26th March 2018
It certainly feels like spring here at MAC Towers. Our 4th residency – The Night Riviera – has only just been put to bed, and we are already surrounded by ideas, projects and initiatives for 2018. Our garden is very much in bloom so to speak.
The Night Riviera and Foyles
I have already personally thanked (I think) everyone involved in this project but let me say again, THANK YOU! We had a hugely successful time at Foyles, both in terms of ticket sales (this marked the first time we have sold out all performances a clear week before opening) and content. We enjoyed four very good plays and our audiences showed their appreciation. Our ‘Residencies’ as I now refer to them wherever they are held, continue to gain huge traction and I am very proud of what we are achieving. Well done everyone! I am in high hopes that we will continue our relationship with ACANTEEN and Foyles, as the feeling appears to be that Foyles is a terrific venue for this event. True, there are some things we would perhaps approach differently next time, but these things are all about learning and having got the first one ‘under our belt’, I am confident it will be even better next time around. We are already starting to look at concept ideas for our 5th residency, scheduled for 11th to 13th October this year.
Some people who know me will know I am quite passionate about children’s theatre, and enjoy writing for that particular demographic. I am pleased to say that The Two Brewers (Springfield Road, Chelmsford) are keen to work with us on using their space to host children’s theatre, and this is something you can expect to hear more about in the near future.
One idea being looked at is a mini-festival of children’s theatre some time in late summer, perhaps consisting of several short plays for children over one weekend. In addition, we are investigating a Christmas production for 2018.
Children’s theatre is something we are sadly short of in the city, and I will be a very happy man if, by the end of 2018, we can say that we have brought a new lease of life to this aspect of our cultural landscape.
Temple at War
A rather unusual sideline for me, as only a handful of people know, is being the Compere for the military show Temple at War at Cressing Temple every May. I know what you’re thinking – I’m a terrible actor. Well luckily for me, I don’t need to act – I can just goof around and be me.
However, more to the point, I have been approached about – and have accepted – a brief to produce a Prisoner of War story in the walled garden for this year. It’s a small project, but one I am keen to get right as it will be a new and important feature of the event this year. It will be a Promenade piece, and if you are interested in working with us, keep an eye out for opportunities to be involved in the very near future.
Paying our way
An aim I have had since we revitalised the company 2 years ago, has been to ensure that we get ourselves in a position where we can pay our Writers, Directors and Actors. This isn’t something we can rush into; we are still in a formative period as a company, and must be build a strong financial base on which we can obtain important equipment, maintain our insurance and pay for rehearsal space and other important services. However, we are getting there.
What I want to make public – and clear – is that we will be, at some point and when we are financially comfortable, establishing a process which will see some proceeds from ticket sales put aside to pay our creatives. It won’t be enough to retire on, it is unlikely to be minimum wage, but it will be something and being able to put paid work on a CV – and put some money in your bank account – is something we will proud to have achieved.
Please do keep your eyes posted on our website and on Facebook for all of our news and opportunities. There will undoubtedly be more than I have said above, and things can change quite quickly!
A massive thank you if you came to Foyles to support us during The Night Riviera, a a huge thank you as always to my long-suffering colleagues Laura Hill and Ian Willingham without whom we wouldn’t be where we are now, and to all our creatives and partner venues.
Spring is sprung; enjoy the sun (or the Arctic weather – whichever!)
27th December 2017
2017 has been a tremendous year for us here at Mad Apple Collective. With no events or meetings now until January 2018, it’s a good time for me to reflect on what we’ve achieved and what we’ve learnt. More importantly, it’s the right time to say a massive thank you to everyone involved with Mad Apple and everyone who has supported us this year.
A busy year
Our year started in earnest from the get go, with our Reunion residency at ACANTEEN in February. We enjoyed 4 of a what would go on to be 9 brand-new, never seen before plays in 2017. This was followed relatively swiftly by our site-specific offering, Beyond Still Waters, at Threadneedle House. What we didn’t know at the time was that this would be the absolute last time that the space could be used for rehearsal or performance; it was closed and mothballed, awaiting sale, by the winter of this year. In a first for us as a company, we hit the road in September, taking our Awkward Reunions production to a fringe festival. It was a ‘best of’ from our first two ACANTEEN residencies, combining the popular Intelligent Love with Friendzoned. Hopfest Fringe in Kent was the destination, and we enjoyed playing to a small (but appreciative) audience in what would be quite unique circumstances. Performance wise, our year ended in October with our most recent ACANTEEN residency, The Locked Room.
Alongside this, we took the opportunity in 2017 to begin some additional projects. Le Nouvel Ensemble began in early autumn, with positive results in our first tentative steps to creating a long-term facility for new writers to test work out. Finally we enjoyed our first MAC Social in October at what has become our spiritual home, ACANTEEN.
All in all, and by any theatre company’s standards, it has been a busy year. All of this work does not come without lessons; as with all organisations there are things we did well and things we could have done better. There are things I am proud that we achieved, and things that have caused me to think again.
There has been a lot to be proud of this year. We have worked hard to create predominantly good, often powerful pieces of theatre. We have engaged audiences and creatives, given a platform for new voices to be heard and taken audiences into spaces which they have never been before. All of this has been achieved on the slimmest of shoestring budgets, and with the significant efforts and endeavours of a relatively small group of people who are unpaid and juggling other commitments at the same time. Everyone involved should be very proud of turning nothing into something, and with often tremendous results.
The lessons learnt for us stem from the need to offer more support to our creatives, and do more to create a focussed environment for our audiences. I feel that we have not always offered the right support to our Directors, and by default therefore their teams. That is something being remedied with immediate effect, and we are happy that future Directors will enjoy far greater support.
We remain committed to ensuring that Le Nouvel Ensemble, and all of our events, take place in an accessible location. While we never intend to take decisions that have adverse effects, where they do happen we work hard to rectify them as soon as possible. We are in almost constant contact with venues to explore avenues for co-working and partnership, and I am happy that at the close of this successful year for us, we are close to achieving this goal.
Audiences, when presented with a piece of theatre, need to be given the right space in which to focus their attention. It is sometimes a fact that in the spaces we operate, that is more challenging than we would like. We have developed some ideas on improving acoustic shielding in ACANTEEN, and hope that this will make some improvement on external noise intruding on performances.
Firstly a massive thank you Laura Hill and Ian Willingham, who along with me make up the Mad Apple Management Team. They have worked tirelessly to develop Mad Apple with me this year, and been second-to-none as a source of advice, ideas and enthusiasm. They are not only my right hand people, but my left hand people, feet people and – in fairness – my brain people.
Emma Odell of ACANTEEN continues to be a huge supporter of Mad Apple, and without her support and that of her team at ACANTEEN, we would not be where we are today. Their flexibility, friendliness and trust have helped us grow and develop and Emma and her team have our thanks for their tireless work.
Daniel Ayres of Cafe Rouge, Chelmsford has had the faith and vision to work with us on developing Le Nouvel Ensemble, and allowed us free use of their space. Without his support, that project would never have got off the ground and we wouldn’t be in the advanced development phase that we are.
Mick McDonagh of High Chelmer Shopping Centre remains a committed arts lover and friend of Mad Apple. His encouragement and support give us endless opportunities to spread the word and develop; make no mistake, he is a cornerstone of arts in Chelmsford.
Last but not least, a big thank you to everyone who has worked with us this year. We could not do anything without the support of our audiences, the hard work of our creatives and writers or the belief from the venues that work with us. My sincere thanks to all of you for your time, sacrifice and efforts.
I think that we can all be proud of what has been a truly successful year, and we can look forward to 2018 being even more successful, rewarding and fun.
I wish you all a successful, prosperous and happy 2018.