Elsewhere at Streatham Festival

Elsewhere at Streatham Festival – our top five:

Streatham Festival kicks off on 4th July and we’re super excited to be a part of it. We’ll be performing Alice in Wonderland at the British Home on 4th and 5th July (tickets here), alongside a free Mad Hatter’s Tea Party themed fete in the grounds of the Home. It’s all set to be a terrific weekend and there’s plenty more on offer at Streatham Festival. Here are our top picks:

1. The Streatham Strut – Saturday 11th July

16 venues in the centre of Streatham hosting an exciting evening of live music, there’s bound to be something for everyone and a great atmosphere http://www.streathamfestival.com/node/122

2. Breaking the Code from Streatham Theatre Company – 4 performances

Two of our favourite things here – South London theatre companies (ho ho) and Alan Turing. Check this out to see another view on the story behind recent blockbuster The Imitation Game, taking a more personal view. http://www.streathamtheatre.org.uk/code

3. Shazia Mirza ‘A Work in Progress’ at the Laughing Pod – Wednesday 8th July

There’s loads of comedy at the festival, three different acts at this venue on this evening alone (phew!) but Shazia takes our fancy as it’s always good to see a comic who’s on the rise and rise in a small venue just before they get really popular. There, we called it. Also she says “There will be anger, confusion, some laughter and mostly danger” – how can you resist?

4. The Breakfast Club free outdoor screening – Saturday 4th July

This sounds like a perfect summer’s evening just waiting to happen – fingers crossed it’s dry but pack a cagoule and a blanket and you’ll be just fine whatever the British Summertime wants to throw at you. http://www.freefilmfestivals.org/whats-on/streatham/details/447-the-breakfast-club.html

5. Lucy Spanyol’s Blue Plaques – throughout week one of the festival

We love the playful nature of this, definitely worth checking them out if you’re wandering through Streatham during the festival. http://www.streathamfestival.com/art23LucySpanyol

Has anything else on the programme particularly caught your eye? Let us know what you see during the festival on twitter or facebook and we might just feature your review on an upcoming Arts Hour!

Blackshaw’s 5th Birthday

On Sunday 7th June, we celebrated Blackshaw’s 5th Birthday in style!  Guests included past cast, crew, patrons and associates.  There was cake (totally on brand with an edible Blackshaw logo), bubbly, paper hats, and a speech from Director, Ellie.

We also enjoyed a slide show of past projects, as well as some special live performances.

Get a taste of the metaphorical birthday cake with a peep at the party.

Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 1

Oh yes, that’s right, Blackshaw has a radio show!

Join our producer, Iasha, and our Director, Ellie, as they introduce you to what our new show is all about. Find out what Blackshaw are up to, listen to short radio plays and hear reviews of all thing arts.

We’re just getting started and finding our way, so expect even more in future episodes as we develop the show further.

Here’s our first episode for you to wrap your ears around. Enjoy!

5 minutes with Nic Whitworth

Our latest production, Staying Alive,  deals with a very sensitive issue – the death of a child.

Following on from our 5 minutes with writer, Kat Roberts, we caught up with Nic Whitworth from bereaved parent support group SLOW. Nic helped Kat with her research in writing Staying Alive: this kind of in-depth research is part of why Staying Alive is such a remarkable piece of theatre.

We wanted to share with you the important work Nic and SLOW do. There is a link to donate to the organisation at the bottom of the piece.

Can you give us a short background on what Slow is and what it provides?

Slow is a self-help group for bereaved parents, run by bereaved parents. It provides a weekly day time group and a monthly evening group where bereaved parents are able to come and listen, talk and simply spend time together in the knowledge that they are with others who share their grief.


What’s the philosophy behind Slow?

SLOW stands for Surviving the Loss of your World – at your own pace. The philosophy is that grief is a natural response to the untimely death of a child, and we seek to walk alongside each other through the pain that grief involves. Adapting and adjusting to life without your child is a slow process that requires patience and kindness towards yourself and from others. We will provide the space for bereaved parents to find their own way through grief, at their own pace, trusting that each person is unique in the pattern of their grief and will adjust in their own way. We hold onto to the hope that through our sharing community we may each find a way to connect with our child in our own time. Grief is an ever changing landscape: we believe each parent will ultimately find a way to carry their child with them in a way that makes sense to them, though they will never be ‘fixed’


You and Kat (writer of Staying Alive) had quite a long chat regarding the best way to portray this sensitive subject matter. What did you think was the most important thing she had to convey?

That grief of a parent cannot be fixed, and that the experience of time changes completely for bereaved parents. We need time to grieve, time to rest, time to try to rebuild our lives, time to recalibrate our worlds, time to make sense of a senseless world. The past is forever present and the future is frightening. We are irrevocably changed and our children’s names are a joy to hear and we love it when people talk about them – as do parents whose children are thankfully alive.


How is Slow funded?

We were lucky enough to receive Lottery Funding this year. We also receive funding from Islington Community Chest, London Initiative funds, and we are supported by Waitrose community Matters scheme, The Maple Trust, and from 2 individuals who have hosted fundraising sporting events for us


How can we help out with your work?
Our local giving page is the best way to support us, though we are very happy for any event to be hosted for us, please get in touch with Nic or Kelly if you would like to fundraise for Slow. Link to local giving below





5 Minutes with writer Kat Roberts

It’s been a busy few weeks for writer Kat Roberts – Staying Alive has it’s premiere next week on the 15th of January! Luckily, we managed to snag five minutes with her between rehearsals to ask her the big questions.


What influenced your decision to write about such a sensitive topic?


Initially I wanted to explore grief in a cathartic way but also how people can isolate others and become isolated by their experiences.  I was very interested in concepts of time and how the timeline for grief seems to be non-linear or that it slows time down in an alien way and what effect that might have on old and new relationships. I do also have a preoccupation with concepts of safety. I think we have a heightened awareness of child protection issues as a society at the moment  and I wanted to see how guilt from grief might feed on that. I suppose I arrived at the bereavement relationship being one of mother and child because it is something that I find terrifying to think about. But then I have the luxury of not thinking about it. If we accept that and go the route of ignoring it then we segregate those who have actually experienced the unimaginable. If we isolate them because we feel uncomfortable then we might subject them to a world without hope. But there is hope, I believe, in the darkest of times. It can come from unexpected places. It relies on human beings exercising their compassion; on making connections and being brave. Honesty and hope triumph in the play.



How long has Staying Alive been in development?


From the first piece of writing I did to the showcase of the full length play it will have been almost a year. But I would say I have been carrying around the ideas for a couple of years before that, without them having any kind of creative home.


What research did you undertake to ensure Staying Alive was authentic?


There were two aspects to the research. One was more technical and the other was to do with emotional content. The more technical aspects were essentially a matter of seeking out people who are Doctors, social workers etc… to explore specific processes and types of language to support the scenes. Some research such as the registration of a death was done on the internet and then the scene imagined off the back of that. But it was also very important to explore both the experience of being a parent and of losing a child. Research on parents was done mainly by observation. But Blackshaw also directly contacted groups who support bereaved parents and I went to meet the co-founder of SLOW, who lost her daughter 9 years ago. The ideas that we discussed and her experiences informed so much of the play and I am very grateful to her for sharing her story with me.


What is it like seeing your piece come to life as a fully formed production?


The writing process went in little loops of terror, writing research, writing, pride, editing, terror, showing, terror, writing, research, writing etc… until I got to the end. Then there was an added layer of  loss for the script once I handed it over. I suddenly realised it’s not mine anymore and I felt a bit like saying ‘please look after my baby!’ But then I listened to the audio recording of the first reading last night and I realised… not only are they looking after my baby but they have adopted it, they care about its feelings, they worry about its needs, they’re setting up a trust fund so it can get a good education and realise its potential. I think that’s when it occurred to me just how beautifully collaborative this process is, how it cannot be achieved without trusting other people and lucky for me, said people are immensely talented. When the work comes to life it will be as a result of everybody’s effort and commitment and I really enjoy that ensemble ethic. That’s what theatre is. So I’m very much looking forward to seeing it.


How has it been working with the Blackshaw gang?


I have nothing but good things to say, which is fortunate as this is their blog and that could have been awkward. The Blackshaw gang are an awesome bunch. They made me sign a contract to protect my rights as a writer. They have facilitated all of my research which has been invaluable. They have included me in all major production decisions and have listened to me ramble on inarticulately about ‘the direction the play might be going in…but might not be … but I don’t really know… but I’ll let them know when I know… and what do they think?’ etc… I cannot say how important it was to have people to sound ideas off of and steer me in the right direction when I started to veer off track. They also are incredibly efficient and have clear and realistic deadlines and a consistent approach which encourages you to work continuously but also allows your writing time to evolve. Als,o very useful are the several opportunities to test your work throughout the year at their new writing nights. I really couldn’t be more grateful to them for the experience of the development process and the support they have provided.

New Year Promises!

Now the tinsel is being taken down and the hangovers are finally a distant memory, I got the team down to the serious stuff of resolutions.

The good thing about this is that now they are in writing and on the internet so they HAVE to keep them!

VIKKI – Strategy Brain

I’m going to get back in the pool and get in the habit of swimming 3-4 times per week to increase the amount of exercise I do from ‘none’ to ‘a bit’. I’m getting a new piano next week so my other resolution is to try to practice a little bit every day as I haven’t really played in about 5 years.

ELLIE – Boss Brain

I am going to make a concerted effort to set time aside to relax. I’m not very good at relaxing.  I am also going to try to get to bed before midnight on weekdays, and set up some socials for the Blackshaw Committee.  Mmm…team bonding.

BETHANY – Events Brain

In 2015 I’m going to be travelling around South East Asia – so my resolution is to be adventurous. When I get back my resolution is to resist stuffing my face with much missed pasta and to keep healthy and happy – maintaining the hippy mentality I will have undoubtedly developed whilst backpacking. Also, I WILL LEARN TO DRIVE. This year’s the year.

NICK – Funding Brain

For me, 2015 will be the year of savings and Spanish. I am resolved to putting money aside for rainy days and that thing they call owning a property (an unlikely goal, but it’s nice to dream).  I will also attempt an improvement on my Spanish from embarrassed-Brit to bi-lingual wannabe. I have another resolution which I carry over every year…eat good food, drink good wine and try to survive another 12 months.

P.s. It would be remiss of the Funding & Partnerships Manager not to resolve himself to bringing in more funding for Blackshaw, so I suppose that should be added to the list too.


And finally, because it’s not fair otherwise, myself: SIOBHAN – Marketing Brain

In 2015 I am going to work on being less awful at yoga and generally attempt to be a more sporty person, even if it goes against every fibre of my being. I’m also going to work hard on making the Blackshaw blog even better!

10 signs Christmas is coming

Photo by Bethany Arnold

1. Christmas cards taking over EVERYWHERE making it impossible to find anything with a simple ‘happy birthday’ or ‘thank you’.

Photo by Bethany Arnold


2. Shop shelves become filled with festive treats making you wonder how you survived the previous 11 months without mince pies.




3. Shop window displays become an exhibition of all things sparkly.

For me, the winner will always be teddybears.


4. A whole host of new activities to enjoy – the cheesier, the better.

5. Everywhere just looks so much better than usual.

6. Christmas songs playing everywhere. All the time.  There isn’t really a picture for that…


mostlyaboutchocolate.com – edited by Bethany Arnold

7. So much excitement over Advent Calendars, the best way to start a day.

Photo by Bethany Arnold


8. Coffee shops have an exciting new range of festive flavours and the special take away cup to match.




9. Classic Christmas films are back on TV and take us back to our childhoods

(OK, maybe not a ‘classic’ yet but Frozen is just great).


10. The John Lewis advert.

www.express.co.uk  - edited by Bethany Arnold
www.express.co.uk – edited by Bethany Arnold


And however cheesy it might be, let’s be honest, we know Christmas is coming when we get that feeling in our bellies, the one that’s not indigestion.  The excited for no particular reason, wanting to be with friends and family feeling. That’s the Christmas spirit folks.


Have a good one


– Bethany Arnold, Social Events Manager

Well I didn’t expect that!

I was asked to write a blog about my adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, but for reasons I’ll go into, it turns out I don’t know as much about it as I thought I did.

I wrote it for a youth theatre and it was first performed by ten young performers between the ages of 9 and 17.

My intention was to write something that would challenge them, to get them to use performance techniques they were unfamiliar with and show them that on stage, it’s ok to let go and truly throw yourself in to your role (something that can be hard to convince a 15 year old!).

Knowing that I would also be directing the play, I wrote what I knew I could achieve with the cast, props and costumes at my disposal. I’d also been playing around with the idea of setting a story in junk shop and having each scene and character constructed from the rubbish that lined the shelves. Alice in Wonderland seemed like a good match for this idea and the final result, I think, was great. My cast took up the challenges I set them and exceeded my expectations, and working out how to make a caterpillar out of junk was great fun. The production even won a NODA award. I was very happy indeed.

So when I gave Alice to Blackshaw Theatre, I found it hard to imagine how the play might be done any differently. Not because I thought my way was best, but because everything it had been the first time around was so vivid it was hard to look past it.

I decided to remove myself from the rehearsal process. I was invited along, but I didn’t want to be the voice at the back of the room that said, “Well last time we did it this way.” every time something was discussed. Other than providing a knitted teapot (made by my Nan – thanks Nan!) and helping to build a bit of the set, I tried to remain separate from the production.


This was a little sad as I like to be involved, but I knew that leaving it alone was the right thing to do.

I’m so very pleased that I did. Going to see the first performace on Saturday was like discovering the play all over again. I found that in scenes I know back to front, I found myself thinking, “Well I didn’t expect that!”, and wondering what on earth would happen next. It was exciting to see something I know so well transformed into something new.

It has been a great reminder that when you hand over a play it isn’t going to come back as you imagined it, and that you have to embrace this.

When I directed Alice I knew what I had written, so that’s what I got my actors to do; the great thing about giving up the reigns to other people is that they will find all the things you didn’t know about your play. For example, I never knew that the Walrus and the Carpenter are actually Brian Blessed and Alan Bennett.  Seriously, if when you read the book again, use those voices in your head and you’ll be very glad you did!

So it seems that this blog, rather than being about my adaptation of Alice, is actually a massive thank you. A thank you to director Ellie, and the whole of the cast and crew, for taking a play that’s very dear to me and showing me wonderous things that I had no idea could be done with it.

– Richard

Work with Blackshaw – Publicity, PR, and Marketing Manager

We’re looking for a new Publicity, PR and Marketing (PPM) Manager to join the Blackshaw committee and help us promote our fantastic shows and events. Like all our committee positions, this is a voluntary role but you’ll have the opportunity to join a dedicated team of theatre makers and have plenty of fun too!  See our top 10 reasons to work with us, here.

To Apply
Email info@blackshawonline.com with the subject heading ‘PPM position’. Please send your CV and write a brief covering letter explaining why you’re interested in, and how you would be suitable for, the post.

Job Description – PPM Manager

The Publicity, PR, and Marketing Manager is specifically responsible for –

– Brand Management: the public image and awareness of Blackshaw and its activities.

– Managing the PPM Team (currently 2 lovely PPM assistants, Robert & Stanley)

– Coordinating specific project campaigns by liaising with the Events Team/Director/PPM Team about the image of the event/company

– Seeking out opportunities to promote Blackshaw

– Analysing the relative successes and failures of specific campaigns and use these findings to improve future campaigns

– Ensuring the company contact database (Blackshaw Brain) is kept up to date

– Managing relationships with press, including distributing press releases, building contacts with the press, bringing in reviewers for shows and events.

– Developing publicity strategy.

All Blackshaw committee members are also expected to attend Blackshaw committee meetings. These are currently held on the first Sunday of every month, at 3pm (and last up to 2 hours) at the Royal Festival Hall.

Specific Tasks include:

  • Sourcing, and briefing, a designer for company publicity, then following up and proofing drafts/ideas within an appropriate timescale before sending to the Director and/or Events Manager for approval
  • Circulating material to appropriate events listings, relevant social media and websites (this will include flyers, posters, banners, e-flyers, online promotional material and anything else that is deemed appropriate for the project).
  • Maintain up to date profiles for Blackshaw on relevant event listings and social media sites, whilst generating a good audience relationship through the latter.
  • Liaise with the IT Manager to create and distribute a regular newsletter to the mailing list.



PPM Assistant – we have two assistants in post, Robert & Stanley.  They assist with the day to day running of Blackshaw’s Publicity, and are task managed by the PPM Manager.

The PPM assistant will assist the PPM manager with the planning and implementation of various promotional campaigns carried out by Blackshaw, occasionally taking full ownership of campaigns relating to smaller events.  This includes: Liaising with the PPM Manager/Events team/Director about the image of the event/company; proofing work/ideas within an appropriate timescale before sending to PPM Manager/Events team/Director for approval; circulating material to appropriate events listings, relevant social media and websites (this will include flyers, posters, banners, e-flyers, online promotional material and anything else that is deemed appropriate for the event).


They are the secondary representative for Press, PR and Marketing on the Blackshaw committee and are only expected to attend meetings when they wish, or in the place of the PPM manager if they are unable to attend.