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Made in Gloucestershire

We have been working with Vinnie Heaven for the last few years and their show She’s A Good Boy began its development through a residency at Hawkwood.

The show, about non-binary gender, was a reminder of the power of theatre. Young people were able to see someone like them on stage and went from thinking they were alone to finding their tribe. Parents, grandparents and teachers messaged with thanks to say they finally understood. People who weren’t able to attend the show asked to see it somehow and watched through a Facebook live stream. The show has also led on to other things for Vinnie, and we’ve got our money on them becoming a household name. So before they do, they’ve kindly shared with us what their journey has been and how they’re not planning to forget Gloucestershire any time soon…

Vinnie is an associate artist of Strike A Light and with their support made and toured (nationally) She’s A Good Boy. Vinnie has also performed The Little Bookshop Boy, Passpawt, Half The World Away and Charmane at Strike A Light. Vinnie now lives between Gloucestershire and London having toured with Emma Rice’s Wise Children last year and this year is filming a new series, to air in 2021.

All of the above biography is important to me because it’s a summary of where I began and was nurtured and evidences what I was able to go on to having had that foundation. All of the above credits are equal to me whether others agree or not. I was made and trained in Gloucestershire and I am resolutely proud of that.

I didn’t get in to drama school. I tried. So instead, I trained with Jenny Wren, on the job. Blood sweat and tears went in to outdoor summer shows, studio shows and the occasional tour. It was at the end of this graft that Strike A Light found me. I was a rough around the edges maker with a hundred ideas and the energy to match.

Fast forward a few shows later and I’m at Hawkwood, on a residency. Having sat down a few weeks before with EJ and Sarah and been asked – Have you got a show in you? What do you need from us? 

Pause here for a moment – the biggest thing to admit here is that I had to let them help me, I had to admit I had no contacts for directors, designers, producers, organisations to put on my funding app, theatres to ask for in kind support, none of it, and for this particular piece I needed a specific team and specific spaces. Step forward Christina, who did have ALL these things and would sit time and time again with me to talk me through the options and help me phrase emails, at no point appearing worn or drained by having to essentially teach me, always just a kind smile and a lot of snacks. Now lets un-pause and return to Hawkwood. 

Your first exploration and draft is raw, its messy, frustrating, painful at times. At Hawkwood you get three meals a day at set times that force you out of your head and away from your words and allow you designated time to chat to other artists and makers. The food is phenomenal, that’s just a fact. The head space meals provide is integral. That’s a fact too.  You can sleep there! I didn’t – I had lived ten minutes down the road for years – but you can, you can completely escape life and have a week in picturesque gardens and light studios to just – make!

My residency began my solo show, She’s A Good Boy,  produced by Strike A Light – which went down a storm at The Gloucester Guildhall, we sold it out. This then gave me the footage of the show to send to venues. Christina brought on board Battersea Arts Centre and together we met Pegasus Theatre until we had enough support to apply to fund a tour – and we sold that out too!

That show got me an agent – which I had never needed in Gloucestershire, that’s the beauty of my home, we all have each others backs. That agent took me from national solo show tour to a casting in Soho Theatre in London. In that show a casting agent for Wise Children saw me and put me in Malory Towers and from there I am sitting in a hotel room sifting through a filming schedule that shoots until later in the year…but it began in a room, in Stroud, with big bright windows and an old piano, across from an artist called Ruby who painted with chemical reactions and shared a salad with us on the breaks….

I chose London. I moved there when my personal life in Gloucestershire crumbled around me. I chose to sign with the agent who asked me and I chose to ride the success I have now having not gone to drama school and having worked tirelessly for years in my home town to learn my craft. 

I still choose Gloucester. It is the home I make my work in. It is the team who know me, with all my flaws and needs, who hold me and encourage me, with honesty and with drive. I will choose Gloucester when a new idea scratches at my feet to be released, when I turn up at Strike A Light with a stack of paper filled with scruffy notes and searching for a list of creative names to match the squiggles – with no expectation but to make and for people to see.

We make our own success in a way that only each one of us can. But we succeed by lifting others and in turn by letting ourselves be lifted.

Vinnie

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Overcoming Obstacles: Friday Reads

Hello! I’m Scott and I’m the Events and Tech Intern here at Strike A Light and GL4. The job sounds like it covers a lot and that’s because it really does! I could be up scaffolding focussing a light one day and chatting to a venue manager trying to organise an event the next. I have a really wide ranging interest in theatre and events production and this internship lets me try loads of different things which is absolutely perfect. I’ve worked on over ten shows in half a year, been on tour around the country with Filskit Theatre and assistant stage managed with Annie on Pinocchio.


Working at a company like Strike A Light has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time as I’ve been interested in theatre since I was a teenager. Since graduating from my undergrad and MA I’ve worked in TV post-production and front of house in the West End, both opportunities I loved, but theatre making and production is really where my heart is and being able to do it on a day to day basis is amazing.


It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. About a year before starting with SAL & GL4 I developed a serious condition called Ulcerative Colitis. It’s a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s disease, and I became extremely unwell. I had to leave my work in the West End to have emergency surgery which removed my colon and gave me a stoma (an ileostomy to be precise!). Having both UC and the stoma meant frequent bathroom trips and I began to wonder whether or not I would actually be able to work in theatre or live events.


Six months later I had another surgery to reverse my stoma. Thinking that I would probably never be able to work in theatre I had signed on to do a PhD, but while in recovery I decided to give working in theatre one last push. This is where I found Strike A Light, I told them my story and what I wanted to do and what I got from them was resounding positivity! With little adjustments here and there (and a sick day or two when I’ve needed to go to hospital or I’ve been fatigued) I’ve been able to do all the jobs I’ve set out to do and feel like I can be productive within the industry. I’ve loved working both at SAL shows and GL4 which put on amazing work in the Matson area of Gloucester. 


Ultimately, working at Strike A Light & GL4 is an exciting experience on its own. But what makes it so important to me is finding that there are homes for people with disabilities in the arts. That what seem like impossible obstacles can be overcome with the right support and the right team. 

Scott Hurley

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My Unexpected Journey: Friday Reads

Hi, I’m Ellie. Having lived in Gloucester for the majority of my life, you realise that there were very few opportunities for young creatives. So like the majority of Gloucester students at the time, I couldn’t wait to get out of here, and I packed my bags and went to London to study Professional Dance and Musical Theatre.  

I had the best 3 years in London. But trying to live the high London life whilst being a poor student is like chalk and cheese… it just doesn’t work! After graduating with a 2:1, and accepting the fact I couldn’t afford to stay in London, I moved back to Gloucester. I felt like I had taken 10 steps back in my career but then something unexpected happened…

I came across a company called Strike A Light, who were looking for volunteers for their festival. Having read about Strike A Light & their sister organisation GL4, this sounded right up my street and thought it would be a good way to make connections within the arts in Gloucester (which I didn’t know existed until this)!! From this came an opportunity which I never thought in a million years would exist in Gloucester. Strike A Light were looking for a Youth Dance Intern to assist in the delivery of dance sessions in local primary and secondary schools. This is where my journey really began with Strike A Light.

I was assisting teaching 1 day a week with teachers from Rise Youth Dance, who are based in Bristol. I learnt so much about teaching and about myself through this internship role, and kept looking for new ways of how my journey could continue with Strike A Light. 

Fast forward to the last 6 months…

An opportunity came up for a Marketing and Admin Intern for Strike A Light & GL4, something I hadn’t had any experience in, but always had an interest for. So I went for it and got the job! In the last 6 months my life has completely changed. I went from teaching 1 day a week, to working full time for Strike A Light & GL4 as well as continuing teaching dance in local schools. 

The career support I have had from Strike A Light has had such a positive impact on my life. This is a company that believes in me and is always looking for new opportunities to help me in the development of my career. One of these opportunities is the Rise Traineeship. Through my Youth Dance Internship, I made a good connection with Rise Youth Dance. They offer a traineeship for young people aged 18-25 to support them in their career. Having had many conversations with myself whether this was the right thing for me to do, Strike A Light really believed that it was and encouraged me to apply for the course. I am so glad I listened to them as the course has not only made me a better dancer, but I have gained so much new knowledge about facilitating and teaching dance within schools, it has really taken my teaching and skills to the next level! Check out Rise Youth Dance’s website here http://www.riseyouthdance.com/

Teaching children in Gloucester has been the most rewarding experience. Not only can I see my own personal development as a teacher, but I can see the positive impact dance has had on them. I feel privileged to be given this opportunity to make an impact in the community. Growing up in Gloucester, dance was not accessible to all. But being part of the development of the arts in Gloucester is something I never imagined to be possible.

When I moved back to Gloucester after University, it was only meant to be a temporary situation. When I found Strike A Light & GL4, I said to myself “take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way”, and I believe that is exactly what I’ve done.

Ellie Maynard

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Lifting the lid on the secret best nights out in Gloucester

Act 1. ‘There’s nothing going on in Gloucester’

Gloucester… is a dump.

At least, that’s what Google’s autocomplete will tell you if you start typing in ‘Gloucester is…’

In a 2016 survey, students at the University of Gloucestershire were asked to name their single favourite thing about the city. The overwhelmingly top answer, the runaway leader by a mile, was…’NOTHING’.

(And their second favourite thing was that Gloucester had ‘good transport links’ – i.e. ‘ways to get out of here to somewhere else’… 😬)

54% of students in a 2016 survey said their one favourite thing about Gloucester was…NOTHING.

Gloucester has been officially declared a ‘cultural cold spot’ – and, if you walk through the city centre after about 6pm, you might be inclined to agree with that: the high street looks almost deserted pretty much every weeknight.

AND YET…

Act 2. Absolutely incredible, brilliant, magical, one-of-a-kind things are happening in Gloucester

Last year, I went to the All Nations Community Centre for the first time.

Round the back of an industrial estate car park, tucked away off the side of a dual carriageway, next to the railway line, with no signs or even lights to give you any hints of life, I walked up to possibly the most unassuming building you can imagine. If my phone map hadn’t been insistent that I was in the right place, I would’ve turned around and left, because surely nothing was happening here.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The instant you walked in, it was just…awesome. Electric. Alive. Full of the buzz of conversation and the smell of curry. There’s a game of dominoes going on in one corner, people stood eating freshly-cooked dinner off paper plates in another, friends greeting each other at the door or bustling to get drinks at the bar – and in the middle of it all, a little troupe of dancers going through some pretty advanced-looking warmup moves?!

I was there, along with maybe 80 other people, for a ‘Scratch Night‘ – a chance to see artists/actors/dancers/performers honing their work before it’s put on full, final, public release. After some beer and curry, we all went through from the buzzing bar to the dark main hall. I took my seat, not entirely sure what to expect… and then I got to watch some literally jaw-droppingly brilliant dance.

These were some of the country’s best contemporary performers and choreographers, who’d travelled up from London, from all over the place in fact, to come and do a 20-minute bit in this so-called ‘cultural cold spot’. And it was spectacular. You know when you can feel an atmosphere in a room? Everyone in that room was enthralled by what we were seeing. You didn’t want it to end!

Of course, it had to at some point. And, when it did, the whole room burst into cheering applause, up on their feet.

And then? Then EVERYONE danced.

(That is actual footage from that Scratch Night. It is the best GIF on the entire internet. It never, ever fails to make me smile.)

The whole night is one of my favourite memories of all time.

In fact, several of my all-time favourite memories have come through my time at Strike A Light – and I’ve only worked here for 1 year out of my 36 on the planet so far!

There was the thumping party on the car park roof, with MCs rapping to the backing of a full-on live orchestra (?!) as the sun went down…

There was the gentle, quiet magic of ‘Man on the Moon‘ – listening, rapt, to Keisha Thompson weave a fragile, funny, sad story in achingly gorgeous sentences. There was the fascinating oddness of hearing your own small talk played back to you through a date-in-headphones at Binaural Dinner Date. There was sitting on tiny plastic primary school chairs with a crew of award-winning beatboxers as they ate KFC and told tales of estate life in the middle of Matson.

And that’s without even mentioning the hilarious and brilliant official team away days. Although that’s not a ticketed event tbf 😂

But, yeah, it turns out Google and those surveyed students are wrong. Turns out, there are all sorts of people doing all sorts of cool things around the place. Turns out, actually, Gloucester is a city of young people organising their own gigs, the home of King’s Jam, of a Cathedral frequently filled with amazing art installations, of Afrobeats nights and breakdance battles, of hidden smartphone audio trails of the city…And all the Strike A Light stuff, too, of course.

There is magic here. You’ve just gotta find it!

Act 3. How to never miss the best nights out in Gloucester again

Well, so, this is what we do all-year-round: run out-of-the-ordinary events in unexpected places all across Gloucester. And we’ve just announced our spring and summer lineup.

Hopefully it comes as no surprise that I’m excited about that (even if I don’t manage to exude anything other than ‘terrible posture’ in this video) 😬😅

So these are the places to be between now and June:

And if you want to make sure you’re first to hear about these things – and other cool, exciting stuff happening in Gloucester – you should basically just hang out with us! You can do that however you prefer: follow us on Insta or Facebook or Twitter, or stick your name down for our emails, or just stop by our office and come and say hi in person if you like.

Any which way, hope to see you soon!

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What happened at The Money : Friday Reads

The Money by Kaleider at Gloucester Cathedral is one of those events we are definitely all going to be talking about for years to come. Eliott Sheppard was one of those lucky enough to watch as the drama of this unique, participatory show unfolded.

“Bringing together a community from all different backgrounds has been something that Strike A Light has been championing since the organisation was founded. Having been a part of the ever-growing family since 2014 where I was volunteering in King’s Walk Shopping Centre sticking velcro cubes to myself, what has continued to amaze me is the range of venues in Gloucester that have opened their doors to visiting theatre companies each year, from Gloucester Guildhall to The Cathedral, Gloucestershire College to Dr. Fosters Waterfront Bar. I am now employed casually by SAL to be technical support for companies, as well as work Front of House with the brilliant and passionate team. 

I am breaking down everything above because this year, even more than previous years of Strike a Light productions, the diversity of audience that has gathered together to come and watch shows has been refreshing, with a range of ages and cultural backgrounds breaking down barriers to unite and watch performances. This is where I digress to talk about the most engaged, passionate piece of entertainment I have seen in quite some time; Kaleider’s The Money

The Money was situated in Chapter House at Gloucester Cathedral. The venue had recently hosted Stella, a previous Strike A Light production to coincide with Museum of the Moon. The rules of The Money were simple; 15 ‘Players’ sit around a table with £150 at stake, whilst over 100 ‘Silent Witnesses’ are gathered around all sides of the room, unable to speak their thoughts unless a donation was added to the existing pot of money and a gong has rippled throughout the room. With the £150 prize pot, the players around the table must unanimously decide who gets to take home the money; it cannot go to a charity, it has to be within the law, and you have one hour to decide, with a clock counting down in one corner of the room. 

Now I am someone who gets so anxious about confrontation, especially on TV and hidden camera shows, that I would usually turn the channel over or walk out of a room, but something about the event that evening had my heart racing and I was campaigning *silently* with such adrenaline that I had never had before. It was an experience which feels so hard to explain but one I will probably not stop talking about for a long time. Players presented their ideas: one wanting to give the money to a specific homeless man; entrepreneurs wanting to start a new business; a group of young climate change protesters wanting to buy materials for their campaign. The inclusion of a BSL interpreter made the whole event more accessible for those who wanted to get involved.

At the start it all felt quite calm, but as the clock ticked away, so did the patience around the table. One Player walked out of the game, Silent Witnesses ran forward with their money to support, with the £150 prize pot nearly doubling by the end. As the clock struck the hour the game was over. No unanimous decision was made and people jumped up and shouted out without realising what they were doing. The money was snatched away, placed inside a sealed black box, and was escorted out of the room, with the promise that it would be rolled over to the next game…. at Théâtre de Lorient, France.”

Eliott Sheppard

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Behind the scenes of Pinocchio: Friday Reads

Happy New Year! In 2020, we want to give you more ‘behind the scenes’ info from Strike A Light. We work with some amazing people and deliver projects which never make it onto our website pages, so “Friday Reads” is going to be a way for us to share more with you.

Each Friday, we’ll post an update from different people in the Strike A Light family, so if you feel like you’ve done enough work for the week then grab a cup of tea and have a read.

Our first post is from Annie, who was an assistant stage manager on Pinocchio, the Christmas show that we produced for the Guildhall for 2019.

Annie’s photos from the rehearsals and some of the beautiful images of the show captured by David Broadbent Photography

“I’m Annie, a graduate of the University of Gloucestershire. Since graduating their Drama course in 2018, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Strike A Light on several occasions. First as an actor in The Snow Queen and I’ve just finished working on Pinocchio as Assistant Stage Manager.

There is a huge amount of work and thought that goes into putting on a show before the audience get to see it. Some of this includes writing a script, designing the set and lighting and making costumes. There was a whole team of people working on Pinocchio, many of whom the audience never get to see. My role in this production was to help on stage and to operate the sound and lights during each show.

We had 3 weeks of rehearsing the show before the public were able to come and see Pinocchio. In this time I was purchasing and making props, making pieces of costume and writing down any information that was important to the running of the show. We then moved into the Guildhall to start the show, I helped to build the stage, put up the stage lights and create the magical world of Pinocchio.

Working on Pinocchio allowed me to gain more knowledge about what is done behind the scenes. In the future, I plan to become a stage manager and this has allowed me to get an inside look at what this involves. I’ve also been able to work alongside other members of the stage management team and learn how to carry out tasks that a stage manager would need to complete

We opened Pinocchio on the 6th of December. Our first few shows were to school children who would come and watch Pinocchio as part of a school trip. We then opened to the public and in total we put on 40 performances! We had children giggling all the way through and everyone was willing to join in with our audience participation.

As a child I was lucky to be able to go and watch theatre productions with my school. One of the first plays I watched was A Midsummer’s Night Dream at primary school. This has always stuck in my mind as a very magical and visual piece of theatre. I think this kickstarted my love for theatre. It’s amazing that young people are able to come and watch theatre in Gloucester through school trips. Without this they may not ever get to go to the theatre. Also not everyone is able to study drama at school but being able to go out and watch a performance still allows children to be able to see what’s out there.

With local businesses and individuals being able to donate money to give children the opportunity to see at least one show this year, Gloucester will be able to keep giving young children the experience that I had as a child. It will introduce them to the magic and excitement of theatre and this will hopefully lead to our young people becoming more involved with the arts.

As part of a stage management team it is amazing to be able to see a show take shape and go from words on a page to the magic of the theatre. I got involved in the arts because it gave me the chance to try something new. I had a local drama group that I was able to join. This group allowed me to make friends, socialise, learn how to sing and dance but most importantly it was somewhere I could have fun and be myself. It gave me an identity and allowed me to express myself through being creative. I was 9 years old when I joined Bristol Amateur Operatic Society (BAOS) since then I have gained a GCSE, A-Level and a Degree in theatre.

Now I can go out into the world and get a job that I love. The skills I have gained and things I have learned mean that I can work both as an actor and behind the scenes creating a show. I have only just started my career and I look forward to what I can achieve in the future.”

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Surviving GDPR as a small arts organisation

You’ve heard people saying the letters GDPR in hushed tones with panic stricken faces.

You know it’s to do with data protection and something important you should be doing by 25 May. You may also have started reading through the ICO website and then decided at the line “standard data protection clauses in the form of template transfer clauses adopted by a supervisory authority…” that maybe you should make a cup of tea and have a sit down first, before filing it away under ‘to do at some point’.

Actually, I’m being unfair. The Information Commissioner’s website is very clear and helpful and their introduction to GDPR here is a very good place to start. They also have a Self Assessment Checklist you can use.

Strike A Light have been undergoing a big organisational development project as we’re now a National Portfolio Organisation with Arts Council England (fanfare, confetti etc) and we’re also in a consortium of arts organisations here in Gloucestershire for a project called Catalyst with Create Gloucestershire. As part of all this we nominated ourselves to explore the world of GDPR and report back for our colleagues.

We’ve been on two different training sessions, we’ve read every single thing we can find online, we’ve watched youtube videos from legal firms, and we’ve condensed it down into an action plan for small arts organisations.

If you’re looking for a place to begin making friends with GDPR then hopefully this will help. Click on the links below to download the documents.

This is the action plan which introduces GDPR and what it means for arts organisations, and includes a checklist


This is a template for a data audit, which is an important action on the checklist


This is our current draft of our new data protection policy

Hope you find this useful and please do read the disclaimer below.
Good luck on your GDPR adventure!

Christina
Executive Producer, Strike A Light

(image from We Are Lightning, which is coming to Strike A Light on its national tour)

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER!

We are sharing these documents in the interests of partnership working, sharing resources and to try and speed up the process for those who have a ‘to do’ list as long as your arm and are drowning in admin (i.e. most of us)

These documents are based on our research as above, presented in good faith, but DO NOT replace formal legal advice and are designed to be used in conjunction with the ICO information and your own research to ensure it is implemented comprehensively for your organisation.

We are still updating these documents for our own organisation as we work through the process and updates are being issued by ICO regularly.

This is also aimed at small arts organisations so information that is less pertinent for that context is only included briefly. If you handle large quantities of sensitive data or work with lots of international partners for example, then you will need more detail for these aspects.

Once you have read through the documents, do use the links included in the action plan for further research to make sure you’re covered.

Thanks!

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THANK YOU for supporting our campaign

🎉 👏THANK YOU👏 🎉

Thank you so much for donating to our campaign. You’re brilliant! Because of all of you, children in Gloucester now get to see a show for free.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Thanks for being part of the Strike A Light family!

We couldn’t do it without you 😊🙏