‘Are you excited?! It’s the last day before Christmas!’ We’ve still got three days of shows left so I was a bit perplexed as to why this was the first thing Joe said to me when I came into work today. But it did make me think that maybe it would be a good idea to sit down and reflect upon the past year. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Lucy, and I’m the Venue Manager here at Hope Mill Theatre. I first met Will and Joe two years ago when they were both performers still living and working in London. We’re now celebrating our third Christmas together (cute) and they’ve gone from first time Panto producers to owners of their own theatrical empire (well, it’s not quite an empire yet but it will be once they’ve had their way!)
Last year, I received an email from Will asking if I would like to work on a production of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ He also told me that they were in the process of opening a theatre, where we would be rehearsing the panto for the first couple of days. As I got off at the tram at New Islington in the pouring rain (welcome to Manchester!) I had no idea what to expect – I walked into the Mill and was immediately overwhelmed by the size of the space, how cosy the cafe was and, as always, I was blown away by Will & Joe’s sheer vision and determination.
Fast forward twelve months and Hope Mill Theatre is well and truly on the Manchester theatre map. The boys have achieved things that they would have never thought possible this time last year. They have produced two critically acclaimed musicals, won The Hospital Club ‘Club 100 Award’ in the Theatre and Performance category and The Engine Room Cafe continues to thrive on a daily basis, providing the neighbouring AWOL Studios with a cracking cup of coffee and a cosy place to hold a meeting.
I was trying to come up with a way to put some pazazz into this blog post so thought I’d start with asking the guys what their highlights had been this year and what they were most looking forward to.
Highlight of this Year:
WILL – My highlight is probably ‘HAIR’ being nominated for an MEN CityLife Award for Best Theatrical Production
JOE – Mine would be winning The Hospital Club Award. It was so lovely to receive so much support from our audience members, companies and the public; and it was such an honour to win considering we were nominated alongside such influential members of the theatre community.
What are you most looking forward to next year?:
WILL – I am really excited about more people discovering us and welcoming new audience members to Hope Mill.
JOE – I’m looking forward to sharing our new programme with everyone, welcoming new Manchester companies and small touring companies and working on on our in-house musicals.
It’s been an incredible year and 2017 is going to be bigger and better but the guys couldn’t have achieved any of this alone. Katy Lipson (of Aria Entertainment) is now Hope Mill Theatre’s Resident Producer. In addition to co-producing ‘Parade’ with James Baker Productions, Katy was back in her native Manchester in November to work on ‘HAIR‘. She has been a massive support throughout the year to Hope Mill Theatre and we are very much looking forward to our planned collaborations with her next year.
So what does it take to run a business like Hope Mill Theatre?
Well, firstly you have to learn to survive on less than 6 hours sleep a night. In Will’s case you also have to be able to switch effortlessly from Accounts Manager to Choreographer to Chef. He is the mastermind behind the delicious pre-show Brie & Caramelised Onion pizza (although he has now handed the cooking reins over to our fabulous new Cafe Supervisor, Lauren). Whereas if you’re Joe, you have to be prepared to meet with any number of people throughout the day: from couples looking for a bespoke wedding venue to companies looking to produce a show. Watching the two of them work is like watching windmills spinning, they never quite lose momentum enough to completely stop and they’re ready to throw themselves head first into the next gust of wind at the drop of a hat. They are the box office, technicians, cleaners, waiters and bar staff. They are the heart of Hope Mill Theatre that keep the cogs of creativity turning.
The boys would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported them over the past year: the Manchester theatre community, visiting companies, the casts & creatives they have had the pleasure of working with and, of course, their fantastic audience members!
From all of us at Hope Mill Theatre, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!