As with a lot of people, I guess, I have had a think about 2011 and what it has meant, what it has been and what it has paved the way for in 2012.
Here are all the things that have occurred in 2011 with Belt Up, The Flanagan Collective and York Theatre Royal...
We started the year touring Octavia in Jethro's homeland of Cornwall. A beautiful tour which, I now know, affected my ideas about making theatre.
We then headed to London, very early one morning, to do a fit up and get in for The Boy James at Southwark Playhouse which ran for three weeks. This was our first encounter with Mr Stephen Fry and my first play to run in London.
Whilst running The Boy James we were rehearsing Antigone, Quasimodo and Odyssey which we were taking out on the road in Feb. We had a superb time at the wonderful Wyeside Arts Centre in Wales with Octavia, Quasimodo and Antigone. We stayed in the arts centre for the days we were there and were treated to a private screening of Black Swan in their cinema. Awesome.
We took Antigone, The Boy James and Quasimodo to South Hill Park Arts Centre too and met the brilliant Ron McCallistair and their beautiful building.
We also played in the basement of The Lowry for two weeks with Odyssey and Quasimodo in their Orchestra dressing room, which was an experience.
This signaled Belt Up's very first musical, The Beggar's Opera. It was a main house show at York Theatre Royal for TakeOver Festival which was a Tory-Bashing, metatheatrical, anthemic couple of hours. It was hard - harder than we thought it would be I think - but thoroughly enjoyable and satiated an appetite we all have for musical theatre.
And so came round our third production of Macbeth in Belt Up's history, this one in an underground prison in London - it ran for five weeks and was jolly successful, Stephen Fry came again, and it ended with Dom cracking his head open which was rather a shame. It was also Jethro's first independently produced show as Jethro Compton Ltd with Simon Cummin of SJC Productions, a relationship which seems to still be going strong and Jethro's ideas are getting bigger each month.
We closed Macbeth and took Antigone and Lorca is Dead to The Lowry, this time in their studio. It ended with a very emotional goodbye to Lorca, Dom's beautiful play which we were all very attached to. Dom gave us all a spanish rose as a thank you, which I still have and will keep for as long as possible.
The Boy James and Atrium got an outing at York Theatre Royal for a week in their studio, which is always nice to play on home turf. Myself, Joe and Dan were across at West Yorkshire Playhouse with Alan & Kully for the Transform closing party, Smoke and Mirrors which was superb fun and very much looking forward to the Transform Festival in 2012.
We also had the first Flanagan Collective show, Made For Radio. This was set up at 41 Monkgate to try and allow a writer, director and producer a low risk environment to make some work. It was a good project but one which needs more thought from us, I think.
We also ran another Flanagan Collective project in the market town of Easingwold. Lead by Abbi this was a 10 devising process with kids in years 7-9 to create a site-specific/immersive/promenade/experiential piece of storytelling. The project was called Spooked and was a very successful model which generated some superb work and a model which we can hopefully build on in the future.
Here, Belt Up divided forces. Myself, James, Dom and Joe went in to rehearsal for Peter Pan, York Theatre Royal's big summer show as part of their In The Round Season. This was my first experience as assistant director working with Damian Cruden and was a wonderful experience and a big learning curve.
Jethro, Lucy and Dan went in to rehearsal for our Fringe season, again produced by Jethro Compton Ltd. The Boy James returned to the festival with two new pieces, Outland by Dom and Twenty Minutes To Nine by James.
For The Flanagan Collective we went in to rehearsal for our Fringe shows too.
So Belt Up had a great season at the Fringe, a much smaller programme than 2010 but thoroughly successful - even hosting secret gigs with Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer.
The Flanagan Collective had William, a story for families, and Some Small Love Story, a new musical, playing for the month. For an unknown company the shows did very well with Some Small Love Story gaining superb reviews and award nominations and the beginnings of a future life for the show.
And in York we ran Peter Pan for 5 weeks with 10 show weeks and sell out houses. Very exciting and very lovely spending the month in a big theatre in York rather than a dark room in Edinburgh.
We went straight in to rehearsal for 40 Years On by Alan Bennet, our second show with York Theatre Royal as part of their In The Round Season. We bid farewell to James from the Ensemble Season as he started his two years at Lamda. We said Hello to Luke James who joined the Belt Up Boys for the run.
40 Years On ran at York Theatre Royal, again selling well and jolly good fun. I think we all learnt a lot from spending so much time working with York Theatre Royal - an invaluable experience.
I also started conversations with Tom Bellerby and Pilot about their Pilot Live scheme, about maybe getting involved there...
Was when The Flanagan Collective stepped up our game. William started rural touring and is still doing so.
But the big event was The Little Festival Of Everything where over 50 artists came from near and far to perform, share, drink, sell, eat and chat at The Fauconberg Arms pub in Coxwold, rural North Yorkshire. The whole event was free to attend and has paved the way for some big projects and collaboration in the future. The festival was covered and streamed across the weekend by Pilot Theatre with over 700 views online. It was thoroughly and genuinely amazing.
Tom Bellerby and I, after various collaborations and shows in the previous three months, teamed up with The Lamb and Lion pub in York to create a new version of A Christmas Carol. It was a communal dining experience for only 20 people at a time. It starred Dominic Allen and Michael Lambourne and was a real success. Luke James stepped in as Assistant Producer and was a hero. Expect more at The Lamb and Lion over the next year or so.
So all in all 2011 was a busy year, full of change and progression.
Other things that happened in no particular order:
Spoke at the Theatres Trust conference in London / Moved in with Veronica and moved to a new flat, so moved house twice in 2011 / Belt Up went to different parts of the country, no longer having Belt Up Towers in York / Spent a wonderful weekend in Brighton where I jammed with a funk band / Alan and The Bennetts, the York Theatre Royal staff band formed and have played 3 average gigs / variously panicked, dreamed, thought about and ignored the future / had no end of wonderful conversations and met no end of wonderful people...
And all of this just ends up as what leads in to 2012.
At the minute 2012 is all about:
Adelaide Fringe with two Flanagan Collective shows, two Belt Up shows and a cabaret with Damsel Sophie / Touring William and The Fastest Train To Anywhere wherever and whenever we can / Making two new big shows, Beulah with The Flanagan Collective and Therapy with No Shoes Theatre / RnDing Some Small Love Story and that starting it's life in the caring hands of Hartshorn+Hook Productions / Continuing and expanding The Little Festival Of Everything with festivals around the country and the second bigger and better festival in Coxwold in June / Big ideas and plans for Edinburgh Fringe / Potentially heading to Brighton Fringe too / Touring Hot, the cabaret with Damsel Sophie as much as we can / Building an exciting relationship with South Hill Park Arts Centre and a week on programming there in July / Beulah premiering for a week at York Theatre Royal in June / Plans to launch a new venue and artistic retreat deep in the Yorkshire countryside / Associate Director on the massive and wonderful project that is The York Mystery Plays 2012 with York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company and York Museums Trust / and more...
I can only hope in 2012 that I carry having such good conversations with such good people. The next year could bring such exciting things and lots of superb adventures.
Hopefully catch you along the way!
Happy New Year to you all.