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Fresh Ink

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Fresh Ink: how we chose our writers

By | Blog, Fresh Ink

Middle Child literary manager, Matthew May, explains the process of finalising our six writers commissioned for Fresh Ink, an exciting new playwriting festival coming to Hull this summer

Fresh Ink Hull Playwriting Festival

Fresh Ink hits the Fruit Market on 20th and 21st July 2024

I’m so chuffed that today we get to announce the six writers we’ve commissioned for our first ever Fresh Ink Hull playwriting festival. The talent and stories that are represented by these writers is incredible and I’m so excited that we’re going to share their work with you all in July. 

This blog post is to try and make clear how we got to that final six. It’s written so those that applied can have clarity on what we did with their applications, also for those writers who didn’t apply but might in the future, and for those who may never apply but just want to know what happens after you’ve applied for a scheme like this.

We think it’s really important that we talk about the process in public, because we know right now it’s incredibly tough out there for all artists, but particularly writers. New commissions are down across the board and we want Fresh Ink to feel like a positive thing for writers, not just another thing you apply for, only for all the time, effort and energy you spent to disappear into a black hole, where you have no idea of the process or the outcome.

Of course, all the transparency in the world isn’t going to make rejection not suck. It definitely does suck. It sucks that for all the amazing applications we received, we were only able to support six. We hope in the future that number will be able to grow, but right now this is all we can afford to offer. We are however aware that this is just a drop in the ocean of what is needed.

First up, let’s talk about the numbers. Fresh Ink had six commissions to offer. The application consisted of a couple of questions about the idea each applicant wanted to write and how they could demonstrate a relationship to Hull. Writers also had to include up to ten pages of some of their writing, but not necessarily the script they were applying with.

In total we had 130 applications. That number is exciting and shows that there is a real wealth of writing talent connected to this city. In particular, given that our most-applied-for commission was the 30-minute option, which was only open to writers who had never had a play professionally produced, it speaks to a desire for opportunities for those who maybe haven’t had the chance to write yet. The full breakdown of applications is below.

 

Commission Length  Criteria  Number of Applicants 
70 Minute  Must have had a play professionally produced  33 
30 Minute  Must not have had a play professionally produced  60 
15 Minute  Open to any experience to try something new  37 

 

The obvious downside to these numbers is that there is a lot of writers here and six commissions. Hopefully though, these numbers can help make the case that we need more. The reason this festival is happening at all is because Wykeland approached us to find a way we could collaborate to support and develop artists in this city, and without their generous funding and that of the JF Brignall Trust and I AM Fund we wouldn’t be able to commission or support anyone.

If reading this has inspired you and you happen to run a business, you’re a super wealthy generous person, or a funder who’d like to make a difference, then do get in touch, because we’d love to be able to showcase more than 4.6% of the people that applied.  

This next bit is about how we got from 130 to six.

None of this is to say this is the perfect way, or even the right way – it’s the way we’ve done it this time and it’s worth bearing in mind that this year is a pilot of Fresh Ink and inevitably things will change from what we’ve learned. If you have any thoughts on ways we can improve this process then do get in touch.

Submissions closed at the beginning of January and then I spent the month reading every application. Whenever we hold any sort of open call I am always blown away by the quality and variety of stories that we receive, and this was a fantastic example of that. There were so many interesting, unusual, and important stories that writers were passionate about telling and spoke about with such character and heart. It was honestly a privilege to get to read them all.

Once I had read them, I created a longlist of about ten ideas for each commission. The bulk of the decision was based on the application form. Could I get a real sense of the idea from the way the writer speaks about it, not so much the details of it, but the feel of it, and why this writer needed to write this thing? Also, how would this story sit in a festival of new work down at Stage@TheDock? 

The extracts that we asked writers to provide were used as a way of confirming (or not) my sense of a writer. Does what the writer wants to write about, and how they speak about it, match up with how they write? And of course, do we think this writer is ready for this opportunity?

The obvious criticism of this process is that one person, me, gets to make the decision about the bulk of the applications. I agree that’s not ideal. I think the upside to that is every application gets read by the same person, with the same care and attention, while I can also see how every application relates to the rest of the submissions. It would however be ridiculous of me to claim that there aren’t flaws in that system: I obviously have my own theatrical tastes and preferences and my own lived experiences, and these, however subconsciously, will inevitably shape what the final list looks like.

It would be great to bring on board a reading team to make sure that we have a wider range of voices feeding into the process from the very beginning, but to afford to do that we’d have to reduce the number of commissions. That might be the right way to go, but this year we opted to give out as many commissions as possible and accept that the long-listing process will rest solely with me. 

Festival steering group

Once the longlist was finalised, Middle Child’s artistic director Paul Smith and I looked through them all and created a shortlist of six for each commission. At this point we presented the shortlisted ideas to the steering committee. This committee was made up of freelance writers, artistic leaders within the city and key stakeholders of the Fresh Ink festival. The full list of who was on the committee is here:

  • Kate Allan – J F Brignall Trust
  • Mark Babych – Hull Truck Theatre
  • Jan Brumby – For Entrepreneurs Only
  • Natalia Cleary – Wykeland
  • Maureen Lennon – Freelance writer
  • Gordon Meredith – Freelance writer and actor
  • Chris Tonge – Middle Child Trustee and local businessman
  • Tom Wells – Freelance Writer
  • Louise Yates – Back to Ours

Each idea was discussed on its merits, but also with a view to creating an exciting festival that told a diverse array of stories. Hull was also really at the heart of a lot of the conversations. This festival is about championing the creativity in this city and telling stories about us that maybe we haven’t heard before.

The final decisions were made by votes, often incredibly close votes. Each member of the committee had two votes for each level commission and in the case of ties the committee voted again on just those applications.

Paul and I didn’t get a vote. Having created the shortlist we felt it was important that, at this stage, we limited our say in the decision making. This felt particularly important when Hull has a relatively small, close-knit artistic community. Inevitably we were going to know, professionally and personally, some of those that applied and we felt one of the big benefits of having an independent steering committee was mitigating this risk. Conflict of interest was still the first thing we discussed, with each committee member declaring any existing relationship with all the shortlisted writers, to ensure full transparency.

After the festival started to emerge from the votes, we looked at the festival as a whole, and occasionally revisited decisions to make sure that the six commissions worked well together to create a single festival. That is how we ended up with the six amazing writers that we’ve announced to you today. 

Feedback

After the decision was made, I emailed every writer who applied to inform them of our decision. From the outset we’d said we wouldn’t do individual feedback for unsuccessful applicants. That was for a few reasons. Firstly we only got to read a short extract of each writer’s work, which means that the feedback that I could offer would be limited. To be honest though, we weren’t sure that an email with a few notes in it was the best way to support unsuccessful applicants anyway. Instead, all applicants who weren’t successful were invited down to our space for a cuppa and a chance to hear about what we’re up to, how writers can get involved with Middle Child, and to chat to us and each other.

I’m not going to lie, I was incredibly nervous about this idea. I felt it could work, but as it came closer I did start asking myself how smart it was to invite 120-plus people who we’d just rejected to come and hang out with us? We had about 30 attendees and it was honestly lovely. It was great to get to know so many writers who I hadn’t met before and talk to them about what they wanted to create. I really hope it felt beneficial for those people who attended too.  

So that’s how we got from 130 to six. My real hope though is that it’s not just six. It’s that some of those 130 get involved with our other writing programs, or with Hull Truck’s or Back to Ours’ or Silent Uproar’s or any of the other great writing opportunities there are in the city. And that lots of them apply again next year and we can continue to grow the amazing talent pool of writers that already exists in Hull. And in growing it, more companies choose to put money in to support writing in this city, until we can support far more of the wonderfully talented people who applied and Hull can become a real champion of playwriting across the country.  

But right now, we have this summer’s Fresh Ink festival to get excited about, and you should be excited. Six amazing playwrights. six gorgeous stories. What better way to spend a weekend? 

Here are some of the ways you can support our work to change who gets to make and enjoy theatre in Hull:

  • Buy a ticket, when they go on-sale in June
  • Join our pay what you can supporters scheme, Middle Child Mates
  • Tell your friends and family – word of mouth is by far and away our most effective marketing tactic, but it’s the one thing that we can’t do ourselves
  • Fund our work – contact senior producer Sarah Penney if you would like to discuss opportunities
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Fresh Ink: Our response to the crisis in new writing

Middle Child artistic director, Paul Smith, writes about Fresh Ink, our new playwriting festival coming to Hull in summer 2024. 

Read More
Fresh Ink Writers 2024

Writers revealed for first Fresh Ink: Hull Playwriting Festival

By | Fresh Ink, News

Middle Child are pleased to announce the six writers commissioned for Fresh Ink, a new annual playwriting festival coming to Hull’s Fruit Market in July.

Rosie Race, Hannah Scorer, Grace Waga Glevey, Marc Graham, Prince Kundai and Andrew Houghton were selected from 130 entrants, who responded to an open call for writers with “a meaningful connection to Hull”.

Rosie Race and Hannah Scorer will each write a 70-minute play, Grace Waga Glevey and Marc Graham a 30-minute piece and Prince Kundai and Andrew Houghton a 15-minute excerpt of a larger idea.

They will work with Middle Child to develop two drafts of their respective scripts, to be performed in rehearsed readings at a pop-up venue in Hull’s Fruit Market quarter.

The Fresh Ink festival programme will also feature a series of workshops, talks and social events over the weekend of 20-21 July.

Fresh Ink Writers 2024

Meet the writers

Rosie Race is an actor and writer from Hull, who is now based in Plymouth.

She works as a movement director and is associate artist at Theatre Royal Plymouth, where her first full length show Us Against The World opened in February 2024.

Her play No Woman Is An Island is a perversely funny, absurd and moving portrayal of a pregnant woman on the brink of insanity.

Rosie said: “I’m super chuffed to be offered one of the writing commissions.

“I am both excited and a tad emotional about immersing myself in the place I grew up and returned to for the birth of my child and the first year of her life.

“Hull is so much a part of me but I’ve been away a while, and writing this play which has my hometown at its very heart feels like the perfect way to reconnect.”

Hannah Scorer is a writer from Hull, who first took part in Middle Child’s Writers’ Group in 2019 and last year shared a script at Out Loud, Middle Child’s scratch night with Silent Uproar. This is her first full-length commission.

Can We Be Friends? follows a single parent and her daughter as they both discover family doesn’t always look the way we’re told.

Hannah said: “Because I reached my mid-30s without ever writing creatively, I didn’t think it was something I’d ever do.

“The Middle Child Writers’ Group is where this story started, as a 10-minute monologue, so it’s incredibly exciting to have this chance to tell the whole story.”

Grace Waga Glevey is a theatre and television maker from Scunthorpe, who recently founded Hani Projects, a not-for-profit theatre and arts production company committed to developing and attracting new work in and to Humberside.

She has trained with the Old Vic as a young theatre maker and in Sheffield Theatres’ New Dramaturgs Group.

Her play Jack & Gill depicts an unexpected friendship between two octogenarians, from vastly different walks of life, who wind up in the same crumbling Yorkshire care home.

Grace said: “I’m so excited to work with Middle Child on my debut play. It feels like my play has found its natural home here, with a company that champions new work in the area in which it is set.

“The story is inspired by Scunthorpe, and my family’s working heritage; particularly my mum, a generous and devoted carer her entire working life, and my uncle, a gifted sheet metal worker.”

Marc Graham is an actor from Hull, who also took part in Middle Child’s 2019 Writers’ Group. This is his first commission as a writer.

Isabelle tells the story of a family coming together at Christmas for the first time in ten years, bringing not only themselves but unwelcome remnants of their past lives.

Marc said: “I think a lot of people have the feeling that they’ve been sitting on a play for years, but don’t know how to uncover that. I feel incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to attempt to do just that.

“I don’t have it all planned out ready to go, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m excited to figure it out.”

Hull-born Andrew Houghton is a co-founder of Pink Milk Theatre, who most recently toured their solo show, Naughty. This is their first commission as a writer.

Phobia depicts a father and their child on their annual trip to Hull Fair. When a ride malfunction leaves the pair stranded high in the air, a very panicked dad requires constant conversation to keep his nerves under control.

Andrew said: “I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to work with Middle Child and debut my first professional writing commission in my home city.

“Spotlighting queer experiences I didn’t have the words for growing up, in the city I grew up in, is such a personal triumph.”

Prince Kundai is a Hull-raised creative who made his acting debut in the critically-acclaimed production of Bootycandy at the Gate Theatre London.

Fresh Ink marks Prince Kundai’s first venture in writing, with an African coming of age story about a young girl and the dynamics between her, her small family and the world around them.

Prince said: “To be commissioned for the first time is quite the feeling. A new journey along a road many have taken before you and to have your first step be upon a milestone? A first commission? Well, that really is quite something.

“Hull is a cornerstone of my identity and to be working here is both an honour and a privilege.”

A new festival to support Hull theatre making

The six writers were selected by a festival steering group that included representatives from Wykeland Group, Hull Truck Theatre, Back to Ours, freelance artists and local business people.

Fresh Ink: Hull Playwriting Festival will become an annual platform for Hull writers to create and develop new plays in the city.

Middle Child artistic director and chief executive, Paul Smith, said: “When Wykeland first approached Middle Child to explore an idea to support creative skills development in Hull, we knew there was huge potential to build something which could meet genuine need and last long into the future.

“The 130 submissions we received as part of Fresh Ink’s first open call are evidence of this, going far beyond our wildest dreams and proving that exceptional writing talent exists in Hull and needs a platform to match its undoubted potential.

“We were blown away by the creativity, confidence and craft of the local writers who applied this time around and it is no exaggeration to say that we could have commissioned enough plays to fill the festival ten times over.

“We are delighted to announce these six commissions and cannot wait to bring these exceptional ideas to life. Each one is full of the heart, humour and hope that echoes around this city, and we are sure they will resonate with the people of Hull.”

Middle Child hope the festival will attract producers, venues and critics from outside of Hull to experience theatre by artists who may go unnoticed in the current climate.

Paul Smith added: “We are particularly proud to work alongside our founding partners Wykeland and initial funders Wykeland and J F Brignall Charitable Trust to support the development of new writing at a time of great risk.

“Opportunities for freelance artists are becoming scarcer, with institutions such as the Vault Festival closing due to the challenging economic climate.

“We must continue advocating for the power and importance of untold stories from unheard voices, and the wider importance of culture in a thriving society.

“I am in no doubt that our first Fresh Ink festival will once again demonstrate the transformative power of culture and showcase what is possible when art made by local people is meaningfully supported.”

The 2024 event will be run as a pilot, so Middle Child can learn what works best and improve on it for the following years.

Dominic Gibbons, managing director of Wykeland Group, said: “Wykeland are delighted to be the co-founders and sponsors of the new Fresh Ink: Hull Playwriting Festival.

“We approached Middle Child following their highly successful There Should Be Unicorns production, which we sponsored and they performed at Stage@TheDock in the summer of 2022, to see if we could work together to create something that would have a deep cultural impact on the city and the people in it.

“Fresh Ink gives the opportunity for writers of all levels to expand their skill set and have their work performed at Stage@TheDock, a venue we opened in 2016 with the aim of it being used as a platform to develop new and exciting work.”

The full festival programme will be announced in June, with tickets for performances and workshops on-sale thereafter.

  • Read more about the writer selection process, in a blog post from Middle Child literary manager, Matthew May
Paul Smith, a white man in his mid-thirties with short light brown hair, in a dark blue sweater arms folded

Fresh Ink: Our response to the crisis in new writing

By | Blog, Fresh Ink

Artistic director, Paul Smith, blogs about our launch of a new writing festival, coming to Hull in summer 2024

I’m not sure I’ve ever been this excited to write, and share, a blog post.

As we grow older and enter our 13th year as a company, we are more focused than ever before on what we can meaningfully contribute to the city we live in, the industry we work in and the art form we love.

At the heart of Middle Child’s work – from our productions and development programme through to our venue, complete with a writing room and theatre library – is a dedication to new writing.

New writing, however, is under immense threat. The broader theatre industry faces some of the biggest challenges we’ve known since forming Middle Child in 2011, with the warnings from key industry voices clear.

Lyn Gardner has commented that “new writing finds itself in a precarious place where pressures on funding, concern over audiences, pressures on in-house staff and cutbacks to programming all threaten a delicate ecology. Unless we take care, the writing is on the wall.”

Meanwhile David Eldridge notes that “we must act now to save the UK’s great playwriting culture”.

These warnings are palpable in the day-to-day planning of a theatre company too. Edinburgh Fringe is becoming impossible for many companies, the future remains uncertain for London’s Vault Festival and challenges abound in finding financial deals for ‘risky new work’ that suits both touring companies and regional venues.

Even as a member of the Arts Council’s National Portfolio, it is becoming harder to marry ambition with long-term sustainability, as we each contend with rising costs, reduced audience numbers in the face of covid and high competition for funds across the board.

These challenges have a direct impact on the working lives of freelancers too, with average earnings for freelancers in the industry 17.5% below the UK national average salary, as per the Freelancers Make Theatre Work’s 2023 report.

The impact of the past few years are particularly stark when looking at our home city of Hull. According to the Hull Data Observatory, employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation has fallen by 55% since the pandemic, compared to 48.6% nationally.

While these are massive, industry and country-wide challenges, we at Middle Child want to do everything we can to increase opportunity, employment and access for theatre workers in our small corner of the world.

Fresh Ink Hull Playwriting Festival

That is why, along with founding partners Wykeland and J F Brignall Charitable Trust, we’re launching Fresh Ink, an annual new playwriting festival in Hull’s Fruit Market, starting with a pilot event in summer 2024.

Fresh Ink will directly fund and support the grassroots development of new plays in Hull, bringing new ideas to the stage and inviting audience feedback on early work to shape its future.

The initial focus of our festival will be on supporting the work of those with a genuine connection to the city of Hull. This new venture is not designed to be a replacement of the international behemoth that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but instead asks if there are different ways new work can be supported within the UK theatre ecology, beyond the largest cities.

We do have major long-term ambitions to establish this festival as a permanent fixture, but are also aware that we must be clear and realistic with our aims in its infancy. Our hope and belief, then, is that investing meaningfully in both funding and developing new work in Hull will make it easier than ever before to find a home for new work in the city, and will also provide local artists with a platform from which they can more sustainably create work that can be taken to other places.

We know first-hand the impact established events such as Edinburgh Fringe can have on new work, while also recognising how much stronger and better equipped our work would have been for such stages had there been greater support structures along the way. Therefore, our hope is that Fresh Ink acts as a pathway for writers and artists of all experience levels to develop their craft and test out new ideas in a positive and nurturing environment.

All of this is only possible thanks to the incredible support of local partners Wykeland and the JF Brignall Charitable Trust who are funding the first few years of this exciting new event. Working with these brilliant partners has already been incredibly liberating as both demonstrate a genuine desire to make Hull a better place to live, work and play, and we thank them for their trust and support in making this dream a reality.

Launching a new writing festival is important to us because of our absolute belief in the power of stories, and our desire to continue fighting for writers and artists in Hull with stories that need to be heard. While we recognise theatre’s challenges go beyond just new writing, we feel that supporting new writing specifically is where Middle Child can have the most impact, in-line with our wider vision for a fair and equitable world where anyone’s story can be told and heard.

The question now becomes what type of festival we want to create.

There’s still lots to learn on this front, and we’ll be asking your help with that, but there are a few things we do know, which we are using as guiding principles to build from the ground up.

Our values

We know we want to create a festival that:

  • Gives meaningful opportunities to writers of all levels, from emerging to established, first-timers to fiftieth-timers;
  • Fosters a supportive community for writers, where they can take risks and enjoy a working environment conducive to great art;
  • Encourages people of all backgrounds to try new ideas, with free opportunities to learn and hone their craft, and creates meaningful ways for writers to receive feedback from audiences;
  • Tells unheard stories;
  • Embraces a ‘rough and ready’ energy, in a low-pressure environment that allows work to develop and grow without high expectations;
  • Gives space for people and organisations to meet each other, be it as collaborators, producers, audiences or critical friends;
  • Invites audiences behind the curtain to learn what goes into the creation of new work and gives them the chance to genuinely help shape its future;
  • Works for everyone, reducing the barriers to participation or attendance that are often associated with festivals;
  • Listens to what barriers people face and responds with meaningful action;
  • Is open to people from all walks of life, and has a direct, lasting impact on who is creating and engaging with art beyond simply who can afford to do so;
  • Pushes back against the idea that artists will be exploited or take the majority of financial risk when taking part in festivals;
  • Is not a vehicle created simply for the work of Middle Child;
  • Works in partnership with other organisations to create something special together;
  • Invites ideas from others and provides support and backing to make that happen as part of the festival. If you have an idea, a project or just a general interest in this Festival then please do reach out as outlined below and we’ll do all we can to find a way to work together.
An amphitheatre in a dry dock surrounded by new office buildings, with the set of There Should Be Unicorns in the middle

What Fresh Ink will look like

While the above hopefully gives an indication of how we want our festival to feel, we’re in no doubt that any such venture will be judged on its action and its impact. We will:

  • Commission plays for people of all experience levels. There will be at least six commissions in 2024, including two early stage 15-minute pieces, two 30-minute pieces and two commissions up to 70-minutes in length. These commissions will be performed at the festival at various stages of their development, with audiences invited to offer feedback. We know how hard it can be to secure a commission and think that first and foremost it’s vital our festival makes that more achievable.
  • Create a rep company of actors and stage managers to bring new plays to life, providing meaningful employment and involving theatre workers in the early development of new work.
  • Offer a series of micro-commissions to be performed at an evening cabaret, encouraging experimentation in form. This event will also feature an open-mic style event for artists to trial new work in a low-pressure environment.
  • Create space for low-pressure sharing of first-ever plays by young people, as well as participants on our Introduction to Playwriting Group led by Tom Wells.
  • Use the festival as an opportunity to discuss the state of new writing in the UK through a series of open discussions.
  • Offer a workshop programme as part of the festival to create a space for personal development.
  • Provide a platform, resource and infrastructure for other companies wanting to trial new work, reducing the cost of R&D’ing new plays and supporting the development of new ideas.
  • Welcome partnerships with other organisations, nationally and locally, helping to make new projects happen and providing a home for big ideas to be grown.

We are fully aware of the scale of what we are proposing, and know we have a lot to learn along the way.

That’s why our first festival in 2024 will be a pilot. We know we will learn a lot from this and will constantly re-evaluate what we are offering and how we are working, to make sure we create a festival of value and one which can last long into the future.

Meeting a need in Hull

Initially, the focus is on investing in the development of grassroots artists and activity in Hull. We have already conducted a survey with artists in Hull to gauge the value of a festival, receiving 42 responses from within our artistic community, and the results are clear:

  • 92% of respondents agreed that “it would be useful to have audience input into the generation and development of new ideas”
  • 100% of respondents agreed that “performers, creatives and other theatre workers would benefit from the opportunity to be involved in the development of new work at an earlier stage”
  • 100% of responders agreed that “writers in Hull need more meaningful opportunities to develop new ideas and new plays” and “more opportunity to show what they can do”
  • 82% of responders disagreed that “there are enough work opportunities already in Hull for theatre workers”
  • 100% of responders agreed that “an annual new writing festival in the city would be a benefit to my career” and that “an annual new writing festival would be a benefit to the city”

We also surveyed Hull audiences to gauge their appetite for seeing work at early stages. Of 181 total responses, 58% of people agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to see a work-in-progress play. This rose to 75% when looking only at audiences who have attended some new writing work by Middle Child, This is also reflected in the audiences who have come to our last three scratch events with Silent Uproar: 72% of attendees do not work in the arts.

Hull is a festival city, already served brilliantly by such local institutions as Freedom Festival, Humber Street Sesh, Big Malarkey, Humber Mouth and Hull Jazz Festival. We’re excited to add another event to the social calendar and want to add to Hull’s reputation as a city where world-class art is made and showcased. As Fresh Ink grows and more partners come on board, we hope it will become an event of national renown, where local artists rub shoulders with those from further afield – sharing ideas, knowledge and skills.

Not just our festival

We want Fresh Ink to be a festival that listens to people and takes action accordingly. With this in mind, we have created various ways of getting in touch to feed into the festival and help us to create an event for all.

First, we’d love it if you would tell us what would make your dream new writing festival. It may be a suggestion for how we can ensure it is more inclusive or accessible, it could be something you’ve always wanted to see happen at a festival, or just an idea you think would be really fun. Whatever it is, we’d love it if you could share your dream festival ideas through this online form. We can’t promise we’ll do it all, but we can promise we’ll listen to and consider everything that comes in.

Second, we’re keen to hear from local artists and companies who have work in progress they would like to share with audiences as part of the festival programme, beyond our six new commissions. Again, not everything will be possible, but we’d love to hear your ideas and see what we can do.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. We hope to be inundated with suggestions and ideas. We’ll go quiet for a bit now while we put together the programme for the first year. You’ll hear more from us in March when we will reveal the commissioned writers, then plan to go on-sale in late June, with our first pilot festival in July 2024.

Writer applications are now open

My final message is to any writers, or potential writers, reading this. We’re working hard to create a festival that celebrates stories, people and ideas while reducing barriers to participation for all. Our commissions are now open and close on 8 January, but if you need any additional support before applying please reach out to literary manager Matt.

We’re all absolutely buzzing with excitement and can’t wait to get started on creating something which we believe can have a huge impact on new writing in Hull and the UK.

We’re sure there are lots more of you out there planning ways to make a difference, so if anything in this blogpost has resonated or if you’d like a more detailed chat about it and how you can get involved please get in touch with me on paul@middlechildtheatre.co.uk.

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Fresh Ink Hull Playwriting Festival at the Fruit Market

Revealed: Fresh Ink, a new Hull playwriting festival

By | Artist Development, Fresh Ink, News

A new playwriting festival is coming to Hull next summer, supported with funding from founding partners Wykeland and J F Brignall Charitable Trust

Fresh Ink will support writers from Hull to create and develop new plays in the city, while giving audiences a glimpse behind-the-scenes of how theatre is made.

Inspired by ‘scratch’ nights, the festival will stage script-in-hand performances of early-draft plays over one weekend in July 2024.

Performances will take place at venues across the Fruit Market, including the outdoor Stage @TheDock.

Six new plays of varying lengths will be commissioned for the festival, with applications now open to writers.

A company of actors will perform the plays and be made available to other theatre makers who have work they’d like to share with an audience.

This first festival will be a pilot, so Middle Child can learn what works best and improve on it for the following years.

Middle Child have launched the festival to address the numerous threats to new writing in theatre.

Artistic director, Paul Smith, said: “Edinburgh Fringe is becoming impossible for many companies, Vault Festival’s long-term future remains uncertain and challenges abound in finding financial deals for ‘risky new work’ that suits both touring companies and receiving venues.

“Theatre makers must also contend with rising costs, reduced audience numbers in the face of covid and competition for funding, while freelancers bear the brunt of low pay and fewer employment opportunities, especially in Hull.

“While these are massive, industry and country-wide challenges, we at Middle Child want to do everything we can to increase opportunity, employment and access for theatre workers in our small corner of the world.

“That is why we’re launching an annual new writing festival, to directly fund and support the grassroots development of new plays in Hull, bringing new ideas to the stage and inviting audience feedback on early work to shape its future.”

Collage of four images. Top left, a Black woman in orange sweat and purple shiny wig dances. Text says six new paid commissions. Top right, two young white actors perform with scripts. Text says script in hand performances. Bottom right, an outdoor wooden amphitheatre, set in an old dry dock, with an audience watching a show. Text says venues across the Fruit Market. Bottom left, a white non-binary person with curly mullet sits at a desk laughing. Text says give it a go workshops.

The six commissions up for grabs include two 15-minute pieces, two 30-minute plays and two more up to 70-minutes.

Writers with a connection to Hull are invited to apply for one of the commissions, with a new idea, before the deadline of Monday 8 January.

Chosen playwrights will then work with the Middle Child literary team to each write a new script, which will be performed at the summer festival.

Audiences will be able to enjoy the lo-fi sharings, then share their thoughts and feelings with the writers and creative teams.

Paul Smith added: “All of this is only possible thanks to the incredible support of founding partners Wykeland who are funding the first three years, and the J F Brignall Charitable Trust, who are funding the first two years of this exciting new event.

“Working with these brilliant local partners has already been incredibly liberating, as both demonstrate a genuine desire to make Hull a better place to live, work and play, and we thank them for their trust and support in making this dream a reality.”

Read more about the thinking behind the festival in artistic director Paul Smith’s blog post or find out all the details for the commissions on our commissions page.

The commissioned writers will be revealed at the Middle Child season launch in March 2024.

The full festival programme will be finalised, with tickets going on-sale, by June 2024.

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