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.