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Collage of eight headshots of the cast

Meet the cast and writers for “we used to be closer than this”

By | News, Shows

After 18 months away from the stage, the cast of we used to be closer than this have started rehearsals today, for our first in-person performance since covid-19 struck the UK.

The show, an outdoor cabaret celebrating connection and togetherness, is written by Natasha Brown, Angelo Irving, Tabby Lamb, Jay Mitra, RashDash, Leo Skilbeck, Kobby Taylor and Tom Wells, with original live music by James Frewer.

It will be performed in Queen’s Gardens from 16-18 July, as part of Absolutely Cultured’s Creative Hull festival.

The cast includes Lauren Azania, Rachel Barnes, Tommi Bryson, Jack Chamberlain, James Frewer, Marc Graham, Anna Mitchelson and Kobby Taylor, with BSL interpreter Stephanie Raper joining the company for both performances on Saturday 17 July.

The writers

A montage of headshots of the eight writers

Top, left-right: Natasha Brown, Angelo Irving, Tabby Lamb and Jay Mitra
Bottom, left-right: RashDash, Leo Skilbeck, Kobby Taylor and Tom Wells

Natasha Brown is a writer, performer, theatre maker and facilitator based in London. Her work interrogates power, identity and community. Natasha is an associate writer of Middle Child.

Angelo Irving is a writer and actor whose career started because of covid. He loves to learn and build with others and wants to be a difference maker.

Tabby Lamb is a non-binary trans femme writer whose work focuses on moments of queer joy and gender euphoria. Tabby is an associate writer of Middle Child.

Jay Mitra is a non-binary British Indian punk poet, writer and artist based in Hull and Manchester.

RashDash are about dancing, making space to be yourself, cultural change and radical pleasure.

Leo Skilbeck is the artistic director for Milk Presents. They write, direct, make short films, and run workshops and training.

Kobby Taylor is an actor, composer and youth worker, who is passionate about all three.

Tom Wells is a Hull-based playwright and associate artist of Middle Child.

The cast

Collage of eight headshots of the cast

Top, left-right: Lauren Azania, Rachel Barnes, Tommi Bryson and Jack Chamberlain
Bottom, left-right: James Frewer, Marc Graham, Anna Mitchelson and Stephanie Raper

Lauren Azania is a British-Caribbean Motown/Disco singer, actress and dancer, based in London.

Rachel Barnes has previously appeared in The Canary and the Crow and I Hate Alone for Middle Child.

Tommi Bryson is Sheffield-born-bred-and-based performer, writer, producer and facilitator; best known for her vibrant comedy music and her varied work at Sheffield’s own Crucible Theatre.

Jack Chamberlain is an actor, director, producer and co-artistic director of Brick By Brick. He has appeared in multiple pantomimes for Middle Child.

James Frewer is a composer and musical director, who has worked on multiple Middle Child shows, including The Canary and the Crow, Us Against Whatever and All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

Marc Graham is an actor from Hull and a founding member of Middle Child. In 2017 he won The Stage Excellence Award for his performance in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

Anna Mitchelson is a performer from Hull who has previously appeared in One Life Stand and multiple pantomimes for Middle Child.

Stephanie Raper is a BSL interpreter from Lincolnshire who works across live music, theatre and performance.

Kobby Taylor, as well as being a writer on the show, is a performer who has previously appeared in The Canary and the Crow and The Little Mermaid for Middle Child.

we used to be closer than this is directed by Paul Smith and the production team also includes: Belle Streeton (assistant director), Natalie Young (designer), Jess Addinall and Adam Foley (lighting designers), Jay Hirst (technical stage manager) and Oliver Strong (assistant stage manager).

  • Pay what you can tickets are on sale now, through Absolutely Cultured.

Dates

Fri 16 – Sun 18 July
Queen’s Gardens, Hull
Pay What You Can

Book Tickets
A woman with orange hair in jeans and black vest leans to her right

Gallery: Recover, Restart and Reimagine

By | Artist Development, News
On Friday 2 July we drew to a close Recover, Restart and Reimagine, our gently radical programme to support Hull theatre makers to emerge from lockdown – and what a time it has been.
The wonderful people you see in the photos below spent three weeks exploring and growing together, leaving feeling ready for the future.
Middle Child would like to say thank you to all of the team who made this possible: from our workshop facilitators and Jack Chamberlain for producing, to Princes Quay Shopping Centre, for providing a space so we can be safely together and The HEY Smile Foundation and Culturad Recovery Fund for funding.
And finally to the participants, Ellen Brammar, Adam Foley, Angelo Irving, Alice Beaumont, Josh Overton, Alex Parker, Kerrie Marsh, Lizi Perry, Michelle Dee, Alice Palmer, Emma Bright and Rachel Dale.
Paul Smith, artistic director, said: “The feedback has been fantastic, with many of the participants commenting on how valuable it has been to spend paid time focusing on themselves and building a new network without the pressure of output.
“We’re delighted with how Recover, Restart and Reimagine has gone and would love to find similar ways to support freelancers in the future.”
Photos by Anete Sooda.
Surrealist collage of two female burlesque characters sat amongst blue and turquoise flowers, butterflies and dragonflies

Middle Child return to the stage with a summer cabaret in Hull

By | Events, News, Shows
Surrealist collage of two female burlesque characters sat amongst blue and turquoise flowers, butterflies and dragonflies

After more than a year away from the stage we make our long-awaited return with a brand new cabaret, celebrating connection and togetherness, as part of Absolutely Cultured’s Creative Hull festival in July.

we used to be closer than this features songs by writers Natasha Brown, Angelo Irving, Tabby Lamb, Jay Mitra, RashDash, Leo Skilbeck, Kobby Taylor and Tom Wells, with original live music by James Frewer.

Performed outdoors under the sun in Queen’s Gardens, audiences will be seated cabaret style, around socially distanced tables of four people, with a limited capacity of 100 per show.

we used to be closer than this runs from 16-18 July and pay what you can tickets, for all performances, are now on sale through Absolutely Cultured.

Alongside our first live performance in 18 months, budding songwriters can also take part in our free Writing Songs for the Stage workshops, on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July, as part of the festival.

Bring along a piece of writing – be it a play, a piece of poetry, or anything in between – and work with our musicians and composers to create an original song, that will be set to live music.

  • See the Absolutely Cultured website for more information about Creative Hull.

we used to be closer than this is supported by Absolutely Cultured, Arts Council England and the Cultural Recovery Fund.

Recover Restart Reimagine Artwork

Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme launches

By | Artist Development, News, Uncategorised

Today sees the start of our gently radical Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme, in which 13 Hull theatre workers will be paid to come together to think, breathe and play.

Those involved will be able to participate in organised activities and self-led time to inspire, stretch and develop creative muscles after a year of lockdown and theatre closures.

Recover, Restart and Reimagine combines masterclasses and workshops with skill-sharing and self-development and time to play, with sessions by Tabby Lamb, Nastazja Domaradzka, Tobi Kyeremateng, Mick Ord, Sagar Shah, Jon Beney and many more.

The first week will focus on recovery, wellbeing and reflection. Week two is dedicated to restarting, with opportunities to refresh skills, plan and try new things and week three is all about reimagining, with time to dream about what the future should look like – and put actions in place to make that future happen.

The programme will also form a crucial theatre worker support network in Hull as we ease out of lockdown.

The 13 participants, who were chosen by a selection panel of freelancers after applying last month, include two parents who are sharing a place around childcare.

Follow Middle Child on Twitter and Instagram for updates throughout the programme.

Recover, Restart and Reimagine is made possible by the Cultural Recovery Fund and Smile Foundation I Am Fund. Thanks also go to Princes Quay for providing us with a space for three weeks.

Alice Beaumont

Actor and theatre maker

Ellen Brammar

Writer

Emma Bright

Actor and theatre maker

Rachel Dale

Actor and writer/comedian

Michelle Dee

Writer and performer

Adam Foley

Lighting and video designer

Headshot of a smiling Black man in a yellow t-shirt
Angelo Irving

Writer, theatre maker and artist

Kerrie Marsh

Writer and performer

Freya Noman

Actor and theatre maker

Josh Overton

Theatre maker

Alice Palmer

Actor, theatre maker and facilitator

Alex Parker

Theatre maker and poet

Lizi Perry

Theatre maker

A close-up selfie of Hattie Callery

Hattie Callery joins as executive director (maternity cover)

By | News

The Middle Child family is growing!

This month we welcome Hattie Callery to the core team as maternity cover for executive director, Lindsey Alvis.

Hattie is making the move to Hull from Little Angel Theatre (LAT) in London, where she has worked as tour producer for the past six years.

During her time at LAT she has produced shows and tours around the UK, to venues such as the Southbank Centre and Bristol Old Vic, as well as internationally to Beijing and New York.

Alongside the touring programme Hattie produced digital work, professional development programmes and the company’s first ever outdoor puppet festival.

Prior to working at LAT, Hattie worked at Box Clever Theatre and Manic Chord Theatre.

Hattie said: “I am delighted to be joining Middle Child as their executive director (maternity cover).

“Middle Child are an exceedingly exciting company: their outstanding productions, support of freelancers and work developing audiences and artists in Hull and nationally is second to none.

“I’m particularly excited to be here as we celebrate the company’s 10th birthday, so watch this space for some exciting upcoming projects.”

Middle Child is a proud partner of Parents in Performing Arts (PiPA).

Close-up selfie of a white woman with fair hair, glasses and a green jumper

Artistic director Paul Smith wins Olwen Wymark Award

By | Artistic Director, Awards, News

Middle Child artistic director, Paul Smith, has today been recognised for his “exceptional encouragement of theatre writing” with an Olwen Wymark Award.

The gongs are handed out every year by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), with the winners nominated by WGGB members.

Long-time Middle Child collaborator Luke Barnes, who has written All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Weekend Rockstars and Ten Storey Love Song, nominated Paul.

Luke said: ”Paul Smith is the best thing to happen to me as a writer.

“When I was young Paul and I met, in Newcastle, and we talked about John McGrath and he mooted the idea of making work that talked about the biggest ideas as a good night out of theatre.

“This was the starting place for me finding my voice, my art, and my purpose.

“Paul is the most generous person I know in theatre”

“Not only has Paul shaped the way that I see the world and how I see theatre, he has also pushed me to think bigger than I ever would have given myself permission to.

“He has given me the self belief to know that, no matter what privileges I exercise, I can be useful to the communities and audiences I serve.

“He has taught me that the audience and the people that our buildings, organisations, and art, serve are bigger than us.

“He has given me confidence, activism, and artistry and continues to every time we collaborate.

“Paul is the most generous person I know in theatre, to artists, to communities, to audiences; and people like Paul go unnoticed and it’s my privilege to nominate him for this award and to see him win it.

“I hope he carries on inspiring writers for work for audiences and communities for decades to come and that as many people as possible benefit from knowing him like I have.”

“Working with writers to develop new plays is one of the best parts of my job”

The Olwen Wymark Awards are the brainchild of playwrights Mark Ravenhill and David James.

They were set up to give WGGB members the opportunity to publicly thank individuals, rather than institutions, who had given them exception encouragement in theatre writing during the past year.

They are named in honour of playwright Olwen Wymark, passionate supporter of WGGB and former chair of the WGGB Theatre Committee, who died in 2013.

Paul Smith said: “I’m really delighted to win this award as working with writers to develop new plays is one of the best parts of my job.

“Middle Child, a company I co-founded in 2011, exists to support, champion and showcase the work of brilliant playwrights.

“In my work as both a dramaturg and director I aim to put processes and practices in place to support writers to tell the best version of their story, and Luke’s nomination for this award feels like recognition of that approach.

“It’s been brilliant working with Luke to create good nights out with big ideas and his work has massively informed my own over the years.

“He is an incredible writer, person and friend and I simply wouldn’t be where I am in my career without him.

“I’d also like to express solidarity with all freelance writers in our industry at this difficult time, and can’t wait to get back to working collaboratively to bring plays to life soon.”

An actor sits on the floor holding a mic. Text says "Recover Restart Reimagine"

Recover, Restart and Reimagine in 2021

By | Artist Development, News, Uncategorised
An actor sits on the floor holding a mic. Text says

The start of this week saw restrictions on the toughest lockdown yet ease for the first time in months, coinciding with a spell of unseasonal warm weather. For the first time in a long time, it feels like we’re heading towards something that might look like life after the pandemic. Touch wood.

As a theatre company that has been working from home for the past year and exclusively online, we could come out of one of the most challenging years of our lives full tilt. However, from speaking with many of the freelancers who are part of the extended Middle Child family, such as at our recent Imagine the Future discussion, it’s clear that not everybody has the energy just yet.

People have varying degrees of confidence about the months ahead: some people are chomping at the bit, while others may have reservations. Let’s not forget that the pandemic isn’t actually over yet. For others, spending a year or more within the same few walls has worn away at mental health and the ability to be creative. There’s a lot of mental and physical muscle memory to start flexing again and it’s going to take time.

So what are Middle Child going to do about it?

On Tuesday we learned that we’ve received £76,065 from the second round of the Cultural Recovery Fund. It’s a huge sum of money and we take seriously our responsibility to use it to benefit our wider theatre community – both artists and audiences – here in Hull, an already deprived city that has been especially badly hit by the pandemic.

Given all of the above, it’s clear that many theatre makers in Hull need the time, money and resource to Recover, Restart and Reimagine. So that’s what we’re going to do over the coming months, with a bespoke programme of work aimed at supporting our workforce and local freelancers to re-adjust at their own speed, in a way that is safe and sustainable.

That includes putting money into freelancers’ pockets to attend and benefit from workshops, residencies and sharings, as part of our largest ever artist development programme. There is also a programme of work that will see us return to the stage in 2021, which will employ theatre makers as well as once again provide audiences with unforgettable live experiences.

Furthermore we are excited to be able to return to Hull city centre with a new pop-up arts space in the summer, following the closure of our creative hub, Darley’s, last year, while we continue to locate a permanent home in the longer term.

We’re not quite ready to share all the details just yet – we’ll make a proper splash about all of that soon enough. However we are certain that this approach will have a huge impact on the long-term future of Hull, sharing skills and resources to build resilience and confidence in both our workforce and freelancers, acknowledging that we simply cannot be sustainable without you.

It’s an unprecedented situation and we’ll do our best to get this right and respond to any changes around us, putting people’s health and wellbeing first. We are committed to being open about our plans and acknowledging our shortcomings as well as shouting about our successes. Our door is always open and we welcome thoughts on how Recover, Restart and Reimagine, as well as our wider work, can better help people in Hull.

We also remain aware of the challenges our industry continues to face and wish to express solidarity with those organisations who did not receive funding this week. We will do all we can to share resources and support both individuals and organisations in the continued fight for survival. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to talk further.

The life after the pandemic that we mentioned at the top cannot look like the life many people lived before. We remain a company committed to creating greater equity in who makes and enjoys theatre and will use this investment to continue to work towards a more inclusive and representative industry.

We are also delighted to hear that our local partners Hull Truck Theatre, Hull Jazz Festival, Artlink, the John Godber Company, the Adelphi Club, Wrecking Ball Press, Northern Academy of Performing Arts, ITSL and HPSS were also successful in their applications to the Cultural Recovery Fund.

We look forward to sharing full details of what we have planned in the coming weeks.

With love and solidarity,

Middle Child x

The cast of The Canary and the Crow take their bow after a performance in the Paines Plough Roundabout

The Canary and the Crow wins two Offies

By | Awards, News
The cast of The Canary and the Crow take their bow after a performance in the Paines Plough Roundabout

Congratulations to the cast of The Canary and the Crow for their success at the Offies, awards which recognise work performed ‘off’ the West End in London.

Rachel Barnes, Laurie Jamieson, Nigel Taylor and Daniel Ward won the best performance ensemble award, for their performances at the Arcola Theatre in January 2020.

Writer, Daniel, also won the prize for best performance piece, adding to his already hefty haul of awards for the show over the past year.

These gongs are the latest in a long line of accolades for those involved in the show.

Daniel previously won a Writers’ Guild Award and the George Devine Award in 2020.

In 2019 the production also received the Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence, after its run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Artistic director, Paul Smith, said: “Everyone at Middle Child is absolutely delighted to win two Off West Awards for The Canary and the Crow.

“The continued success of this show is testament to the dedication and hard work of the entire team.

“I’m thrilled to see the excellence of Dan’s play acknowledged once more, and couldn’t be happier for the recognition of the show’s incredible ensemble.

“Dan, Rachel, Laurie and Nigel are so talented, so driven, and so great to work with and they deserve every success.

“It’s also an incredible story for Nigel to receive an acting award for his first ever theatre performance.

“Thanks so much to everyone who has supported the show over the years, and to the Arcola for hosting us back in January 2020.”

A night-time light show projected on the Ferens Gallery in Hull, with blue text that says 'We Are Hull'

We’re hosting the City Arts Forum in February

By | Artist Development, Events, News
Join Hull City Council’s Arts Development Team for their next online City Arts Forum, hosted by Middle Child.

We’re hosting the next City Arts Forum on Thursday 4 February (2-4pm) and would love for artists in Hull to join us, with all of our core team in attendance.

Paul Holloway, arts and culture manager at Hull City Council, will chair the meeting, which is an opportunity for artists, arts organisations, and anyone interested in the arts in Hull, to share work, thoughts, ideas and updates.

It’s also an opportunity to ask any questions you may have, to the council and wider artistic community

Registration is free but you must book in advance via Eventbrite. A link to join the discussion will then be sent out 24 hours before the event.

If you would like to discuss an issue, please send your agenda items to cityartsenquiries@hullcc.gov.uk by Monday 1 February.

A snowy winter scene with a young person on a sled, another person in a wheelchair and a dog.

Christmas theatre in and from Hull

By | News, Panto, Uncategorised

We finally get to share Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse with you from tomorrow, but we’re not the only Hull-based company making work this Christmas. 

We’ve pulled together a round-up of all the excellent shows that theatre makers in the city have been working hard to bring to people over the holidays.

An invitation to watch Prince Charming on a snow background, with toy soldier figurines.

Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker
Hull Truck Theatre, 22 Dec-4 Jan

A festive fairy-tale adventure sprinkled with surprises, sparkle and a hint of magic, free to stream into your own home, thanks to the support of Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

This year, Prince Charming is once more throwing open the palace gates and invites you to attend his annual Christmas ball, the eagerly anticipated ‘Christmas Cracker’. The hottest ticket in town, it is a ‘do’ like you’ve never been to before, and the Prince certainly knows how to party!

From festive music to Karaoke, unexpected guests and lashings of humour, the Christmas Cracker has it all. But this year, everyone, especially Cinderella, is in for a big surprise! There is more to this Christmas Cracker than originally meets the eye.

More info
A snowy winter scene with a young person on a sled, another person in a wheelchair and a dog.

Winter Wonderland
Concrete Youth, 18 Dec

It’s winter: the days are shorter, the trees are looking bare and the temperatures have plummeted. But…there’s no snow! The Snow Machine in Winter Wonderland has broken and, if it can’t be fixed, winter will be ruined forever!

But all is not lost. Jack Frost and the Snow Queen have heard that you, the winterns at home, can help them.

Can you work out why it’s broken? Will you help Jack and Snow mend it and save winter? And does yellow snow really taste like chicken?

Following their 5-star, online production, Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How, the multi-award winning, Concrete Youth, in partnership with Hull New Theatre, present a brand new, pre-recorded multi-sensory show for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Packed full of frosty sensory moments and fun, Winter Wonderland is the perfect, snowy show to get you in the holiday mood.

More info
Photo of one of the Roaring Girls in Christmas pyjamas laughing and pointing at her laptop

The Roaring Girls Christmas Parties

Christmas is just around the corner and after a year of working from home and closed pubs, let The Roaring Girls into your Zoom waiting room for a fun-filled 90 minutes this December.

Say goodbye to overpriced drinks & overcrowded pubs. In 2020, let the party come to you. 

The Roaring Girls are waiting at the end of their internet connection to provide you with an evening of festive entertainment, perfect for staff parties or friends who are looking for something different.

Just remember – A Roaring Girl is for life, not just for Christmas!

To book your exclusive Roaring Girls Party, or to find out more, email Rachael on hello@theroaringgirls.co.uk.

Christmassy image that says 1Upstarts presents DeliveRudolph

DeliveRudolph
1Upstarts, 19 Dec

DeliveRudolph is 1Upstarts’ specially designed, socially distanced Santa visit service, created exclusively in response to the ongoing Covid crisis. 

The company understand that a lot of people will really struggle with a large proportion of Christmas services being disrupted by Coronavirus. As such they wanted to create a safe and simple way of keeping a timeheld Christmas tradition for a lot of people, visiting Santa.

Their exclusive service will see us bringing the Santa visit to you. 

Once you have booked, their professional Santa will make his way to your house on the day of your choice along with any additional giftbags you’ve purchased and give you and your family a five minute personalised visit.

What better way to maintain the magic of Christmas than having your very own Santa on your doorstep!

More info

Spirits of the Season
Smashing Mirrors, 23 Dec

“It’s Christmas time in Hull. Nearly Christmas Eve. And strange things can happen on Christmas Eve don’t you know…”

Smashing Mirrors Theatre have linked with Hull New Theatre to bring you real-life tales of hauntings in Hull. Settle down for classic local ghost stories over the festive period, with this brand new exclusive short film.

Supported by Hull City Council.

Facebook Live. 8pm. 23rd Dec

EN PL