Friday, 12 August 2016

Our Summer Newsletter

On May 30th we took part in the Celebrations for Bristol Old Vic’s 250th Birthday. We performed extracts from the last 25 years of Firebird’s work and also three pieces of work in progress on the Main Stage at Bristol Old Vic.

Our patron, Kathryn Hunter, performed alongside us, dancing Steve Knight’s shadow dance from The Nine Lessons of Caliban and performing an extract from Faustus, again one of Steve’s roles. This felt very important to us and we know Steve would have loved Kathryn’s involvement.

Kathryn Hunter rehearsing the extract from Faustus with Brian Davis,
photograph by company member, Sharlie Yea
Also for this performance, Jack Drewry, Ed Goater and Ruby Spencer Pugh provided music and support on stage. Frank Spencer made projections and film especially for this show, which made an amazing and accessible backdrop to the performance.

So, we wish Bristol Old Vic another Happy Birthday and thank them and Kathryn, Jack, Ed, Ruby and Frank for supporting our work in such a wonderful and exciting way.

Thanks also to Sherrie Eugene who interpreted the performance into British Sign Language.

Moving into the Public Hall, Shirehampton 

Moving into the Public Hall, Shirehampton, Photograph by Penny Goater

At the beginning of June, we moved into the Public Hall in Shirehampton whilst the demolition and renovation work is going on at the Bristol Old Vic.

We thank Amanda at the Public Hall for being so welcoming to Firebird. It is a lovely big space and although we miss being at the Old Vic very much, we are very happy to have found the Public Hall. 

The new work 

Prior to the performance on the 30th May, Kathryn Hunter ran a workshop for us as well as rehearsing for the Bristol Old Vic Celebrations. She worked with us on the three extracts from our new work, which was really helpful. We hope to have more of these sort of sessions with workshops from people like Kathryn.
A selection of photographs from the new work that is being developed,
working title: Firebird is 25, photographs by Ed Goater

We are currently having 'closed' sessions on Mondays so we can focus on structuring the material for the new work, which is going well. When this process has finished we hope we’ll have a draft  script that will form a basis for collaborative work with the artistic team. Members of the artistic team have not been confirmed yet but we hope they will include Ruby Spencer Pugh, set/prop/costume design; Composer/musicians from the Paraorchestra; Frank Spencer, film and projections; Chris Swain, lighting design; Anna Griffiths, stage manager.

Again, we cannot definitely confirm other artistic input but we would like to work with Tristan Sturrock, Kathryn Hunter and others to help us develop the new show.

Other news

New Trustee

We are proud and pleased to welcome Mel Scaffold as a new Trustee for Firebird. Mel is co - director at Theatre Bristol and brings a huge amount of experience and expertise to Firebird.

New film on website

You will see a new film on our website of work in progress performed at Bristol Old Vic on the 30th May. The film was made by Frank Spencer who not only contributed hugely to the performance but also managed to set-up a camera in the auditorium so that we had a record of performing on the Main Stage: big thanks to Frank.

Doing things Differently

Some of us are getting involved in the Choir for Extraordinary Bodies and Diverse City's ‘Doing things Differently’ in Bristol over the weekend of 16 – 18 September. There is a lot happening over the weekend and the performances are free. Please visit  for more details.

Jenny Stafford

Finally, Jenny Stafford has retired from Firebird Theatre after nearly ten years with the Company. We wish her well with all future enterprises and would like to thank her for all she has given Firebird. We have all enjoyed working with Jenny and recognise what she has brought to the Company.


We thank everyone for their constant support – it is very much appreciated. We particularly thank families and supporters who have helped make our move into the Public Hall so easy, supporting us by helping with transport and planning journeys.

We wish you all a good summer and we will be in touch again when we have more news to share.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Performance at Bristol Old Vic, Bank Holiday Monday 30th May 2016

Please join us at 1pm at Bristol Old Vic on Bank Holiday Monday 30th May.

We are very excited to let you know that we will be performing on the main stage as part of Bristol Old Vic’s 250th Birthday Celebrations.

We will be performing excerpts from our work of the last 25 years, including new work in progress.

We are very proud to announce that our patron, Olivier Award winner Kathryn Hunter, will perform on stage with us. As you can imagine, this makes the performance even more special to us.

We are also joined by Jack Drewry who worked with us on The Breadhorse and Frank Spencer from Redweather Productions whose documentary film about Prospero, Duke of Milan is on the home page of our website. Frank will use film and projections from past productions made by his partner Ann Pugh, as well as new films that he has made especially for this performance.

Ed Goater provides live music and the Firebird Theatre artists who will be appearing on stage are:

Daniel Bryan, Stephen Canby, Brian Davis, Penny Goater, Kevin Hogan, Tina Kelly, Mary Lansdown, Sarah McGreevy, Marilyn Rees, Jenny Stafford, Chris Wiltshire and Sharlie Yea.

We do hope that you will be able to come and see us on the 30th, tickets are free on a 'first come, first served' basis and our performance will last approximately 30 minutes.

There is so much happening at Bristol Old Vic over the Bank Holiday weekend, for more information about the 250th Birthday Celebrations, please visit

Money raised for Firebird

We are pleased to report that Isabelle Sallis ran an 8 mile road race around Hampton Court on the 3rd April and raised £212.27 in sponsorship money for Firebird Theatre! A big thank you to Isabelle (who also joined us on our sponsored walk last year) and all the people who sponsored her, we really appreciate your support.

We will use the money to pay for a British Sign Language Interpreter and access costs for the Company artists for the performance we are doing on Bank Holiday Monday 30th May. Without this sponsorship money we could not afford to do either, again thank you.

                    Isabelle, number 2716, running for Firebird!

Firebird Theatre: Company update, May 2016

Since we received the funding from the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts programme, we have been working with Claire Williamson to start collecting our stories and experiences. There is a lot of material from these writing sessions and we now have the task of shaping it into a new piece of theatre. We will be working with different people during the next stage of the process; we have had a workshop with Fionn Gill and hope to do more work with Fionn. We are also working with Kathryn Hunter and Jack Drewry over the next few weeks.

Fionn working with Firebird artists

We are now meeting with other practitioners and over the next few weeks, we will be able to confirm the other members of the team who will work with us on Firebird is 25, as well as other guest artists.

In April we went to MAYK’s Mayfest Launch, which we really enjoyed. We saw Candoco’s Counteracts at Bristol Old Vic and some people took part in the workshop they did afterwards.

We met Jamie Beddard and Claire Hodgson from Diverse City, they will be bringing their company, Extraordinary Bodies, to Bristol in September and are inviting us to get involved and maybe showcase some of our new work, which will be very exciting.

Finally, we need to move out of Bristol Old Vic at the end of May because of the major renovations and building works that will be happening in the theatre. Bristol Old Vic has offered us a huge amount of support over the years, in particular a space for us to meet and rehearse once a week. We have so appreciated this support and the help they are giving us now to try to find an alternative venue. Firebird will remain an Associate Company and  Bristol Old Vic will continue to offer support whenever they can.

If anyone knows of anywhere that may be suitable for Firebird to meet and rehearse, please contact us, we would love to hear from you.

We need a physically accessible venue that is not difficult to get to and is on a main bus route. Ideally, we would like to meet every Monday for a minimum of 5 hours in the daytime; we would like somewhere that is consistently available to us all year round.

As soon as we know where we’ll be meeting and rehearsing and we have settled in then we will let you know.

This last bit of news makes our performance on the 30th even more important to us all; a great way of bidding farewell to Bristol Old Vic for a while until they re open in 2018! 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

News for 2016 - our first of the year!

We are proud to announce that our funding application to Arts Council England for Grants for the Arts funding has been successful.

This funding is for creating new work to celebrate 25 years of making theatre and to look at how Firebird wants to develop over the next few years.
As work develops, we will keep you updated and let you know our plans.

We are very much hoping to take part in Bristol Old Vic’s 250th birthday celebrations in May 2016 and a lot of ideas for our contribution to these came from our own Annual General Meeting held on 5th December.

The Company presented small excerpts from every one of their productions since 1990 at the AGM and we would like to try to replicate these in some way for the Old Vic’s Birthday Weekend.

Also, at the AGM, Antigoni, one of the Firebird trustees, produced a lovely cake with the Firebird logo and 25 years in icing to decorate it.

Here are some photographs from the Annual General Meeting. 

Sharlie and Chris cutting the cake

The cake, celebrating 25 years

Photos from the presentation of excerpts from Firebird's work


Monday, 21 September 2015

Firebird Theatre Sponsored Walk: Photographs

On Sunday 16th August, Firebird Theatre did a sponsored walk to raise funds for Prospero, Duke of Milan (to be performed at Bristol Old Vic on 14th November) and also to celebrate
25 years of performing in the professional theatre. Formerly known as the Portway Players, members of the company met in 1985 at the Portway Day Centre, a social services resource and activity centre based in Shirehampton (five founder members still work with Firebird). In 1990 the Portway Players made their debut performance at the Bristol Old Vic. In 2005 The Portway Players changed its name to Firebird Theatre and became an Independent Theatre Company. 25 years on from their very first show at the Old Vic, Yellow Sun, Red Moon, Firebird is now an associate company of Bristol Old Vic and this is where we meet and work every Monday.
The route we chose for our walk had a symbolic significance for us because it mirrors the journey made by the Portway Players to become Firebird Theatre. It started in Woodwell Rd not far from the site of the old Portway Centre in St Bernard's Rd., Shirehampton and ended at Bristol Old Vic in King Street, Bristol.

The walkers posing in Woodwell Rd before the walk begins.

The start of the walk - crossing the Portway (A4)
 The walk - coming to an end!

Arriving at Bristol Old Vic
Sian and Marilyn arriving in King Street from the SS Great Britain
Penny, Kip and Ed arriving in King Street

Collecting certificates and getting stuck-in to the buffet and drinks laid on for us at Bristol Old Vic.
A big thank you to everyone at Bristol Old Vic for their support

The end of the walk - we're at Bristol Old Vic.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The first Steve Knight Memorial Workshop, April 20th 2015

On April 20th we had our first workshop in memory of Steve Knight. The workshop was led by Joêl Daniel, a dancer and choreographer. Thanks to everyone who donated money to the Memorial Workshop Fund, we nearly have enough for four other workshops in Steve's memory.

We would also like to thank, as always, Bristol Old Vic for letting us use the Clore Studio for this workshop.

This felt like a great workshop to do in memory of Steve because it was all about movement, which felt like a celebration of what Steve loved doing with Firebird: dancing and making strong movements on stage. 

Joel working with us in the Clore Studio at Bristol Old Vic with the shoaling exercise

Joêl got us working in lots of different ways: we looked at how we moved together, as a group. This was called shoaling with different people taking the lead and the rest of us following. We walked together, using different movements, small movements to a rhythm, in a sequence, and keeping pace as a group.

Joêl helped us to explore a canon of repeated movements, clapping/rhythms to help us keep to a pace and making journeys together: fast and slow.

We worked on different levels and from chairs as well; we explored positioning on stage and focus.

We all liked working with Joêl and would like to work with him again on our new work. We liked the warm up he gave us and the way he explained things. He included everyone in the workshop, getting us to move one at a time and then altogether.

We liked the fact that Joêl asked us about Steve; we told him about Steve's shadow dance from The Nine Lessons Of Caliban and he asked us about Steve's movements and got us to try to remember them by doing them.

We liked the way he got us to move towards different fixed points in the rehearsal room.

There were difficult bits too - it was difficult to count and make up different moves that we had to remember... remembering moves was hard.

We had never really done a workshop like this before and it was a great thing to do - it will help us to look at how we move on stage. We would like to work with Joêl again. We would also like to see him dance when he next performs in Bristol. In the meantime, we are excited to receive a copy of White Caps on DVD from Joêl, a performance by the Dance Company that he used to work with called Champloo. We will be watching this next week and finally, Joêl's website goes live next week, it is: