Us Against Whatever - Adam and Edyta

Hull’s Polish community to see itself on stage for the first time with Us Against Whatever

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Us Against Whatever - Adam and Edyta

Us Against Whatever, Middle Child’s electrifying production will open at Hull Truck Theatre this Wednesday, 27 March.

Us Against Whatever will be the first time that Hull’s Polish community has seen itself in the theatre, with two Polish performers taking centre stage in a cabaret about what it means to call Hull home.

The story follows the lives of two women in Hull over eight years, leading to their coming together in a karaoke bar on the night of the EU referendum in 2016.

Audiences will also be able to sign up to sing karaoke themselves on the famous Hull Truck stage during the interval, as well as singalong to original songs throughout the show.

One of the characters is Anna, a Polish woman from Masuria, played by Polish actor Edyta Budnik (Killing Eve, BBC Three). Edyta is joined on stage by Adam Hadi (Warsaw Film School), who will star as Anna’s brother Michal. Adam also directed the movement in the show, bringing a touch of European flair to the choreography.

Hull writer Maureen Lennon wrote the script in collaboration with Polish theatre maker Nastazja Somers, while the National Theatre, British Council and Polish Cultural Institute also supported the production, adding to the international links in a show that comes at a momentous time in UK history.

Us Against Whatever is presented in association with Hull Truck Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse. The production will run at Hull Truck Theatre until Wednesday 3 April. 

Adam Hadi and Edyta Budnik in Us Against Whatever.
Photo by Sam Taylor.

Learn how to direct theatre with RTYDS Introduction to Directing

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Inside the Middle Child rehearsal room. Photo by Thomas Arran.

Do you love telling stories? Fancy working with actors, musicians, writers and designers to bring them to life on stage? Then we want to hear from you as they look for potential new theatre directors in the city.

Applications are now open for our free Introduction to Directing programme, which is aimed at storytellers who are yet to do any formal training in directing or even theatre.

Our new programme will give participants a taste of theatre-making across two weeks in April and May this year and is part of the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme (RTYDS).

The first week of workshops will train people in a set of basic directing techniques. They will also have one-to-one chats with three directors from different stages in their careers to talk about their own journeys and how they make work.

In the second week the new directors will put the skills they have learned into practice, by staging short ten-minute plays, written by the Middle Child Writers’ Group and performed by actors from their Acting Gym, to a small, friendly audience.

Following the second week and the showcase of their work, Middle Child will also create a development plan with each director, to help them take their next steps into theatre.

Applications are now open and close on Wednesday 14 February. People can apply by sending an expression of interest in a way that is most accessible to them, such as by email, phone or by speaking to us in person.

RTYDS, the UK’s leading programme of professional development for theatre directors at all stages of their development, is contributing to culture change in theatres, as directors from under-represented groups develop their skills to become creative leaders.

RTYDS specifically aims to address the barriers arising from social, gender, financial, ethnic, cultural, geographic or educational disadvantage or disability and support regional talent, diversity and leadership.

Using the Middle Child Match Fund to develop outreach workshops

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She Productions and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Finding Your Voice programme at East Riding Theatre, June 2018

Annie Kirkman, She Productions

We all need a voice. Sadly, your voice is one of the first things you lose when your confidence is broken and the world stops making sense.”

Since forming She Productions three years ago it has been our mission to engage people with drama on and off the stage. We’ve been lucky enough to run workshop programmes with a huge variety of people from ages four to 60, covering themes from storytelling to consent. Regardless of the content, every one of our workshops is designed with exactly the same ethos; using drama to enrich life skills by building trust, challenging social expectations and commending courage.

Most recently we’ve been touring our new musical It’s Different for Girls around the UK and, with the support of Middle Child’s Match Fund and Arts Council England, we delivered consent and relationship workshops to schools and youth groups local to venues. Each session presented challenges to overcome, from adapting workshops to participants’ needs to battling time constraints but we learnt something from every group. Naturally, some groups had more understanding of consent and what it means than others, and of course we were thrilled to be able to provide a deeper learning. Nevertheless, the most rewarding part of these workshops was giving those involved a voice and the space to express that voice.

We always start our workshops with physical group and partner exercises. These are intended to integrate individuals and encourage them to work with each other without the added pressure of discussion. This active start to our sessions seems to help release anxiety and any pre-determined expectations. As clichéd as it sounds, it is as if the whole group finally remember to start breathing again and shake off their worries collectively. The final section of the workshop focuses on freeing our minds and encouraging creative and honest conversation including a ‘free-writing’ task where the participants write their stream of consciousness without interruption. Of course, everyone learns in different ways, some take to the writing exercises whilst others prefer debate or physical activities but ultimately every person can discover a creative outlet for their own expression.

With Middle Child’s help and another recent successful Arts Council grant we are now undergoing a period of organisational development in which we will develop our Outreach strand with other local groups who can benefit from our programmesThis includes our exciting new Empower project with Together Women, a Hull- based charity who ‘move women out of crime into positive futures’, where we will work with their clients to nurture self-esteem, celebrate inner strength and motivate positive behavioural change through creativity and drama.

We pride ourselves in being able to adapt sessions like these to cater to participants and their particular needs and interests which of course takes time to plan. The support from Middle Child has allowed us to take this time and do the work and research we need to do to ensure the programmes are bespoke.

Ultimately, we want people to recognise the huge benefits drama can have and how it is not just about ‘being an actor’. Creativity should be a part of everyone’s life; it offers escapism; it connects us with ourselves and others; and most importantly it can help us find a voice that might have been hidden away for some time.

Cinderella - Fairy

We’re fundraising for Hull Foodbank at Beauty and the Beast

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Cinderella - Fairy

Photo by Sarah Beth

This Christmas we will once again be fundraising for a local charity at our alternative pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.

Our chosen charity for 2018 is Hull Foodbank, which is based in Jubilee Central, where Beauty and the Beast will be performed from 18-23 December.

You raised £3,140.39 for Hull Homeless Community Project and Hull Red at our panto in 2017, Cinderella, smashing the previous year’s total’s of £1,757.58.

We will also be collecting towards our annual charity and community ticket scheme, which provides free tickets to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see a Christmas show.

Groups that will benefit from free tickets to this year’s pantomime include Hull Red, Beats Bus, Age UK, Creative Briefs, Humber All Nations Alliance, Living Hope Church and The Warren.

Just Club Theatre

First Show Fund awarded to Just Club theatre company

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Just Club Theatre

Photo by Edmond Denning.

Just Club is the first Hull-based theatre company to receive the First Show Fund through our artist development programme, Reverb.

The company will receive funding to pay for venue hire, script printing and marketing costs and other in-kind support to produce their first ever show, Standing Too Close On Our Own In the Dark.

Just Club is a brand-new theatre company formed by University of Hull graduates, founding members and best mates, Jamie Nowell, Matthew Collins and Jake Marsden.

They create unique, spirited, happy-sad theatre experiences which fuse together live music, spoken text and a night out with your mates to replicate the moment that your favourite band plays that song and for three minutes, you’re inspired and self-assured.

Just Club’s Jake Marsden said: “We are so humbled and delighted to be the recipients of Middle Child’s First Show Fund.

“The fund will enable us to refine our work and ensure our ‘happy-sad’ experience connects with as many people as possible.

“We’re also incredibly excited to be supported by a company who inspire us and are doing fantastic work in keeping Hull on the theatrical map by engaging audiences in a powerful and meaningful way, setting a great example for anyone making theatre right now.”

Paul Smith, Middle Child artistic director, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to support Just Club in producing and performing their first ever show in Hull.

“We’re really impressed by the company’s dedication and determination to create new work, in Hull, so soon after graduating from the city’s university.

“This is exactly what our First Show Fund is designed to support and we can’t wait to help Just Club take their first steps in making theatre in Hull.”

You can see Standing Too Close On Our Own In the Dark at the Adelphi Club in Hull on Tuesday 15 January 2019.

​The Reverb artist development programme is Middle Child’s commitment to ensuring that artists in Hull are given top-class development opportunities across disciplines without needing to leave the city.

Hull Takeover 2017

Get funding and in-kind support to head to Edinburgh Fringe in 2019

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Hull Takeover 2017

Last year we hit the Edinburgh Fringe alongside three other Hull-based companies and a Hull UK City of Culture 2017 commission as part of the Hull Takeover.

150 volunteers travelled to the Royal Mile to wave the Hull flag and the companies brought back five star reviews and awards, national media attention, transfers and tours.

In 2019 Absolutely Cultured, through the continuing work of the Hull Independent Producers Initiative, and in partnership with Middle Child and Hull Truck Theatre, plan to takeover the world’s biggest arts festival once again.

We are asking for Hull-based companies that already plan to go to Edinburgh for a minimum of one week, between the dates of 2-27 August, to apply to be part of the Hull Takeover 2019.

The offer includes a £3,000 cash bursary, mentorship, graphic design and photography, tech time at Hull Truck and other in-kind support.

See the Absolutely Cultured website for more details about the Takeover and how to apply.


Buy £2 scripts as part of #ThanksToYou

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From Monday 3 to Friday 7 December we’re offering huge discounts on our play scripts to National Lottery ticket holders, as part of #ThanksToYou week.

We’re one of hundreds of National Lottery funded organisations across the UK saying thank you to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket.

To take advantage simply pop-in to our library and rehearsal space in Hull during opening hours (10am-5pm) and present a National Lottery ticket or scratchcard.

You’ll then be able to buy a copy of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, by Luke Barnes; One Life Stand, by Eve Nicol; or I Hate Alone by Ellen Brammar, for £2 each, the same price as a National Lottery ticket.

Our status as a national portfolio organisation with Arts Council England is supported by National Lottery funding, which pays for our productions and artist development work.

All National Lottery games qualify for free entry, including both National Lottery draw-based games and National Lottery Scratchcards. Proof of purchase of a National Lottery game can be either a hard copy ticket or a digital ticket.

The offer is valid from Monday 3 December to Friday 7 December.

Alice Beaumont at Bush Theatre 2

Sometimes people in the arts are up the duff

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Alice Beaumont at Bush Theatre 2

Photo by Helen Murray

Actor and Middle Child associate artist Alice Beaumont writes about her experience of performing while pregnant.

I’m currently in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, at the Bush Theatre, with Middle Child. I’m also six months pregnant. It’s been a very interesting experience. It’s also something that I don’t think is talked about very often. So, I wanted to talk about what it’s been like, what it’s felt like, in the hope that others who are in the same position, or contemplating starting that journey, might be able to relate.

First, let me say that I am very lucky. I am working with an incredible theatre company and a very supportive and empathetic cast and crew. I can’t imagine what this time would have been like had I not had such great people around me I can’t emphasise enough how supported I’ve felt by Middle Child, Bush Theatre and the cast and crew.

It’s been fun — puking on Overground platforms aside. It’s also been very strange. I’ve been an actor for eight years, and pregnant never. I was apprehensive about the long run in London, being away from my favourite person and my home, but also incredibly excited. I’ve been looking forward to performing in this show — it has deep emotional significance because of its long life and collaborative nature — at this venue, for a very long time and I was determined that no amount of utterly bizarre symptoms would stop me.

I didn’t know what the practicalities would be of being pregnant and doing a short, but very intense, show eight times a week for nearly four weeks. But now we’re in the final week of the run, I’m navigating my way a bit more effectively. The things I, and I imagine other pregnant actors, have had to pay more attention to than I normally would are: sleep, food and symptoms.

My sleep is all over the shop, waking up with a screaming bladder every couple of hours and plodding off to the bathroom. This kid presses on my bladder 24/7, to the point where I’m no longer even sure whether I actually need to wee, because it just feels like I permanently need a wee. I’m pretty freaking tired all the time, sometimes mustering up the energy for the show feels like quite a task, but then I’ve always found performing exhausting — and simultaneously exhilarating.

It’s hard to know when to eat. I find that tricky when I’m in a show under normal circumstances, but now I’m aware that I’m not just feeding myself. I’ve had some serious refined sugar cravings — we’re talking an unreasonable amount of Skittles — and whilst I do give in to the cravings a lot of the time, I now have to think about the baby’s health as well as the potentially enormous sugar crash half way through the show.

Anyone who has ever been pregnant will know that you can’t really predict the fabulous array of symptoms that might come up. I’ve experienced a good deal of abdominal pain, which I’m told are stretching pains. As well as being very disconcerting, these don’t go hand-in-hand with jumping around on stage. Plus, hot water bottles are not part of my costume, unfortunately.

Alice Beaumont at Bush Theatre

Photo by Helen Murray.

Emotionally, it’s been a whirlwind. It’s very hard to describe but something I’ve been feeling a lot is somehow being separate and ‘other’. Performing is a world I know so well: during tech week I recognised my surroundings, everything was so familiar, but I was completely altered. I found it very difficult not to feel like the odd one out, even though no one was treating me any different. I looked at my peers and felt like I saw multiple potential paths stretching out ahead of them, just as mine used to, but now I only had one. And it’s a fantastic one, of course, but I wasn’t used to having something set in stone for me.

I’ve been described as something of a ‘drifter’ by loved ones, which can come with the territory of being a freelance actor, never knowing when the next job might come along, but now my title had changed and along with it a slight loss of freedom. My sense of identity was rattled and losing that control, going from lots of future options to one very clear one, was tricky. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t still struggle with it; I do.

And when contemplating the future, I’ve had creeping thoughts which sound something like: “Is the sun setting on my career, is this my last show?” – or something as equally dramatic. It’s hard not to imagine that my “value”, in the eyes of this industry, is decreasing. When we’re already in an industry saturated with incredible talent and very available actors, who would want a performer who is building a baby? And that negative outlook is present before I even think about the next step: what it’s going to be like having a child whilst pursuing an acting career?

I have nothing but admiration for actors who are also parents and I know that there are many of them out there. I don’t know how they do it, so I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes, with as much mental and practical preparation as possible. For now, I’m focussing on the most pressing thing for me, which is managing the mental rollercoaster of being a pregnant actor. I feel bad for my fellow actors in the cast, I’m surprised they’re not sick of me going on about tummy pains and voicing my very obvious body issues; if they’re bored of hearing about those things, they are kind enough to keep it from me. They’ve been nothing but supportive.

I’m fully aware that these feelings are from my particular perspective, one that is certainly impacted by a jumble of hormones and big physical changes. This is not actually the way it is, it’s just how I looked at it. I’m not saying that the reality is that my peers feel like they have multiple paths and options, they certainly do not have it easy and I’m not trying to speak for them. It’s just what I saw from my strange new view. Just as everything in life that we experience, it’s all from a very specific perspective.

A thought that has cropped up a lot over these four weeks has been: Why isn’t this talked about more? I’ve had actor friends who have been pregnant, or had pregnant partners, and on an acting job, but maybe only two. And it’s got me thinking about pregnant creatives, especially those who are freelance, across the board. If you want a baby, and you are self-employed or not part of a company with maternity pay and schemes, when do you decide to go for it?

It can be a lonely thing being a freelancer in the arts. Couple that with carrying a child, or deciding to try and make that happen, and the emotional and practical ramifications are not insignificant. I would say to anyone thinking about it: make the decision solely based on what you want. We’re already in an industry that feels so hard to navigate, that demands so much of us, that we comply with just in case it potentially puts us in a better position for landing a role, eg: I can’t possibly get my hair cut because it won’t match my headshots; I can’t book a holiday because I might get an audition; I have to work these three zero hour jobs in catering to survive; I’ve written to 4,000 casting directors but I have to keep emailing etc. etc.

Don’t let this be another thing that is dictated to you by an industry that is often not kind. Being pregnant and getting cast is possible; being pregnant and working is possible; being pregnant and being in a show/on screen/jobbing is possible; we’re just told that we need to be utterly flexible, utterly malleable and utterly available — but it’s not true. This isn’t about ‘having it all’, a phrase I’m not fond of because it’s designed to be empowering but actually feels patronising; it’s about sometimes sticking two fingers up to what we’ve been told and taking the plunge and doing what you want. And let’s talk about it. Let’s acknowledge that sometimes people in the arts are up the duff.

You can see Alice in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything at the Bush Theatre in London until Saturday 24 November.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything: Q&A with James Frewer

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Photo by Helen Murray

Middle Child associate artist and All We Ever Wanted Was Everything composer and musical director, James Frewer, talks about the music in the show, currently running at the Bush Theatre in London.

Tell us about the role of music in the show.

The role of the music is to help communicate the story, to make the audience feel in a way that sometimes words can’t and to create the atmosphere of a gig. Its sets the era in which each particular act is in and acts as a voyeur, looking in and commenting on our story.

How do you use music to capture the different eras in the story?

The show is split into three acts and each act is in a different era. At the top of each act we do a pastiche of what, to me, the sound of that era was. After the more obvious opening to the act, the underscores and choruses that follow are in keeping with the era. As well as the actual composition of the music, sounds of instruments are important. Guitar pedals feature quite heavily and the way the music is played. Each era has a certain feel: the ’90s has a big anthemic feel, 2007 is a very scrappy indie feel and 2017 is over-produced and everything should sound very tight.

The astroid has her own music which we set in techno land. I felt techno was a good place to put her, and there is something quite interesting in someone singing emotionally over quite stilted and rigid beats and some beautiful synths.

Without giving lots away, the music collides at the end of the show, and the live band join voices with the astroid which should be the amalgamation of worlds, techno and heavy rock collide in a big way.

Tell us more about the music writing process for the show.

With a Middle Child show, there is usually a lot of talking and an exchange of quite a few Spotify playlists. Then what tends to happen is that Paul and I get into a room with a piano and a guitar and start writing. I really enjoy working and writing with a director in that way, being challenged and provoked. I think for All We Ever Wanted we did two one week stints of writing. We record some pretty shitty demos and I tend to take those away with me and over-listen and over-play them, and start making subtle new additions to the melodies or the chord structure.

I never write any underscore until the rehearsal process. I think music should always serve the story which you are trying to tell. In the same way, I only write the music for a song when the lyrics have been written. To me, music should support the point you are trying to tell. The melody then has a purpose of what it is trying to achieve.

We always realise that there is a song we need to add into a show. Rehearsal processes take twists and turns and as a result new music often needs to be written. I quite like leaving something unwritten until quite late; I sadistically enjoy the pressure of writing something last minute, as I often find it gives good results.

The sound design of a show like this is also so important. I work very closely with our sound designer and fellow Middle Child associate artist, the brilliant Ed Clarke, for everything that I’ve written to be heard as intended, but also to make sure the dialogue is heard. In live shows, we have a brilliant sound mixer, Chris Prosho, who negotiates all the changes that occur every night, with a huge amount of skill and precision.

Has anything changed, musically, since the 2017 version?

I think every time that we do this show there will always be slight changes to it. The songs and chorus are pretty much the same, with maybe the odd change in inflection. But the music changes to a certain degree every night: that’s the beauty of it. The music should be live and it should respond to the actors, so if an actor makes a particular choice one night, you go with it. I want the score of this show to constantly evolve.

Photo by Sarah Beth

What is your relationship with the director, Paul Smith, in the room?

We’ve been working together for nearly ten years now, so I would say pretty fluid, to the point where we both know what each other wants and communication can happen with little nods or just sensing how the other one feels. As I mentioned earlier, the bulk of the work that we do happens way before the rehearsal process. We tend to go and jam with a piano or a guitar for a few weeks then take a phone recording of them. Then I take them away to obsessively listen to them and bring them back to the room with odd melody strands changed.

In the room, it’s pretty fluid. We both know what we want to achieve, so certainly for the first part of the process it’s pretty separate; I need to teach the music and the underscore and perhaps put a bass on an actor that’s never played, whilst he’ll work on the characters of the show and work out the world.

In the latter part we come together and start merging acting and music. That’s the fun bit, the making part. In shows that are completely underscored, I’m completely responsible for what the audience hears and, as a result, how the audience feels and Paul is in charge of what the audience sees. Ultimately, to steal Paul’s quote, we both need to make the story clear.

How does it feel to perform in the show, as well as compose and direct the music?

It’s fun! In my head they’re all quite separate. Certainly, now we’re in the run, the composition has pretty much stopped bar the odd slice of improvisation. A show like this is fun and rewarding to musically direct. It’s a show where anything can happen and that keeps the music alive. You can never relax and sometimes things don’t go the way you rehearse. I really get off on it being my responsibility to get out of tricky situations; it’s a hell of a feeling when you achieve it. To perform, it’s great. I get to sing, play lots of loud guitar and piano and essentially pretend to be a rockstar. I mean, there’s not a better job is there?

What does gig theatre mean from a music point of view?

I think the answer to this is pretty simple. Neither the text or the music should be able to live without each other. It’s very odd rehearsing just the music or just the text, as they both don’t sound quite right without each, maybe simplistic, but when you put it together this beautiful beast appears. Essentially the music is the beating heart of Luke’s words. It drives it when it needs to, sits back when we need to hear of the poetry of what is being said and occasionally takes over and hits you in the stomach to echo Luke’s thoughts and words.

It is, importantly, also the context of how the story is delivered. We make ‘gig theatre’ not because it’s cool to have some drums in it or to chuck a guitar in, we make it because it is Hull the best way to engage our audiences. People in Hull go to gigs, we want to tell stories. So we thought we’d slam them together and make this gig theatre thing.

See All We Ever Wanted Was Everything at the Bush Theatre until Saturday 24 November. Tickets are on sale now.
Lindsey Alvis

Lindsey Alvis takes over from Mungo Beaumont

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Lindsey Alvis

Lindsey Alvis

Middle Child executive director and joint chief executive, Mungo Beaumont, will today save his last spreadsheet and wave goodbye to his calculator for the final time, as he leaves the company that he helped found in 2011.

Artistic director Paul Smith now becomes the sole chief executive of Middle Child and Lindsey Alvis, formerly of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and Headlong, has been appointed interim executive director. Lindsey starts on Monday 13 August.

After two years at the helm alongside Paul and with the company now established as a national portfolio organisation, Mungo is leaving to catch up on sleep and pursue new opportunities.

Mungo, a University of Hull drama graduate, is one of the founding members of Middle Child and originally joined as an actor. He then moved into producing and became executive director in 2017 as the company prepared for national portfolio status.

Mungo says: “It has been the greatest of honours playing a part in the founding and growth of Middle Child. I am so proud of what we have achieved over the last seven years. My thanks go to everyone who has played a part along the way, and in particular Paul, who has made this experience truly a joy.

“With him at the helm, alongside Lindsey, Jamie, Emily, the company members and our newly established board, I know that Middle Child will continue to flourish. I very much look forward to enjoying the next show from the crowd.”

Paul says: “Working with Mungo to establish Middle Child as a sustainable theatre company has been a huge privilege. He’s an incredible person with endless determination and is certain to be a success in whatever he chooses to do next.

“There’s no way we would be where we are today without Mungo’s dedication, focus and ingenuity. He has been a key part of everything we’ve done since our formation in 2011 and I’m delighted he will continue to contribute as a company member.”

A warm welcome to Lindsey Alvis

Lindsey joins Middle Child following two years with Hull UK City of Culture 2017 as a producer. Before that Lindsey produced at Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse theatres and touring company Headlong.

Lindsey said: “Having worked closely with Middle Child during Hull’s city of culture year, I am delighted to join the team as interim executive director. A leading voice within the city and nationally, Middle Child are creating vibrant, loud work at the forefront of popular culture, energising a new generation of audiences and artists to great industry acclaim and audiences’ enjoyment.

“I’m taking over from the brilliant Mungo Beaumont, who together with Paul has grown the company over the past seven years, most notably securing NPO status in 2018. I look forward to contributing to the next stage in the company’s development and can’t wait to get started.”

Paul added: “I’m very excited to begin working with Lindsey, who brings her vast experience and creative flair into the company. The future of this company is very bright and I can’t wait to work with Lindsey to make our huge ambitions a reality for the future.”