Show photos from There Should Be Unicorns

By | News, Shows

Our brand new, hip hop family musical There Should Be Unicorns premiered to a sold out audience at Stage @TheDock in Hull this weekend.

The Stage described it as “a vibrant, colourful celebration of imagination”, and the inclusion of BSL-interpretation and audio description as “not just admirable – it makes its shows better”.

Hull Is This, in their review, said There Should Be Unicorns is “an absolute joy to watch” and “unapologetically optimistic and imaginative”.

The show, inspired by the work of Beats Bus founder Steve Arnott, heads on a tour of English festivals this summer, before returning to Hull in August for Freedom Festival.

Thank you to photographer Tom Arran for capturing the energy and joy of the show in the pictures below.

There Should Be Unicorns is supported by Wykeland Group, Without Walls, Freedom Festival Arts Trust, Hull City Council, Foyle Foundation and Garfield Weston.

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.

Purple background with white text that says 'designer call out'

Call out for designers

By | News

We are looking to meet new designers to broaden who we collaborate with across our future work, including new writing and pantomime.

We especially want to meet people based in the north, with a particular interest in widening who feels welcome at live theatre, and who are keen to experiment with form.

If you would like to respond to the call out, please send an email to artistic director, Paul Smith, with:

  • a couple of sentences to introduce yourself and anything you may be working on at the moment;
  • a link to a portfolio or website and;
  • an up-to-date CV.

Middle Child are a PiPA (Parents and Carers in Performing Arts) Charter Partner, striving towards creating a more family-friendly working environment.

PiPA campaigns to enable and empower parents, carers and employers to achieve sustainable change in attitudes and practices in order to attract, support and retain a more diverse and flexible workforce.

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. 

A white woman with long dark hair, in lilac dungarees, yellow jumper, gold party hat and pink cape makes a superhero pose, against blue background with white clouds and text that says "There Should Be Unicorns"

There Should Be Unicorns to open in Hull

By | Events, News, Shows, Uncategorised
A white woman with long dark hair, in lilac dungarees, yellow jumper, gold party hat and pink cape makes a superhero pose, against blue background with white clouds and text that says

Flutter your capes and zhuzh up your rainbows – we have a new show coming to town!

There Should Be Unicorns is a hip hop family musical coming to Stage @ The Dock in Hull from 7-8 May, made in association with Beats Bus.

Join 11-year-old Jasmine on an adventure to make the world a better place, powered only by her imagination and a belief in unicorns.

Come dressed as the superhero version of yourself and help Jasmine take on the bullies, villains and ideas that shape the world around her.

There Should Be Unicorns is inspired by the story of Beats Bus co-founder, Steve Arnott, who was the subject of Sean McAllister’s 2018 documentary, A Northern Soul.

Steve stars as Jasmine’s dad, alongside Beats Bus co-founder Kobby Taylor, who you may also recognise from The Canary and the Crow and The Little Mermaid.

In the show Jasmine’s dad inspires her to rebel against the pressure to conform and put herself first as she gets ready to move to senior school.

We’d love to see families from across Hull turn out in fancy dress to support Jasmine in her quest and free face painting will be available all weekend, from Fantastic Faces.

A Black man applauds a white boy on a microphone. In the background lots of children watch.

Kobby Taylor leading a Beats Bus workshop

Free tickets, available 30 March

Free tickets have been made possible thanks to the support of Wykeland Group, Without Walls and Freedom Festival Arts Trust.

They go on-sale through the Middle Child website at 12 noon, Wednesday 30 March.

For the first time at a Middle Child show we are providing integrated audio description in all performances, alongside BSL interpretation on Sunday 8 May.

The venue also opens an hour before the show and you’re welcome to bring in food from the many independent shops and cafes around the Fruit Market.

There Should Be Unicorns premieres in Hull, before heading on a national tour of outdoor festivals, including a return to Freedom Festival, so come join us for a kick-ass opening weekend!

There Should Be Unicorns is supported by Wykeland Group, Without Walls, Freedom Festival Arts Trust, Hull City Council, Foyle Foundation and Garfield Weston.

Fantastic Faces logo

Five new people join the Board of Trustees

By | News

Middle Child are delighted to welcome five new faces to the Board of Trustees.

Collage of the five new trustees

Clockwise from top left: Jack Heaton, Rozzy Knox, Amanda Smethurst, Magda Moses and Jay Mitra

Jack Heaton is head of marketing at Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and has previously worked at Arts Council England, Paines Plough and New Diorama.

Rozzy Knox is head of finance at Battersea Arts Centre and previously worked as the executive director (maternity cover) at Middle Child and assistant producer at the Bridge Theatre in London.

Jay Mitra is a non-binary British Indian punk poet, writer and artist based in Hull and Manchester. They wrote for Middle Child on we used to be closer than this in 2021 and took part in the 2019 Writers’ Group.

Magda Moses is artistic director of the National Initiative for Creative Education in Hull and an examiner and writer of GCSE and A-Level Polish.

Amanda Smethurst is a community artist and Clore Fellow who has previously worked at Artlink in Hull and Arts Council England in London.

The new trustees join existing board members Jane Fallowfield, Fiona Hope, John R. Wilkinson, Emma Tucker and chair, Martin Green CBE.

A young woman in a movement workshop with text that says "Kickstart Scheme"

Work with Middle Child through the Kickstart scheme

By | News

We are looking for two people to join the Middle Child team as part of the government’s Kickstart scheme, for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit.

The scheme offers paid work for 25 hours per week over six months and we have two roles available:

Digital Marketing Assistant – flex your social media and web skills to speak with our audiences and the wider theatre industry, about the work we are doing in Hull and beyond.

Production Assistant – get stuck-in behind the scenes to keep the cogs turning on our upcoming shows and workshops, as well as help manage our rehearsal space and library in Hull.

Both roles will start by 31 March 2022, ahead of our big outdoor family musical in the spring and the opening of our creative space to the public in the summer.

We are prioritising potential over experience and these positions will be an ideal entry point to a career in the arts.

See our recruitment page for more details about the Kickstart roles and how to apply, before the deadline of Monday 7 March.

A white man in blue t-shirt leaning against a wall

Free 1:1 feedback for Hull playwrights

By | Artist Development, News
A white man in blue t-shirt leaning against a wall

Are you writing a play and looking for feedback on your latest draft?

Starting in March, Middle Child literary manager, Matthew May, is offering 1:1 Script Support meetings with writers local to Hull to provide notes and support.

The sessions are aimed at writers without current access to dramaturgical support, such as those not under commission or attached to an existing project.

Writers will be chosen at random from a pool of applicants to attend a one-off, two-hour meeting with Matthew.

Meetings will run throughout the year and applications are now open to bag one of the first three spots.

See the 1:1 Script Support page for more details, including how to apply.

Panto voting booth with four buckets recessed into a piece of wood painted with stripes

Revealed: our 2022 Hull panto, as chosen by you

By | News, Panto

Every year our panto audience decides which fairy tale they’d most like to see us bring to life the following Christmas.

Rapunz’ull was no different and you voted in your droves, with Robin Hood, Aladdin, Snow White and Cinderella in the poll.

Panto voting booth with four buckets recessed into a piece of wood painted with stripes

After counting your votes, checking, double checking, and bloody well checking again, we are now able to announce this year’s show.

The 2022 Middle Child panto, as chosen by you, will be…

Robin Hood in yellow text on a green background

Yes, revolutionary fever has gripped Hull and you want to see some good old fashioned stealing from the rich, so who are we to argue with that?

Robin Hood will go on-sale later in the year. Stay tuned for ticket details and dates.

We’ll be back soon with Out Loud, a new writing night at Humber Street Gallery, in association with Silent Uproar, and There Should Be Unicorns, a spectacular outdoor family show coming to Hull in the spring.

A white woman in stripey top, dungarees and backwards baseball cap holds a placard that says 'viva la revolution'

What Plan B means for panto

By | News, Panto

The government last night introduced new measures against Covid-19 that affect theatres, such as mandatory face masks for indoor public venues.

This includes Social, where our panto Rapunz’ull runs from 16-24 December.

Vaccine passports do not apply, however we are still kindly asking if you could do our team and fellow audience members a huge favour and take a lateral flow test before you leave home.

What else we’re doing

As we wrote last week, our cast and crew are taking lateral flow tests every day, while some of the wider Middle Child team have now returned to home working.

Social will also be deep cleaned every day throughout the run and has a ventilation system, while contactless e-tickets are the default and contactless payments are accepted at the bar.

We’re so excited to be back and part of your Christmases again, but we also want to keep everyone safe, so please follow the guidance and help keep pantoland magical.

Lots of love,
Middle Child x