Friday, 8 December 2017

Our December 2017 Newsletter

To all our Friends and Supporters, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year

2017 has been an amazing year with our production A Spark and a Beating Heart being a real highlight and receiving great feedback and reviews from our audiences. It is hard to believe that the performances were back in May!

Now we are working with producers, MAYK, to plan a tour of A Spark in autumn 2018 to venues in the southwest.

We are also planning a workshop for schools and colleges to run alongside performances of A Spark.

Next year will also see the beginning of a partnership project with Bristol Old Vic, running taster workshops for new people who are interested in making theatre and are potential future members of Firebird Theatre.

We are also talking to the Theatre Department at Bristol University about them holding a Firebird Theatre archive as part of their Theatre Collection.

We have been working with Cath Greig and MAYK on a research and development project which is about looking at how Firebird can continue to develop as a Company and have a strong future. As part of the project we have taken part in workshops run by Verity Standen, Nik Partridge and Laura Dannequin. 

Please see below for feedback from the Company and photographs.

This year we have received support from Arts Council England via their Grants for the Arts funding stream. They have supported us making and performing A Spark and a Beating Heart and the Research and Development Project.

We have also received grants from the Yapp Charitable Trust and The Odin Charitable Trust which have contributed to our running costs and donations from our Friends and Supporters. Many thanks to all the people who support us in this way, also to trustees, families and friends who support every aspect of our work, from the business side to helping us get to rehearsals and performances.

To end this newsletter, we finish off with some comments from audience members for A Spark and a Beating Heart

Photo by Paul Blakemore
This is a gorgeous piece of theatre that implicitly argues for the existence and potential of theatre, along with continued, active expressions of compassion for all members of society. This work tells the story of Firebird Theatre.
Review for exeunt by Rosemary Waugh

“Loved the thread of the myths and people’s personal stories. I liked the audio visuals that also held the story together.
Overall it was stunning.

“Very moved by the powerful performance. It was extremely brave to stand and give personal performances of things that people hoped would be forgotten. We must never forget.”

“I always leave a Firebird show uplifted and my life enhanced. I was very moved to hear the personal stories and loved the way they were  woven with the Firebird stories. I was very impressed with the Design.”

Feedback from Firebird for the workshops, all photographs by Ed Goater and Olivia Watkins

Workshop with Verity Standen, 16th October

The Power of Voice by Olivia Watkins

We starting of some voice exercises to help us start off. For this workshop about voice, it was very interesting to the group, with some ideas what we did: A food game: what is your personality as a food then the Name Jam/sounds of music – very good experience. Then we did rounds: Deer calling and a sea one. And we did Hocketing: singing backward and forth numbers and Hey Jude/ Yellow Submarine. We all work very hard to complete this workshop.
She was called Verity Standen. She was leading the workshop. We all think we like her to come again. We did some feedback of what she did.
And now I have finished my blog. The End.

Verity Standen’s work as a composer, director and performer explores the human voice and how it can be celebrated and transformed through live performance.
Verity, fourth from left, with Fiirebird

Workshop with Nik Partridge, 6th November
Feedback from the Company

Nik was a nice lively chap – very enthusiastic and he didn’t muck about.

His warm ups were excellent and he was very good at explaining about what an exercise was for and his instructions were very clear.

Some of the exercises were difficult to understand but most of us got there in the end. We noticed how good he was at adapting his exercises for us but also he didn’t give up – he’d play a game with us for a while until we got the hang of it.

We loved that he used drawing and writing – it gave us time to look and think.

He was also very good at interpreting movement. There was a good mix of teamwork, work in pairs and individual work – a good mix of different exercises: voice, movement, story telling, and choreography.

The whole workshop was upbeat and fun. It would be good to work with him again; we would love to work with him again.

We enjoyed it very much. Nik was a very open person.

Nik is a director, workshop leader and facilitator.

Nik, centre,  behind Penny and between Olivia and Dan

Workshop with Laura Dannequin, 20th November

We loved this workshop because Laura gave us lots of ideas. We would like to work with her again.

She helped us all take part and I like that very much. Some of the work Laura did with us might help us when we are on stage.

She helped us to look at each other, to watch each other; she kept us focussed.

It was so good that Laura let us be us, explore our own movements, our own rhythms, our own bodies.

Laura was very respectful of us all and she gave us a lot of confidence. Some of us feel like we can’t dance or move very well but she helped us to see ourselves differently – she helped us to see/experience what we could do NOT what we couldn’t.

The dance that Marilyn and Laura did together was beautiful.

Laura made us feel safe to experiment. She helped us develop our ideas. She helped us to make beautiful dances.

I loved the different music. The music was lovely and really helped us explore our own movements and rhythms.

The different music suited each task/exercise. And helped us get in the mood.

Thank you, Laura; we would love to work with you again. We will keep in touch and please keep in touch with us. We would love to see some of your work.

Laura Dannequin,
Laura is a French-born performer / choreographer / performance maker working predominantly with and in movement.

Working with Laura, Laura in white top and red tracksuit bottoms.

Ending as we started: seasonal greetings to you all and we will be in touch again in 2018 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Agenda and invitation to Firebird Theatre's Annual General Meeting: all welcome!

You are invited to

Firebird Theatre’s Annual General Meeting

 on Saturday 9th December 2017 at 10.30am for a 10.45am start in the Upstairs Rehearsal Room, Bristol Old Vic, King Street, Bristol

From A Spark and a Beating Heart, Photograph: Paul Blakemore

Following the meeting, there will be an opportunity to meet the Company informally and to share Christmas refreshments together. There will also be a stall selling Firebird Theatre merchandise.

Please feel free to invite friends and people you know to Firebird Theatre’s Annual General Meeting.

Entrance to the meeting will be via the Stage Door in the Rackhay, off Queen Charlotte Street.

We hope you can come to our meeting. We would very much appreciate you
letting us know if you can accept our invitation. Many thanks.

Please send RSVPs to: OR by post to: Firebird Theatre, 5 Dial Hill Rd., Clevedon, N. Somerset BS21 7HJ OR by telephone/text to: 07890 524 226

                                       FIREBIRD THEATRE

Annual General Meeting

Saturday 9th December 2017 at 10.45am

                       Clore Studio at Bristol Old Vic


             1.    Welcome from Mel Scaffold, Chair of Firebird Theatre’s Trustees,                     introducing all trustees and an explanation about how voting works.

            2. Apologies

               3.    To approve Minutes of the last AGM, dated 10th December 2016

               4.    Matters Arising

               5.    To receive the report of the Chair

               6.    To receive the Treasurer’s Financial Report

         7.    Appointment of Trustees

               8.    Report from members of the Company

              9.    Any Other Business

The meeting will end at 11.45am with a short performance by members of Firebird Theatre and thanks to Gary Hall, who retired as Trustee earlier this year.

        There will be drinks and Christmas nibbles in the Bar after the meeting.

                                        Thank you for coming to our meeting.

Firebird Theatre Ltd . Registered in England and Wales No. 5728116
Registered office: 5 Dial Hill Road, Clevedon, North Somerset BS21 7HJ
Registered main Charity Number: 1115658

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Firebird Newsletter, October 2017

A Firebird newsletter and some up-dates to share with you: October 2017

After our 3 week summer break, we have been very busy, picking up on the Research and Development Project, planning a workshop around A Spark and a Beating Heart for schools and colleges; planning Taster Workshops for new people to name just a few things.

We are really pleased to let you know that Bristol Old Vic Outreach Department  are going to work with us to run the taster workshops for new people who are interested in making theatre and possibly joining Firebird Theatre in the future. We are starting with a pilot workshop in December and the Old Vic will host this and the other workshops in the New Year. The pilot workshop will be led jointly by Firebird Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. This is a very exciting development.

We visited the Theatre Collection at Bristol University in September, which was very interesting and we want to go back for more visits. We will also be talking to the archivists at the Theatre Department about putting together a Firebird Theatre archive to be housed as part of their Collection; another very exciting development.

Our visit to the Theatre Department at Bristol 
University: right, Olivia and Chris looking at what is thought to be a weight for opening and closing trap doors on stage. Photo on left: looking at what has been found under seats at the Old Vic in days gone by, Marilyn holding up an old Crunchie bar wrapper! Thanks to Jo Ellsworth and Jill Sullivan, from the University of Bristol Theatre Collection for an excellent and very interesting visit.

Photos of Sonoko, with most of Firebird for her to remember us by (Sonoko standing behind Sarah) and with Dan with the poster he made for Sonoko with words in Japanese characters, wishing her good luck for the future.

We were very sad to say goodbye to Sonoko who spent 8 weeks with us over the summer. Sonoko returned home to Japan on the 8th October and before she left she gave everyone an origami bird that she had made herself. It was a very good experience for us to work with Sonoko and we will not forget her. Before she left she taught us a Japanese traditional dance that we hope to perform at our Annual General Meeting on the 9th December

We will be sending invitations out to the AGM over the next 3 or 4 weeks.

We are also working with a student from America who is studying at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. We are trying to answer some of her questions about how we work so she can include them in her study. We are doing this via email and hope we can share some ways of working with her that will be useful.

We are working with MAYK to plan a tour of A Spark and a Beating Heart next year. We are also working on the Research and Development Project that is being coordinated by Cath Greig. This involves us in looking at how we work and also doing some workshops with other artists: we are working with Verity Standen, Nik Partridge and others; we will let you know how we get on in our next newsletter but for the time-being here is a photo of us all after our workshop with Verity Standen, which was really good and helped us with ideas about voice, focus, working together, using song and more. A bit more about Verity's and other workshops next time.
Verity, fourth on the left; on the far right, Cath Greig, who did Verity's workshop with us.
We are also seeing some great theatre in November and December: Up Down Man by Myrtle Theatre at the Tobacco Factory,

The Little Matchgirl, Bristol Old Vic’s Christmas Show in December

and Snow Globe at the Colston Hall

Firebird Theatre Ltd . Registered in England and Wales No. 5728116
Registered office: 5 Dial Hill Road, Clevedon, North Somerset BS21 7HJ
Registered main Charity Number: 1115658

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Summer Holiday Newsletter

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We are currently on a 3 week summer break but still have news we want to share with you!

On our last day before we broke up, 14th August, we were joined by Sash, Maria and Richard, to discuss the Taster workshops we would like to run over the next few months.

               Thanks to Sash, Maria and Richard for joining us on the 14th                                        August to help plan the Taster Workshops

It was very helpful to hear their ideas and realise how enthusiastic they are to get involved in making theatre. We hope to link-up with Bristol Old Vic’s Outreach Department to deliver these workshops and hope to give you more news about these in the next couple of months.

We start back on 11th September with a meeting with producers, MAYK, to discuss possibilities for touring A Spark and a Beating Heart and to plan parts of the Research Project that is being coordinated by Cath Greig.

We are also planning a workshop that can run alongside A Spark and a Beating Heart; which will be about Telling Stories.

On 25th September we are visiting Bristol University to look at their Theatre Collection – part of the visit will be to see if it is possible for Firebird to be part of the Collection. The other reason for visiting is to see one of the world’s largest archives of British Theatre history and live art.

During our holiday, Olivia and Dan are attending a one day film making workshop in Plymouth as part of the Random Acts Film Project run by Random Acts, Calling the Shots and Biggerhouse Film.

Finally, we are including some more rehearsal photos taken by Paul Blakemore of A Spark and a Beating Heart.

Happy Summer Days until we’re in touch again!

Sharlie and Tina: Imagine a firebird

Fionn and Dan: Penny's and Marushka's stories
Loving the rain!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Newsletter, August 2017

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Here is some more news from us all at Firebird Theatre!

Firstly, a few more photographs from our current production: A Spark and a Beating Heart; all photographs taken by Paul Blakemore.

Fionn and Chris watching Chris's film 

Olivia and Dan: Go for it!

Tina: In the beginning.         

Our Celebration Party at River Station on the 27th July: On 27th July we had our celebration Bash at River Station on the Cumberland Rd. This was an opportunity to thank all the people who helped us make A Spark: Kate and little Joseph from MAYK, our producers; Sam, who interpreted each show into British Sign Language; Frank from Redweather who did all the filming and projections; Claire Williamson, who helped us collect all our stories, thoughts and ideas at the beginning of making work around Firebird’s 25th Anniversary (2 years ago now!); Mel, Jo and Jude, our Trustees; Fionn, who acted on stage with the Company, playing the part of the storyteller; Kevin and Fiona, who supported the production and members of the Company; Cath Greig, who is coordinating the professional development project that we will begin in September and last but not least, all the Firebird performers apart from Sharlie who was on holiday.

There are obviously a lot of people missing from the above list, particularly Adrian, our musician; Anna, our Stage Manager; Paul, our photographer, Ben, our lighting designer and many other people from the technical and support team who helped make A Spark. Unfortunately, these people couldn’t come to the Bash but we didn’t forget them!

Sharlie wrote a speech to be read out at the Bash before she went on holiday; she said everything we all wanted to say and so we include it here as well:

To all the amazing people that helped to make A Spark and a Beating Heart a success.

Thank you for all your hard work.

To Firebird, you are all amazing people. What a fantastic celebration of 25 years work and here’s to the next 25 years.

I am sorry I can’t be here to celebrate with you but have a great night and see you soon.

Finally a BIG thanks to Ali and Bob who own River Station; they were our hosts for the evening and did us proud – Ali’s food/buffet was excellent.

Other news: Sonoko from Japan who visited us a few weeks ago with Scott, our Australian visitor has been working with us over the last 2 weeks, helping us look at ideas for the workshop we want to plan to run alongside A Spark when we perform it at other venues – it will be for disabled and non disabled children, young people and we hope will be relevant to adults as well. Sonoko has been doing a Residency at Bristol Old Vic since spring, she returns to Japan in October – we have loved working with her and hope we can keep in touch with her when she gets back home.

We continue to wish you all a good Summer; Firebird is closing for 3 weeks over the August Bank Holiday time and we will back back in September to begin the research project into making Firebird strong for the future (the professional development project). We will be in touch again in October, uintil then best wishes from us all in Firebird Theatre

To finish off, as promised in our last newsletter, we are including extracts from Sharlie’s Report from the Conference she attended in Birmingham last month, supported by Anna Griffith.

On the Verge Conference, Birmingham Hippodrome, Tuesday 4th July 2017, including a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on the evening of the 3rd July

The Conference was asking: How do we open up our main stages to Learning Disabled performers? How do we build structures of support that encourage Learning Disabled Actors to flourish? How doe we ensure Learning Disability is central to the diversity debate?

Are we On the Verge of a breakthrough??

What will happen on the day: we will examine these questions frankly and supportively through a dynamic and thought –provoking day of conversations, workshops and performances. The conference brings together performers, directors, programmers and casting directors to create a platform for sharing best practice across arts organisations.

Feedback from Sharlie

The Curious Incident

We arrived at the Birmingham Hippodrome and were made very welcome. We were given an information sheet on what to expect in the performance.

They had set-up a sensory room, toys and crayons for people who need to leave the theatre during the play. We were also offered sensory toys if we needed them as went into the theatre – these were to help people if they were feeling anxious.

Overall I felt I’d been hit by a hurricane. It was a whirlwind of activity and I just loved it. I have to say that the young man who played Christopher was fantastic. I truly believed in his character. I would recommend seeing this play to everyone.

Comment for Firebird: I could not tell what had been done to make the performance relaxed. I found the music and the sound effects to be too loud and the talking was too quiet/drowned out by the music and effects. I could not stay for the Q & A afterwards because of the noise, I was overwhelmed.

The Conference

There were around 150 people at On the Verge. It was held in a small studio and several rehearsal spaces at the back of the Hippodrome.

The conference started with 2 keynote speeches by Lyn Gardner and Richard Hayhow and then there were breakout groups. I attended two Breakout sessions:

Breakout session 1 Led by BecauseWeCanCanCan and Richard Hayhow

This group just talked about themselves and didn’t really give us chance to ask questions. Also they didn’t give a lot of information about their company, just about the actors.

Breakout session 2 Led by Richard Newnham and HiJinx Theatre

We were shown a video of a sitcom Richard had made with support from HiJinx. It is called ‘Flat Mates’ and can be found on YouTube. They talked about getting funding from a group called Unlimited and how it was put together.

We had lots of people talking but they went on so long and about many topics that it was hard to keep up. Also I would have liked to hear about Hi Jinx and the theatre they make as well as the video that Richard had made.

The session in the afternoon with Henry Normal was good – it was about his son and I really enjoyed it.

Points for Firebird to consider: I felt this conference was more for non disabled people: artistic directors and staff  than the actors/performers themselves, as far as I could tell there were not many disabled people at the conference so it became ‘talking about the performers’ rather than the performers discussing issues that were important to them, getting their work out there!.

I would have liked more break-out sessions and the chance to talk with other performers. It would have been good if more companies had been involved so we could have shared information about how we worked.

With lots of the issues that people were discussing, I thought: Firebird is already doing this! It made me think that Firebird needs to get out there more. If we could have shared A Spark and a Beating Heart with people at the Conference I think people (and us) would have got so much from it. We could give a lot to conferences and sharing our work.

I also think Firebird is thinking properly about making relaxed performances, changing the environment and the play to make it easier for an audience.

Sharlie Yea.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

An update: for all our friends and supporters

This is a short up-date of our activities throughout the summer. We are meeting on Mondays for a shorter time than usual for July and August. We are doing a lot of planning sessions for the research we will do in September around the professional development of Firebird Theatre.

We are also planning a workshop for schools and young people that will be part of taking A Spark and a Beating Heart further afield.

We are talking to new people who want to learn more and are interested in being part of Firebird Theatre.

We will be visiting Bristol University’s Theatre Collection in September to see if it is appropriate for Firebird to be part of.

On Monday 17th July, we had 2 visitors: Scott Gooding a drama practitioner from Melbourne, Australia and Sonoko, who is from Japan and currently part of a residency at Bristol Old Vic. It was great to meet them both and good for us to talk about our work and tell them about Firebird and how we work.
Our visitors, Scott and Sonoko

In our next newsletter we will be including a report made by Sharlie  about the On the Verge Conference she attended, which was held in Birmingham on 4th July.

Finally, we are including more photos from A Spark and a Beating Heart. We hope you enjoy them.
Sharlie's story, told by Penny and Sharlie. The story of the phoenix told by Fionn.
The end of A Spark with the ensemble watching fireworks projected on the screen by Frank Spencer
Marilyn with the golden apple from the Garden Scene

We wish you a happy sunny summer and hope you enjoy the rain too!
Sharlie and Brian enjoying the rain, excerpt from Brian's story

All photographs of A Spark and a Beating Heart by Paul Blakemore:

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Newsletter for June 2017

First of all, we want to thank all the people who managed to come to see A Spark and a Beating Heart at the Trinity Centre in May. It was a very special time for us and we so appreciated sharing our work with an audience. Please see the Home page of our website for feedback and reviews.

We do hope to be performing the show again and If you didn't catch it this time round, then there might be another opportunity to see it in the future.

We are currently evaluating A Spark for our End of Activity Report for Arts Council England and making a gentle start on our latest project, which is a research project into the professional development of Firebird Theatre for the future.

Over the next few weeks we will be posting photographs from A Spark and a Beating Heart for everyone to see - there are lots of them! 

All photographs were taken by Paul Blakemore during a Dress Rehearsal and he has done an amazing job,

The opening : What is a Firebird? With Sharlie, Dan, Penny and ensemble
Telling our stories, featuring Penny and Fionn, with music by Adrian

Left: Fionn as storyteller. Right: Adrian, composer and musician: the firebird looking for five    perfect notes                                                                                                                           

Other news:

We will be working with Cath Greig on the research development project, Cath will coordinate the project. It will involve us working with people with whom we already have established strong working relationships over the years, like MAYK, Frank Spencer and Ruby Spencer Pugh and also new people who we haven't worked with before. The Company artists will be central to the project and it will be the start of an exciting process. We will continue to share information with you about this project, which will kick off properly in September.   

Please contact us if you have any questions, information or ideas that you would like to share with us. We so appreciate your support.

All best wishes and thanks from us all in Firebird Theatre; we hope you have a great summer!