31st December 2018
Coming to write this, I realise that it has been over 9 months has passed since my last note. I hadn’t intended for there to be such a gap, and perhaps some of why that was is explained a bit later.
It’s customary one supposes, to bid farewell to the year which is about to expire on New Years Eve. And 2018 was certainly a very successful year for us as a company, albeit challenging in some respects. We had two residencies at Foyles bookshop in The Night Riviera and Trojan Horse, which saw 8 brand-new plays produced to terrific effect. We were sad to see ACANTEEN leave Foyles in October this year, which ultimately has marked the end of our work together for the time being. Who knows what the future may bring, and one day we may well link arms again in the name of performing arts!
In December, we started a new relationship, with our new home venue The Two Brewers. Once Upon a Time in Copenhagen was our first children and family production, and again we were thrilled with the reception it received. Huge thanks to May and Ross of the Two Brewers for making it all possible! This piece was tinged with sadness, as one of the team lost their father during rehearsal. I had the privilege of attending the funeral this week, and was very humbled that the audience and team showed their respect and empathy by raising £60 towards the families chosen charity.
Home, at last…
During 2018, I fell into something of a rut with theatre and I will confess that at one point between our two residencies, I considered folding the company and giving up. I went so far as to have a conversation or two with various friends about who may be a worthy beneficiary of the companies financial assets if we were to wind up. With no ‘home’ as such, and generally feeling none too rosy with the world, I could not clearly see a way forward.
How pleased I was then, that our contact with May and Ross of The Two Brewers and our subsequent production has yielded not only a terrific show which we can all be proud of, but a home for the company. For 2019 at least, and my sincere hope would be that long may it continue.
I cannot thank May and Ross enough for being not only excited and understanding of what we bring to the venue, but for being selfless and forward-thinking in terms of the local community. We are proud to call The Two Brewers home, and hope that in 2019 we do that it, and May and Ross, the justice they deserve.
From a situation in June when I could not see how we could go forward, I face 2019 full of excitement and confidence that what we bring to the community and the opportunities we provide are as relevant and important as ever.
It wouldn’t be the end of the year without my giving thank to the people who have made everything possible in 2018. And, let me say, they are 100% deserving.
Firstly, I must start with my long-suffering Associate Directors and fellow members of the MAC Management Team, Laura Hill and Ian Willingham. We have worked for 3 years now on developing the company, and I rely on their good counsel (and their bad counsel – joke!) more than they know. They are very able and talented writers, producers, directors and friends and I hope to be able to showcase their talents more in the new year. Going one step further, my sincere thanks to Helen Willingham and Andy Poole who have been extremely supportive of the company this year both on and off stage, and for allowing me to steal their partners for excessive amounts of time.
My next thanks is for Mrs Mad Apple Collective, that is Rebecca Segeth, my even more long-suffering wife. How she has stood for a year of near constant discussion, idea bouncing and general “What do you think?” and “Can you read this?” is beyond me. I am extremely lucky to have such a wonderful and talented woman as a wife, and I am convinced that we would not be where we are today without her support.
Finally, and by no means least, my sincere, humble and true thanks to all of the writers, directors, actors, stage crew and venue staff who have worked with us this year. There are more of you than I can name here, but your contribution, efforts and support are gratefully received and I am humbled that you choose to work with us.
I mentioned before that I am looking to 2019 with sincere excitement! Well, no wonder! In under 12 hours, we will launch our inaugural Children and Young Persons Playwriting Award. This is something we are very passionate about, and is the only award of its type that I am aware of in Essex at least, if not the region.
We have 3 main productions at The Two Brewers planned, including children/family theatre following the rampant success of our venture this December!
And also, I am very, VERY excited that our first one-dayer for charity “The Collective Do…” is this July. What I can say is that the chosen charity is The Miscarriage Association. A very worthy and not-often referred to organisation, that we are proud to support in 2019. As for what we plan to do? You’ll have to wait and see but we think everyone, actors and audience, will be very pleased with the outcome!
And there may be more. Who knows, let’s not lie, I do bits and pieces on the hoof so don’t be surprised if we have even more for you as the year progresses!
So, over and out 2018 – hello 2019, and my thanks to all of you reading, and to everyone who has so much as read the name Mad Apple Collective this year.
I wish you a happy and prosperous new year!
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.