For years, many writers and actors in Merseyside lamented the lack of a good theatre festival in Liverpool. Edinburgh had the, by now world famous, Festival Fringe, Manchester’s 24:7 was established in 2004, Suffolk has its High Tide Festival, and even Barnstaple has a theatre festival. Then, in 2009 came the Write Now Festival.
The Write Now was established specifically to showcase new writing. In its first year, eight new plays were performed five times over the course of ten days in The Actors Studio, a modest eighty-seat venue owned by Pauline Daniels.
For the next four years, Write Now established itself as a renowned festival with script submissions from an international community of writers, not just Merseyside based. It provided an opportunity for local actors, directors and theatre practitioners of all types to show off their skills. It even attracted actors who had starred in some of our best loved TV soaps – oops, serial dramas. Many local actors went on to bigger and better things after appearing in the festival.
Then the festival director dropped a bombshell. On January 3rd, he announced that 2013 would be their final festival. He stated that it was “…forecast that Write Now be in a profitable situation by the conclusion of its fourth year but that was perhaps a difficult target given the financial climate we have and are still enduring.” So, there it is – it was not profitable enough.
My immediate thought was to send a newsflash – “Festivals are not profitable, never have been and never will be!” Festivals are never set up with profit in mind, which is why so many of them have to rely on public funding. To run a festival you need a whole different philosophy; festivals are run for the sake of the art, not the business.
Regardless of my feelings about the philosophy behind the festival and how its profit-share was administered, it was a fabulous resource and an asset to Liverpool and Merseyside. Over the four years, in the region of three dozen writers had seen their works performed; each year saw up to fifty actors giving their all; almost forty stage directors had taken part, some directing for the first time; theatre technicians provided sound and lighting effects; thousands of people had come to a theatre to enjoy new stageplays.
All that was now gone.
My first thought was “I can do that.” My second thought was “Who the hell do you think you are? You couldn’t possibly organise a festival!”
For many years I had considered establishing a rival festival – one where the word was king; a festival with more of a fringe feel utilising many of the fabulous venues we have in Liverpool; one where most of the writers would get back their investments! But could I pull it off?
I considered my own resources.
I am an engineer by qualification although most of my working life, before the artistic epiphany, was spent educating people. Engineering gave me project management skills while education made me a great form filler – of course I mean organiser.
In the early noughties, I was invited to join the panel for another arts festival; specifically I was involved in organising the one-act-play festival.
In 2010 I founded, along with three others, Merseyside Script Initiative – a forum for local writers to workshop their writings and receive invaluable feedback.
In 2013, Merseyside Script Initiative established its own 0151 Film Festival, the organisation of which I was heavily involved in.
I had featured twice in the Write Now Festival – in 2011 I was a director of one of the plays and in 2012 I was fortunate enough to have my own play performed with me acting as producer.
Over my many years involvement in the writing and performing arts scene in the North West, I have met and remained friends with a good many theatre professionals from stage hands to directors. I have developed an incredible broad network within the community.
In recent years, as well as acting and writing, I have been involved in business on Merseyside. Over that time I have met and maintained contact with a wide variety of other businesses.
Within the arts and business communities, I have established a reputation as easy going and easy to work with. There are always exceptions and I’ve had to work very hard to make enemies but I’m always willing to build bridges. People among the community regard me as supportive and helpful.
While I am certainly not rich and sometimes struggle to pay bills, I have business interests that just about keep me afloat. So, should the festival not earn anything, it won’t bankrupt me.
I think that’s enough trumpet=blowing for now.
When I looked at the list (well, actually, it was in my head but I visualised it) I realised that, yes, I did have the wherewithal to run a festival, even if it will be financed on a shoestring.
So that is why I decided to establish a new festival to fill the gaping chasm left by the Write Now.
Like a phoenix, Page to Stage will rise out of the ashes of its predecessor to take its place among the great theatre festivals of Britain!
Too pretentious? Too soon?
There are many ways to get involved in the Page to Stage Festival.
Are you a writer? We need great one act scripts.
Are you an actor? Keep visiting the website to find out when we will be running our casting events.
Do you have other skills to offer? We are on the lookout for all kinds of volunteers – Web developers/maintainers, content writers, office staff, marketing experts. In fact, you name it and we’ll probably need it.
Join us. Make this something special.
Webpage: www.pagetostage.org.uk ,
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pagetostage
Twitter account: @P2S_Festival