Posts Tagged ‘Fired up Theatre’

The Fell Walker Flyer
This busy  week has been very productive as Fired Up Theatre confirmed further shows for both the Hound of the Baskervilles and the Fell Walker but more on these later in the post.


My week started  with a full day of workshops with year 5 pupils in a local primary school, exploring the world of kites through the poetry of the air, which resulted in the children writing their own poems and turning them into kites.  A really fantastic day full of imagination and great verse and as for the kites they look pretty good too.


Poetry Kites


Thursday and Friday saw a technical trip up North to Cumbria, to look at two theatre spaces. The Heron Theatre in Beetham where Fired Up Theatre will perform the Fell Walker on December 11th. The theatre is a wonderful space using an old school and set in a rural location. It is well supported and is very active in providing theatre, music and film to the local community. It has 80 seats so is an intimate space that will work well for production. I really look forward working there.

The Heron Theatre – Beetham, Cumbria.


The Heron Theatre – interior

Under Blencathra

Blencathra fell rises along side the A66 between Penrith and Keswick, it over looks the village of Threlkeld, this really is Fell Walker country and if you listened carefully you could hear the faint echo of a SNIFF from a flaring nostril as the murderer chased down his next victim. 


Blencathra Fell – from Threlkeld Viilage Hall & Cafe

Threlkeld Village Hall is the location of our production of The Fell Walker next April, this is a very different staging than at the Heron Theatre, Threlkeld Village Hall is  a wonderful space to perform, but it is not a theatre and therefore requires us to create a pop-up theatre, a challenge that between us and Threlkeld Village Hall we can rise too. This performance will be part of a three night tour, with a second performance at the Beggar’s Theatre in Millom and a third location as yet to be confirmed.


Threlkeld Village Hall – has the lights but the rest we need to build.

The Hound of Cromford.

Fired Up Theatre  are pleased to announce a further performance of the Hound of the Baskervilles at Cromford Mill on Friday 28th October 2016, this is added to our two performances at Cannock Chase Mining Museum in. August 2016.

More details of how to get tickets for our shows is available on our website http://www.fireduptheatre.co.uk 

Cromford Mill to host Hound of the Baskervilles


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Following the success of our production of the Hound of the Baskervilles at The Garrick Studio theatre last weekend, Fired Up Theatre are pleased to announce that today we have agreed two further shows for Holmes and Watson and the Hound at Cannock Chase Mining Museum next Summer on the 19th and 20th of August 2016.

These two shows are be outdoor productions that will draw on our expertise in delivering theatre productions in unusual spaces.

Joint artistic directors, Simon Quinn and Mal Dewhirst today viewed the site at the museum and will start planning how to turn the production into pop-up theatre. 

Simon said “we are really excited to be able to stage our production of the Hound of the Baskervilles in the open air and are looking forward to working with the team at the Cannock Chase Mining Museum”

More details will be provided in the near future as we begin our planning.

Simon Quinn views the Cannock Chase site of our soon to be pop-up theatre 

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Today is  so much slower paced following  the successful production of Fired Up Theatre’s Hound of the Baskervilles, which not only sold out but also received a great review from one of the Midlands foremost theatre critics, Gary Longden.


You can also read my pre-production interview with Gary at:


It was really satisfying to see our minimalist approach to theatre deliver an uncompromising version of this classic tale. 

Fired Up Theatre prides itself on delivering high quality professional productions that rely upon good scripts performed with great acting, we can only measure this through the response from our audiences and I was pleased to see that Gary Longden’s review recognised our achievement.

I am beginning to feel that we now have enough work, with six major productions in our portfolio with The Wall, Quadrophenia, Enigma, at the Crossroads, The Fell Walker and now the Hound of the Baskervilles, that we can start to consider widening our ambitions, whilst at the same time maintaining our commitment to working with a mix of community and professional actors.

Simon and I are already talking to other venues about future performances of both The Fell Walker and The Hound of the Baskervilles for next year and the same time planning new projects that will explore more contemporary themes with our unique uncompromising approach to theatre.

Progress on all our work will be discussed through this blog and the Fired Up Theatre website at http://www.fireduptheatre.co.uk  or our Facebook page, please follow us to become part of our development.

Photographs Neil Thorne (c) 2015.   

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It has been some time since my last blog post and a lot has happened in my role as an artistic director and writer.

During the summer  I took the opportunity to take on my artistic endeavours full time, leaving my role in industry to focus my mind on developing new theatre and poetry.

I have been part time Joint artistic Director with Fired Up Theatre since our performance of Quadrophenia in 2013, my role is to develop Literature, through new writing, workshops creating the production on the page which is then transferred to the stage by  my fellow artistic director Simon Quinn.  In reality Simon and I share the writing  and the transfer to the stage, working with the company of actors to create outside of the box productions that we hope both delight and challenge our audiences.

Our current productions include a new interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, paying homage to the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films of the 1930’s , with comedy, tragedy, projections, live action and shadow theatre. This brand new script brings new twists and perils to the stage. The production is at the Lichfield Garrick Studio on Friday and Saturday 16th/17th October.

For more information check out our website at http://www.fireduptheatre.co.uk 

Some of the cast of Fired Up Theatre’s  Hound of the Baskervilles suspects all.

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Picture 107

An excellent few weeks, which saw the culmination of my year as Staffordshire Poet Laureate came to an end as I gave an account of my year at an event at Baswich Library in Stafford on National Poetry Day, before handing over to my successor Tom Wyre, I wish Tom all the very best in the role and my advice is for him to sculpt his own place in Staffordshire poetry.

The weeks in the run up to National Poetry Day saw many workshops with a range of groups and ages which saw the creation of some wonderful poetry to celebrate our towns and their rich characters built upon a history of often violent conflict to uncertain peace to today’s commercial theatre with its banal slogans and constant sales.


It seems like only yesterday that my first Commission was performed on the Streets of Tamworth, but it is 12 months ago, to the day, if not the date which is tomorrow, 30th October.

You can see the film recording of the production at: http://vimeo.com/53128350 

A full account of my time as Staffordshire Poet Laureate will be published on a permanent blog over the coming weeks. I move on now to support Tom and also to mentor the Staffordshire and Stoke On Trent Young Poet Laureate, Natalie Cotterill from Lichfield.


I also move on to take up my role as Joint Artistic Director of Fired Up Theatre, for which I have already started with the script for The Fell Walker.

My role is to focus on Literature and to bring new writing to the stage, which does not just include my writing, I am hoping to open up opportunities for others to develop their skills in taking a piece from page to stage.

Simon Quinn also brings an excellent writing pedigree to the company which he founded and has run since 2004. He is an excellent theatre director and devisor of theatrical productions. This builds our working relationship from our previous collaborations on the Wall, Colin Grazier Enigma, Quadrophenia and more recently 23 which saw me take the lead in directing for the first time.

So on to the Fell Walker.

An adaption of the book by Michael Wood.
Script by Mal Dewhirst and Simon Quinn
Directed by Simon Quinn and Mal Dewhirst.

The Fell Walker Flyer


Premier at Penrith Playhouse on 17th January 2014 – with further dates and theatres to be added.

Tickets are available from: http://penrithplayers.ticketsource.co.uk/

Work on the script continues into the rehearsals, as we create the visual representation as a film noir on the stage.

The play sees Local Journalist, Ben Foxley, caught up in investigating a series of deaths that take place on the Lake District Fells, with the authorities taking the view that these are just accidents, whilst a mysterious London journalist, Sophie Lund, thinks otherwise and tempts Ben into being her local eyes and ears as the evidence unfolds.

The piece is now fully cast and the rehearsals have begun, to bring this chilling piece to life.
Simon Quinn and I journeyed up to Cumbria to meet with the Michael Head who manages the Penrith Playhouse theatre. This is a gem of a theatre, built in an old auction mart, the theatre’s main auditorium seats 150 and is fully equipped for our purposes, including projections, lighting and sound.

We also met with Michael Wood the author of the book, who is keen to see how we would adapt his book. I don’t think he is convinced that we can do it, I hope he appreciates what he sees as the production develops.

I will be working to complete the script over the next couple of weeks and then move onto creating the sounds and the projections.

Fired Up Theatre can be found at www.fireduptheatre.co.uk


“It was the Scutler’s voices, I heard, it was the Scutler’s.”
“All it proves is that I am no stranger to a grate.”
“No they can’t hang me, they weren’t mine.”
“The so called learned are fools.”
“Stale, putrid, mouldy bread.”
“That is what I think.”

23 poster2

All lines from 23, my poetic sound sculpture that brings the voices of the condemned men and women who had the misfortune to appear before the court at Shire Hall in Stafford.

The piece is now completed and in the final mastering phases of the production and I must say I am really pleased with the soundscape, with its repetitive court procedures broken by the words of the person in the dock. The characters whose voices are heard represent many different people who were brought before the court for committing of similar crimes. There is the bread thief, the coal thief, the murder, the coin clipper and the habitual drunkard all giving us an insight into their lives and the reasons or denials for the crimes for which they have been charged. We also include some insights from the Clerk and his wife.

These are all set at around 1850, when court cases lasted and average of eight minutes and the mere fact that you had found yourself in the dock was a sure sign that you were guilty. The piece draws its inspiration from the photographs and case files held by the county archive service.

The voices were provided by local actors from the Fired Up Theatre Company and I was keen to get the voices to be local dialect voices from Staffordshire and on 23 we hear Tamworth, Stone and Black Country voices along with some voices from outside of the county for some of the officials.

The day of recording was most enjoyable we had some real fun with the piece, despite its seriousness and there is perhaps a second sound sculpture of the outtakes, which may someday be heard as echoes in the annals of Staffordshire history.

The piece will become a permanent installation and I will advise you as to when it will be unveiled.

Another Poem Published.

My Poem Jerusalem Revisited (Blake Dub) was published in the magazine Here Come Everyone. The poem is my reflection on whether we ever built the New Jerusalem that Blake predicted and if we did, then where did it go as we grow in a post industrial Britain.

The Latest edition entitled Jerusalem can be view at http://herecomeseveryone.me/

Also check out their next theme “Idiots” and submit a poem, article or short story.

Recently I attended two great events.

Being Human – Coventry Belgrade Studio.

(c) Graeme Braidwood

(c) Graeme Braidwood

Friday 18th saw a performance of Being Human in Coventry, this production has always been something I think works really well, creating a theatrical narrative from 35 of the poems published in Bloodaxe’s anthology of the same name. This should not be confused with the BBC TV programme.
This is the second time I have seen it and it stirred up the same emotions as to when I first saw it and review it back in 2012.

For my review see https://pollysworda.wordpress.com/tag/being-human/

For details on the Anthology
Bloodaxe books – http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852248092

Being Human website – http://livepoetry.org/

Miners Hymns – Polesworth Memorial Hall.

253 gala

Miners Hymns is a collage of film clips from the North East Coal Fields that are sewn together to create a narrative on the lives of mining families. The seamless movement from the awkward delight of the participants at the Durham Miners Gala in the 1930’s to an awkward moodiness of a Gala from the 1950’s or 60’s, shows the change that suggests a growing uncertainty in the mining communities.

The film is excavated from the BFI archives and was dug out and constructed by American Film maker Bill Morrison. With an original score by the Icelandic composer Johann Johannson that draws on brass band traditions, with its signature minor keys that strikes a lost pride into the mourned sadness. The whole film revives the memories of the mining heritage to create a hypnotic experience which laments the loss of an industry, its jobs and its communities.

Shown here in Polesworth, which was once at the heart of the North Warwickshire Coalfield and now reflects on its own losses as nearby, the final pit, Daw Mill closes.

The film with its images from the Battle of Orgreave, which sounded the final whistle on many mining lives, to the building Stadium of light, on the site of Monkswearmouth Colliery, reflecting the new, supposedly out of the mining heritage. This, along with the old Gala’s, the pit work and life was all a powerful statement on the decline of industrial Britain but for me, whilst it was a very powerful piece that touched my thoughts, on reflection it lacked some of the humour and camaraderie that was prevalent among the miners and the communities, that I gathered from my experience as a poet working with ex-miners and as someone else mention to me on the night.

More Details can be found at:

There are further showings in Burntwood in Staffordshire and Bilston in the Black Country by Flatpack Festivals – http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk/project/the-miners-hymns/
Plus further venues around the country.

Jordon Fradley

I met Yvonne Jordon and her husband Mark at the Open Arts awards at Stafford Shire Hall Gallery, I was commissioned to read my poem all around the shire and Yvonne had won the Stafford Railway Building Society award for her photograph ‘LAT 52816589 LONG 2119577’, an atmospheric street view taken at night, when the world is still, or is it.

We have had few conversations since and I am planning to use some of her work in the projections for The Fell Walker.

Take a look are the website and some of the images from her Longitude/Latitude project.

So that is me resting on my Laureate Laurels – as if I ever would!

Other Events


A Carnival of Christmas Curiosities – Stage IT Academy and Fired Up Theatre
Come and celebrate Christmas with the cast from Quadrophenia.
Thursday 5th December 2013 – Assembly Rooms Tamworth.

Tickets are available from


1st November – Cromford Mill Poetry – Derbyshire – 7:00pm
5th November –CORK POETS – Night Blue Fruit – Coventry – 8:00pm
6th November – CORK POETS – Poetry Alight – Lichfield – 8:00pm
13th November – Unity in the Community – Wednesbury – 7:30pm
15th November – Spoken Worlds – Burton on Trent– 7:30pm

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

Packaged False Agendas.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

The Sunshine.


Frontiers – Black Maple.


Fired Up
After two successful sell out performances, the dust of Quadrophenia has settled back onto the beaches of Brighton, Clacton, Margate….. Leaving a very motivated cast eager to do more and to explore new themes and theatrical experiences.

Fired Up Theatre with Artistic Director Simon Quinn has developed over the past seven years to produce many successful shows and workshops, including the three with which I have been involved. The Wall, Colin Grazier Enigma and now Quadrophenia.

Simon and I have been talking about what to do next with an enthusiastic cast and crew wanting us to provide more opportunities to produce some gritty, challenging productions which will stretch the actors, revisiting and revitalising the traditional, innovating and developing new approaches. At the same time as entertaining and provoking thoughts.

I have joined Simon at Fired Up Theatre as Joint Artistic Director to develop a range of productions in all arena’s of dramatic arts, Theatre, Film, Radio, Dance, Music and Literature.

We will be developing our own projects as well as seeking commissions that provide for excellence in all aspects of what we choose to do. We believe that there is a real opportunity to take our productions on tour to capture the minds of wider audiences to the themes of the FUTure.

Not to let Quadrophenia pass without a comment or two from the audience.


Dawn Jenkins.

“It really captured the spirit of the time, believe me I know, I lived through it.”
Dave Butcher.

“Loved the poetry, the interpretation, the music and acting. What a commendable collection and performance.”
Helena Gates

A very big thank you to everyone who came along and supported the show.

You can read Gary Longden’s review at GarysWordz

From me,” Yet another wonderful experience to work with a bright, energetic and dynamic cast and crew to bring the realisation of this wonderful exploration of the concept to the stage.” I loved every minute of it.

A Wonderful Workshop. – Tamworth Library Saturday 8th June 2013 – 10:00am to 2:00pm

The 8th June sees my contribution to the 40th Birthday celebrations at Tamworth Library. The Library moved into its current building in 1973 and has seen many changes in the last 40 years which we will discover with this wonderful opportunity.

The library was built in a churchyard and architecturally is very much of its day.
This free poetry workshop will explore some unusual, quirky features of the library collections and its building as selected by the Library Staff.

It could be the least borrowed book, the oldest book, a feature of the building, something that is under appreciated or hard to like, I have left it for the staff to decide and to present to the participant the reasons for its selection.

Anything could be selected here and it will beg the question if Tamworth Library has these items then what do other libraries have that defines them.

Through exercises we will develop poems for a reading in the Library at the end of the workshop.
The workshop is sponsored by Poetry on Loan whose support and promotion of Poetry events in Libraries is much applauded and appreciated.

I am really looking forward to seeing the things that have chosen as defining Tamworth Library.
If you want to book a place then please contact the library

Email: tamworth.library@staffordshire.gov.uk
Telephone: 01827 475646

Library 40th Anniversary Poster

Up and Coming Workshops and Readings.

4th June – Night Blue Fruit – Coventry.
8th June – Laureate Saturday Workshop – Tamworth Library.
11th June – Kings Head Lichfield – with the Lichfield Poets.
20th June – Workshop – Entrust – Reading Poetry – Teachers Conference.
21st June – Spoken Worlds – Burton on Trent.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

There is not enough silence.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

Colin Grazier – Enigma.


Enigmatic – Jimi Dewhirst – Hydranoidmusia.



I missed my weekly blog post last week, and it did not go unnoticed by some of my regular readers and I appreciate their enquiries as to when they could expect to see a new post. Well I won’t deprive you any longer of my musings and will try and explain why I missed my post last week.

My spare time over the last couple of weeks, when I have not been working on Dig the Poetry and The Stroke Association Anthology, has been taken up writing a new script for a production that will be staged as promenade theatre on the streets of Tamworth on 30th October to commemorate the anniversary of the heroic death of Colin Grazier.


The play entitled Colin Grazier Enigma – tells of the events of 30th October 1942 in the Mediterranean, when Colin Grazier, Tony Fasson and Tommy Brown boarded the stricken U-Boat U-559 and salvaged the Enigma machine and the important code books that enable the intelligence operations at Bletchley Park to decode the transmissions of the U-boat wolf packs that it has been said significantly reduced the second world war.

Drawing from the work of Phil Shanahan, who as the editor of the Tamworth Herald, came across the story and created a campaign to bring it to the story into the full light and thus ensuring the three sailors place in history was well documented.

Phil’s book the Real Enigma Heroes is published by The History Press.

Able Seaman Colin Grazier GC

Able Seaman Colin Grazier GC was born and grew up in Two Gates, Tamworth. He married 2 days before he returned to HMS Petard, never return. The first act sees him getting married, with all the hopes for the future ahead of him and his wife Olive, with their farewell to be acted out at the Railway Station.

The second act is more brutal with the events in the Mediterranean Sea being delivered through movement and dance to a new score by Jimi from Hydranoidmusia. The piece is a poetry narrative that explores the thoughts of the sailors now they are in the battle zone, the hunt for the submarine, the battle, followed by the scavenge to retrieve the important documents that we so vital in the war effort and the sinking of the submarine taking the lives of Colin and Tony Fasson.

I am working on converting the poetry into Morse code to be transmitted as the sound of dots and dashes as the actors perform, I am also looking at how I might encrypt them using a virtual Enigma machine.

The performance is being produced by Artsconnects and Fired up Theatre, who produced the much acclaimed production of The Wall in June. It will draw its cast and crew from the Community and will be a tribute to Colin, Tony and Tommy on the anniversary of the events. It is hoped to develop this into a bigger performance piece, next year.

More information on the show can be found at Mid * Point.


Since my last post there have been two workshops in the Dig the Poetry programme.

Friday 17th with Jacqui Rowe – the workshop is entitled Object to Poem – Poem to Object – the workshop used tiles to inspire new poetry in particular Haikus which participants were be able to produce a design on to a tile to create a new artifact.

Poem to Object – Tiles

Sat 25th August with Maeve Clark – the workshop entitled Fragments of Time, explored artifacts in great detail to bring out its previous life, its current life and future life.

Poets at Maeve’s workshop

The 25th also saw a full day of activities which will included a stone mason working on site to create a replica piece of a window that has been found on this years dig and also a tile maker who demonstrated how the floor tiles (tiles are big part of the dig this year). With an opportunity for people to make their own tiles. I, with the great help from Gina Coates gathering words and limericks from the visitors. The promised rain never came and it turned out to be a really great day.

The final workshop for this year is next Saturday.

Sat 1st September 10am to 2pm with Jo Bell – the workshop entitled Strata’s – will explore the layers of Archaeology and compare them to the strata’s of our own lives.

PLUS POETRY EXHIBITION ON THE HERITAGE OPEN DAYS 7th – 9th Sept – with Readings on Sat 8th Sept.

All the events take place at Polesworth Abbey, Polesworth in North Warwickshire.

These workshops are an exciting unique opportunity to discover new themes in response to the Archaeology and I would encourage all writers, from beginners to published poets and authors to come along and find your muse.

There will be opportunities throughout the dig for writers to go along and observe making notes or creating new pieces in the peaceful haven of the Abbey grounds so even if you can’t make the workshops do find sometime to go along and soak it all up.


Peter Ralley who is managing all the media and video for Dig the Abbey has uploaded some of the poetry written in response to the dig on to the DIG THE ABBEY website – you can see it through this link.



There is still time to send me Limericks and words.

Limericks are coming in with an amazing amount of ideas and themes, however I am still looking for Limericks on the theme of Archaeology, these will be judged by the Archaeologists.

I am also receiving words from far and wide (well Portsmouth s the furthest so far) for the collaborative poem I am still looking for words to be included in a poem. Visit the Dig the Abbey website (www.digtheabbey.co.uk) and take a look at the activities and send me your words as impressions of what you see. Also tell me where you are located in the world so that I can estimate how far your words have come to Polesworth using MapCrow.

You can enter by sending your words and limericks to maldewhirst@yahoo.co.uk.


I have created a page on the menu bar above with the details on how to submit work for this exciting new project, which has already stirred some good interest, with submissions being sent into me well before the deadline of 8th October.

Other Potential Projects.

And to on top of all of this there are STILL on-going discussions for further projects – So WATCH THIS SPACE.


Readings in September

8th September – THE FIZZ at Polesworth Abbey celebrates DIG THE ABBEY through DIG THE POETRY – readings start at 3:30pm.

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