George Devine Award won by Daniel Ward

THE CANARY AND THE CROW by writer/performer Daniel Ward has been announced as the winner of the 2020 George Devine Award.

In a very competitive shortlist, including Temi Wilkey’s brilliant THE HIGH TABLE, the judging panel chose Ward’s debut play as the winner.

The play had already won the Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence and the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Play For Young Audiences, and was nominated for a Total Theatre Award at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Further, the play is shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award which is announced on 26th November.

The semi-autobiographical play about a working-class black kid accepted to a prestigious grammar school, blends grime, hip-hop and classical music to tell the story of a young person’s search for belonging in a divided society.


Little Angel Theatre’s gifts for younger audiences this Christmas

Puss-Cat’s First Christmas, available from December 16th
The Christmas Nisse, available in daily chapters from December 1st

London’s world-renowned children’s puppet theatre the Little Angel Theatre, which has presented a number of shows free on its YouTube account over the past eight months for young viewers, has announced that it will make available several more short shows from December 1st

MOTHER CHRISTMAS by Barb Jungr and Samantha Lane, and PUSS-CAT’S FIRST CHRISTMAS by Michael Fowkes – will both be available for families to watch at home for free on the theatre’s YouTube channel in December.

MOTHER CHRISTMAS will be available from December 1st and PUSS-CAT’S FIRST CHRISTMAS will be available from December 16th. You’ll find more details here when they become available

Also starting on December 1st is THE CHRISTMAS NISSE, a story continuing all through December, a sort of “advent calendar story” that will see a new chapter released on the theatre’s YouTube channel each day during December. Patrick Nielsen and Robyn Wilson-Owen’s story is suitable for primary-age youngsters.

The theatre will have other paid-for shows available, which can be found at their website here

More details and direct links will be posted here when they become available – so keep your eyes peeled for the stories starting December 1st!


Your donation has twice the value in the Big Give Christmas Challenge – on now until December 8th!

As the festive season nears, many people consider making a special donation to a charity or favourite project to reflect the spirit of the season.

Until midday GMT on December 8th, The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020 project doubles every donation you make.

For just seven days , it offers supporters of participating charities the opportunity to have their donation doubled by visiting their site at theBigGive.org.uk

There are many different types of charity participating, but those reading this blog may like to know that a good number of deserving arts organisations are asking for your help through this scheme.

How does it work? Well, firstly the Big Give organisation brings together a range of philanthropists and larger scale donors to produce a large pot of money (in the millions).

Then, when individuals like you or me donate to the Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, the money we donate is matched by an equal amount taken from the already created pot of money, making your donations worth twice as much to the participating charities. The matching continues either until the matching fund is empty, or until the midday deadline on 8th December.

Remember- all your donations to participating charities will be doubled., as long as matching funds remain in the pot.

The Christmas Challenge, founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Alec Reed CBE, is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign. Since the Big Give launched the Christmas Challenge campaign in 2008, it has raised over £110 million for thousands of charity projects.

For more information, or to browse the participating charities (including a good number from the arts sector), or simply to make a donation, click here

I have spent some time looking through the arts organisations participating and here are a few suggestions of some of the really worthwhile projects that deserve your support. Please give whatever you can. It all makes a difference.

ARDENT THEATRE COMPANY

CLEAN BREAK THEATRE COMPANY

MOUSETRAP THEATRE PROJECTS

LONDON MUSIC MASTERS

ARTS 4 DEMENTIA

THE LITTLE ANGEL THEATRE

STRATFORD CIRCUS THEATRE


Out of Work Work – you can support theatre freelancers by buying great presents

In what has undoubtedly been the hardest year for the arts in living memory, a brilliant new way to support arts workers has been launched.

The new website OutOfWorkWork.co.uk has been created by Joel Marvin of Acting for Others, and agent Chris Davis to support freelance creatives who have been ignored by government support plans. As they put it:

“Creative artists are resilient, building successful careers based on passions and dreams.

To overcome financial difficulties during this time, many have turned their hand, and hearts, to other ventures.

Here at out of work work, we want to showcase hidden talents, new products and services – allowing people to support independent businesses.”

At the website, which is also supported by WhatsOnStage.com and SundayShowTunes, you can find a dazzling array of wonderful and unusual gift ideas which helps you and the creatives at the same time.

Serving as a creative directory with at present 100 different listings, you can find gift ideas in categories such as Art, Beauty, Books, Clothes, Textiles, Crafts, Food and Drink, Health and Fitness, Homeware, Kids, Literature, Music, Pet Supplies, Services, and the ever-intriguing Other (worth a wander around for sure!). Individual pages take you to each contributor’s sites, so that you can buy direct.

The site is a non-profit setup, designed to allow creatives the chance to list their wares for free. So if you’re a creative, here’s your chance to offer a product or service.

And for the rest of us, here’s a chance to find the most interesting gift ideas around!

Visit OutOfWorkWork.co.uk here


Views: Confidence is the key in theatres’ brave new world

RSC Stratford lit red for part of the #wemakeevents national event in August

A personal view by Unrestricted Theatre founder, Gary Donaldson

Eight months into the Covid-19 era and here we are in lockdown once again. Public entertainment and hospitality venues are shuttered once again, as the country tries to drive down the spiralling growth of cases of this invisible threat which appears to attack so mercilessly.

The incompetent UK government, having totally mishandled every aspect of public information from Day One, has reduced the UK to a global laughing-stock, especially for its “one rule for us and one rule for you” mentality – remember Dominic Scummings’ (not a misprint, a review) Barnard Castle jaunt that drove the public past the point of return to any sort of government credibility.

And all the time these clowns were creating chaos, risking the lives of our loved ones and driving our beloved NHS to breaking point, our still globally-respected entertainment sector was on its knees, ignored by a Culture Secretary who said he was on our side, but aside from hot air, we got nothing. We’d have been better off having a dead parrot on our side.

Whereas large swathes of industry (all the government’s old chums network barging to the front of the line) got financial largesse within a few weeks of the crisis hitting, the arts and culture sector had to wait more than six full months to see a penny of any financial assistance. Thousands of arts staff across the country were made redundant with no light appearing at the end of the tunnel. But even they fared better than the freelancers – hundreds of thousands of dedicated and talented creatives who found themselves falling through a safety net that almost appears specifically designed to exclude them.

#WeMakeEvents in August highlighted the plight of freelancers who make our industry work by lighting arts and entertainment buildings all in red. To a passionate and supportive public – and an utterly deaf government.

And then, and then. Government decided that it would be a real morale booster to all those they were already ignoring and starving of lifelines to be told that their jobs were “unviable”. You try telling that to a classical musician who has spent decades in their career! Did the Chancellor (Fishy Rishi) and the Business Secretary (Alok him up Sharma) think that their gift of creativity would be more viably expressed by driving a Tesco delivery van instead? Perhaps Sir Ian McKellen might be more “viable” running a fruit and veg stall in Brick Lane market?And if so, what does that tell us about this government’s conscious incompetence? As well as their utter disregard for ambition, talent and aspiration.

In yet another unbelievably tone-deaf move, the government decided that all applicant organisations for funds (the process for which they had farmed out to the Arts Council for them to take any flak) would have to compete against each other, thus providing an undignified pushing and shoving as they fought for the means to keep much-loved and age-old venues and companies alive. One National does not equal ten Southwark Playhouses. But you can’t explain this to people who understand the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Then, we find out, the almost one-third of all the applicants- the ones who failed to receive any funding at all – were simply cast adrift. Thankfully, creative folk being who they are, started creating a whole raft of public Crowdfunder campaigns which rallied to try to assist the majority of beloved local and national organisations who had been given the governmental cold shoulder. Also thankfully, audiences responded with their usual warmth of appreciation for their local and national organisations. I sincerely wish them all well, and have myself contributed to as many as I have felt financially able to.

Those organisations who did finally receive some of the financial help they had requested many months ago were given full and complete instructions on just one aspect of the transaction – how they were to publicly trumpet their gratitude. They were instructed to do this by genuflecting sycophantically at length about how grateful they were all over their social media feeds to try and put lipstick on this pig of a government. It didn’t work. And you could smell the embarrassment on media feeds everywhere.

Then the BBC’ s Parliament channel gave us the worst show of all, the farce of the Select Committee demonstrating that they had very little idea about real life or the arts, let alone any idea of how the arts and entertainment industries actually work, and worse still, demonstrating no interest or inclination to listen or learn. What a demeaning spectacle. It was like taking a pre-school playgroup to see the Hadron Collider.

Meanwhile, producers worked tirelessly this way and that to try to put work on, continually frustrated by endless variables including the local disparities in viral status across the country, so that planned drive-in tours and outdoor performances had to be postponed or cancelled. Some diversified creatively, showing movies as an alternative entertainment, others like ENO created Drive In Opera at Alexandra Palace and other venues. Others managed to get shows on in open-air and traditional venues, like Kenny Wax, Katy Lipson and David Pugh, and one must applaud the drive and determination of every producer who set out to make shows during this period. It must have been like skiing downhill in a blizzard. Many other groups got work together and aired it online, which was a great help to creatives as well as their superfans, and helped to build audiences for shows which perhaps some might not have traditionally considered, as well as those with pre-existing conditions who feared leaving their homes.

And then, with all these green shoots coming through – venues which had worked tirelessly to creatively adapt with reduced seating, perspex screen dividers and all manner of creative interventions – were summarily told they would have to shut again, placing yet more strain and insecurity on an already buckling sector.

Now we await December 2nd. Theatres are poised, their schedules all in place, actors rehearsing behind closed doors. They, and the audiences who so long for theatre’s return, are counting down the days.

Christmas is traditionally theatres’ best bet for making profits. Regionally, it is crucial to generate the income which propels the rest of the year. West End-wise, theatres’ big capacities bring the big money rolling in, with rarely a seat to be found between Christmas and New Year’s. Normally.

To lose Christmas for the arts and culture would be something akin to being run over by a truck for a second time. Who knows how many would get up.

Personally, I believe that the hope of a reasonable Christmas is a good enough incentive to get people to abide by the rules over this next couple of weeks, in the hope that restrictions can then ease.

As I see it, the biggest problem isn’t just about restrictions lifting, it’s the rebuilding of confidence that will need to happen before people feel comfortable enough to firstly go out of their houses, then take whatever travel options they have available, and finally to feel able to relax in a building with a lot of others in the same place at relatively close quarters. We have already seen anxiety and all sorts of pyschologically-related disorders rise exponentially. How, I wonder, will this play out with theatregoers? Although I would relish seeing a live show greatly, am I in any rush to return to a busy auditorium? No. It’s a bit like driving. You can be the most responsible driver in the world – all it takes is one idiot to do something wrong and you could be in trouble.

I worry about how much this will filter through to audiences. I think that theatres are doing all they can to assuage people’s fears- SOLT and UKTheatre’s SEE IT SAFELY campaign is providing customers with a reliable standard and very important visual reinforcement that venues are doing everything reasonably possible to adhere to wise safety processes. But its when you put the volatile commodity of people into the equation, that’s when the real litmus test will be.

I wish it success with all my heart.

As to what the government will do to control and diminish Covid-19’s threat both to human life and to the future of our industry, heaven alone knows. They have already proved themselves utterly incapable of running anything, let alone a co-ordinated virus response. And for anyone who disagrees, I have just three words – Test and Trace.

But, frankly, what can you expect of a government that actually voted to let children starve during the Christmas holidays?