Hello everyone, and welcome to Forge North: A Night from the North.
I’m Gwilym Lawrence, co-Artistic director of Sad Siren Theatre, one of the five companies or artists whose work you will see tonight.
Sad Siren moved to Sheffield in the same month that Theatre Delicatessen opened a new building there - September 2014 - and like a number of the artists whose work you are about to see, we have been involved from the very beginning. Before basing ourselves in Sheffield, we had one small-scale, unpaid show to our names, which we loved dearly but which had only been seen by around 25 people over two nights.
Since then, with Deli’s support and as part of a generous and mutually enriching artistic community, we have created three more pieces of theatre - two of them independently Arts Council funded; engaged over 300 people as participants in our work; performed to over 300 more; been reviewed by Exeunt and The Stage; featured in both of Sheffield’s major newspapers; and appeared on BBC Radio Sheffield three times. This is just one story. All the companies and artists here are all on similar, if not identical, trajectories. We are all in the process of discovering our artistic voices, and beginning to take our place in a new generation of artists creating a rich landscape of contemporary performance in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and beyond. This, in a nutshell, is the value of supporting emerging artists outside London.
This evening, you will see extracts from, and work-in-progress sharings of, five new pieces of performance by Theatre Delicatessen’s resident artists. We are all based in Sheffield, and we all operate out of an old Woolworths building on a busy shopping street called The Moor in Sheffield City Centre. Theatre and performance grow out of the specific buildings, infrastructures, politics and social life in the cities and towns in which it is made, and this is why A Nation's Theatre has been set up. Whilst the five pieces this evening may not all be about Sheffield – some are, some aren’t – they are all, in my opinion, unmistakably of Sheffield.
Making theatre in Sheffield does not mean writing plays about whippets, flat caps, the historic manufacture of cutlery and Henderson’s relish – it is about drawing on and emerging out of a politics and culture that has been marked historically for fierce independence, creativity and non-conformism. This spirit pervades the works you are going to see this evening, and we hope you enjoy both our theatre and the Sheffield ale we have brought down, and which is available at the bar.