Reading, Reading, Reading…

Old yellow typewriter in shadowAs StageWrite enters its fourth year we have seen the biggest increase in submissions ever!!  I remember vividly, talking to Harri and Cally (the other forces behind our festival) at the end of last year and saying, “if we don’t get funding this year, I don’t know if we can keep going with this”.  We were all in agreement and, sure enough, we were unsuccessful again in securing Arts Council Funding.  I know, I know… we all complain about it but we really felt like we deserved this.  We work hard to keep the festival going and we all do it for no pay because, certainly in Bedford, we just don’t attract the audience numbers to make it profitable.  But you know what, we believe in what we do.  Every year we get to work with and develop at least 8 playwrights and we have had the immense privilege of watching some of those writers go on to great things.  Just as we were thinking we might have to call it a day, one of our writers last year, Jonathan Skinner, overheard and told us categorically, “No… you have to keep it going.  People have heard of you now and you’re on the map when it comes to writing”.  Well that stopped us in our tracks and, if this year’s number of submissions is anything to go by, he wasn’t wrong.

If you have been to any of our festivals you will undoubtedly have come across an extremely talented young man, Andrew Maddock who has submitted every year and become one of our biggest champions.  We have seen him go on to perform his own work in a variety of theatres and has since become an Off West End Nominee.  You can read an interview with him here.

Courtesy of Caroline Connaughton Photography

Courtesy of Caroline Connaughton Photography

Now, StageWrite obviously doesn’t take credit for this, but I believe what we do plays an important part in the development of these writers.  We give them the opportunity to see their work up on the stage, performed by professional actors, in front of an audience and gain valuable feedback from all of those people.  We have worked with some of the writers and this year we saw our first mini-tour of Jonathan Boustead’s Philadelphia which was performed at Reading Fringe Festival, Bedfringe Festival and then at The Place Theatre in Bedford.

So here’s the thing… I often see people complaining about working for nothing – and on the whole, I totally agree with them.  All too often, artists devalue their contribution by being grateful for simply being given ‘an opportunity’.  So I’m the first to tell you, I won’t work for nothing…. Except when it comes to StageWrite.  Because it’s too important and there aren’t enough opportunities like it.

We have gone for Arts Council Funding again, and we’ll see what happens.  It costs us about £10K to put the festival on and that means that the three festival directors, a reasonably large group of actors, directors, technicians and photographers etc work for a whole week for absolutely nothing.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am to those people for their commitment to what we do.  It’s such a privilege and an honour to work with you all.  Look at me… getting all emotional… enough now!

Seriously though – this year we have had over 50 submissions which, for us, is a huge accomplishment and we are very proud that so many people have trusted us with their work.  As ever, the standard has been amazing and, having just finished reading them all, we are in the process of making our final selection and we will be getting back to you with a response this week at some point.  Thanks for your patience.

We wish you all a fabulous Christmas and New Year and we look forward to welcoming you to StageWrite 2016 in the New Year.