their work.”

Suddenly it’s spring 2022, which feels ridiculous, and so we should be putting out another call for scripts from writers we don’t know.

Sadly we’re no longer going to do this, and rather than subtly remove this from the website and hope that no one notices, I want to be up front about that.

Firstly, I want to say that hearing the reasons behind the decision and the programme we’re putting in place don’t make it any less frustrating if you’re a writer who wants to send us your work. I’m genuinely sorry.

You might well point out that just a few lines earlier I said that part of my job is identifying new writers.

These relationships need to be meaningful, though. We want to engage with you properly, actually chat with you and, hopefully, at some point make work with you.

And there’s the rub: right now, we don’t think we could do any of those things with the levels of care and attention we’d want to give, and that you would deserve.

Working part time means reading the work of, and responding to, the writers we already have relationships with, takes up most of my hours.

And as we make one new full-length show a year, there are a limited number of commissions that we have to offer.

The question we had to ask ourselves then was, if we couldn’t properly support you and we might never be able to commission you, why were we going to put a call out for more writers?

So, we’re not going to do that. Not right now, anyway.

We will at some point, because we really do want to meet new writers and hear new stories, but for now we are going to focus on how we can best support and provide opportunities to the writers we’ve already built relationships with, through previous open calls, writers groups and the work we’ve seen.

With that in mind, this is the programme we’ve put together for the next four years. We’re really excited about it and we think it gives writers a variety of meaningful ways to develop their work and get it seen.

Our programme

We will continue to work with Silent Uproar to commission two early career writers each year for our Out Loud scratch programme.

In Out Loud, we work with writers to develop an early draft of a script, which is then shared by professional actors in front of a small, friendly audience, over multiple nights in Hull.

This gives writers experience of staging their work without the high stakes of a full production, plus a framework to develop it further if they wish.

In fact, we have an Out Loud sharing coming up at Humber Street Gallery, but it’s sold out.

Concrete Retreat will return. This is an invited residency where four writers are paid to spend the week with us, developing individual ideas together as a group of peers, without any pressure to produce an outcome.

An Asian woman in a wheelchair and two white men, all holding scripts, make the cheers gesture

Writers’ Group sharing, February 2022. Photo by Simon Herring.

Our annual Writers’ Group will also continue, run by acclaimed playwright Tom Wells, who will guide a small group through the process of writing their first scenes. These will then be performed in front of an invited audience, as we did last month at Humber Street Gallery.

Raise Your Voice is our schools programme, supported by Creative Voice, in which professional writers mentor eight students across two secondary schools in Hull and help them write their first short play.

These will then be performed in front of an invited audience and we’re excited to share work from the first group of young writers in July.

Our Theatre Library will re-open this summer, making available a collection of over 2,000 plays free to residents of Hull and the East Riding.

The 1:1 Script Support sessions will continue, offering free dramaturgical support to local writers.

Finally we will continue to commission an amazing writer every year to create a new show.

We are already working with Ellen Brammar on a 2023 drag-farce-comedy-musical-play about the artist Elizabeth Thompson.

Then in 2024, Maureen Lennon will write about the intersection between romantic love, familial love and the patriarchy. Think Violence and Son meets a family wedding.

We’re yet to commission a writer for 2025, but they will be somebody with whom we already have a relationship.

We think this programme offers a clear route for writers to grow with Middle Child and is grounded in proven success over the previous five years.

A young Black man in school uniform with blazer sings into a microphone. A white man and white woman play cello on either side.

Daniel Ward in The Canary and the Crow, 2019. Photo by The Other Richard.

Daniel Ward’s The Canary and the Crow grew out of a residency with us in 2018 and eventually earned him the George Devine Award.

Hannah Scorer and Chris Pearson are among our Writers’ Group alumni to progress into Out Loud.

Jay Mitra took part in our first Concrete Retreat, then wrote for our 2021 cabaret, we used to be closer than this and is now a member of our board.

Meanwhile associate writers Tabby Lamb and Natasha Brown have also written we used to be closer than this and Deborah Acheampong for our 2020 animated panto.

In total, of the 35 people we have paid to write something over the past five years, 26% received their first professional theatre contract, while 68% have been women and non-binary people and 29% from the global majority.

That’s what we think a Middle Child literary department should look like right now and we’re actually pretty proud of it. Considering the department is just me, we think we offer a lot.

That said, I am still very sorry if you were waiting for our open call and I really hope that if that is you, we’ll get to hear from you soon. Please don’t stop inviting us to your work – we genuinely love seeing work from writers we haven’t met before.

Like everything we do, this department will change and grow. It will also adapt in response to what writers need, so please do talk to us, and let us know where you feel the gaps are. We do love writers and we’re going to keep trying to prove it.

A white woman in a black t-shirt holds a white coffee flask

“Like a spa retreat for creatives” – Kerrie Marsh

By | Artist Development, Blog
A white woman in a black t-shirt holds a white coffee flask
Kerrie Marsh reflects upon taking part in the Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme.

It’s funny how quickly you can adapt to routine, especially when it’s one that aids you. Waking up to a new week, but realising, “why am I alone in yoga this morning?”

Because I’m at home, in my front room. Awakening my body, mind and soul on my own and not with the amazing bunch of people I have done during those three weeks.

Middle Child’s Recover, Restart and Reimagine residency is over and, after a reflective weekend, I knew I’d pine for it as a new week dawned.

In a few reflective words I shared on the last day, “it’s been like a spa retreat for creatives”. One I would have happily paid for too, never mind be financially supported to take part in.

It was too hard to put into words as the programme came to an end just how important, special and inspirational the three weeks have been for me and I know I’m singing from the same hymn sheet as the rest of the group.

The love in that space was unquestionable. It was emotional and I can’t cope with emotions. If you tell me a movie you watched was sad and you cried, then I ain’t watching that movie!

I’m much more comfortable saying “was alright that, yeah”, rather than speaking from the heart and crying a river into the room. Peeps would have needed floats for real.

Though in saying this, I did share a tear or two hundred as others reflected, sharing their words with the group and trust when I say, it was most certainly a safe space to do so.

It’s still hard to put into words just how epic this experience was. I have never been part of anything like this before and I have never known of any other companies offering anything like it.

A place where artists can share, be vulnerable, be supported, offered guidance and provided with the space and expertise to allow themselves to exist, be heard and seen without any pressure of an end result other than personal gain.

It feels dramatic to say, but it felt ground-breaking as I looked back over it. I honestly have not stopped feeling inspired.

I hear echoes of the words people have said from my awesome group members to the workshop leaders or the Middle Child team. I smile and I’m prompted to jot a note down into my writing pad, a Middle Child one they provided us… for free. Who doesn’t love merch, right?

I have a growing list of inspo from as simple as changing my bio, writing a manifesto to taking over the world in an attempt to save humankind and nature, implementing green-only policies and making humour the only source of entertainment. Laugh or leave! Book now with Elon Musk.

A white woman in black t-shirt and red shorts sits in a chair by a white wall, next to a man in a black jumper.

So, although I’m still finding it hard to put into short, definite words, and sum up such an experience I am full of all the feels.

This residency will stay with me for a long time and the gratitude I hold for being blessed to be a part of it, is still overwhelming.

Massive thank you to Middle Child, the magical members of such an inspiring group to be around and to all the professionals who shared their wisdom with us.

This has been an experience like no other and one I would champion other companies to do, please.

Please do it!

Invest in your local artist, your freelancers, your creatives. You will undoubtedly make an important and extremely valuable impact upon them. That I can reassure you of, I promise.

I may never be able to say that the Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme by Middle Child was…

[Fill in Black]

Though, believe me when I say, I’ll be going away from this with such a positive mindset and I do feel truly blessed.

I’ll also be going away with a free tee, tote bag, keep cup and yoga mat.

As I said, who doesn’t like free merch eh?

Photos by Anete Sooda

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