Lockdown Lowdown At Your Local Venues: Part 2


Continuing on from our previous feature (here if you missed it), we spoke to some of Essex and Suffolk’s local theatres, arts and music venues about what our readers can look forward to, what to expect when they reopen and how you can keep connected to them while we await a time we can be sat back in those seats facing the big red curtain – and we’ll be one of the first buying tickets!

Mercury Theatre, Colchester

The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, with their already successful Mercury Connects programme, have launched Mercury Creatives, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which aims to provide mentoring, training and network opportunities to creative businesses, freelancers and self-employed artists across Suffolk, Essex and Kent.

They’ve also just live-streamed an event very close to everyone’s hearts- through ‘A Night In with Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu’ in which the Mercury Theatre streamed a conversation with Chanté Joseph about racism. Dr Shola explored the deep roots of racism and anti-blackness in the UK and the US, showing us the different forms racism takes in our day-to-day lives.

Their 2021-22 pantomime, Aladdin has gone on sale, which we hope to be able to see in person. The theatre is also committing to ‘Mercury Reads’, in which local actors and actresses read out stories as if on stage, one reading being ‘Morgue’, written by Olivier winning playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and director Ryan McBryde, which was inspired by the Orpheus myth.

Regional theatre isn’t just when the curtain comes up and down, it’s about community and it’s about providing a cultural hub for people to come and express themselves, to feel like they have a home. I think it’s vital that we support our local artists during this time and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Ryan McBryde, Creative Director, Mercury Theatre

To book your own slot on these amazing upcoming events with The Mercury Theatre, follow the link here: mercurytheatre.co.uk and give them a like on social media @MercuryTheatre.

Little Rabbit Barn, Ardleigh

Unfortunately, Little Rabbit Barn hasn’t been able to put on a live event since March 2020, which was their first and only live event of 2020 to celebrate 10 incredible years of Little Rabbit Barn.

Over the past year, multiple planned shows have been cancelled or postponed at this unique pop up venue due to Covid regulations, which is incredibly upsetting to see.

Not all is lost however, as Little Rabbit Barn took this time to look back on it’s incredible past by revisiting their archive. They posted some new videos, recordings and artist features; the most recent is The Floe Story ‘Where are they now’ which includes an interview with Sarah Springett and Liz Townsend plus archive photos and video.

Although Little Red Barn has put together a programme together for 2021, they are prepared for if things have to suddenly change.

We have supported many artists‘ virtual performances including the recent AMAUK awards hosted by Bob Harris and produced by Northern Cowboy Films, known well to us folk at LRB, so never say never. We hold out hope the we can put on a live event as soon as we’re safe to… hopefully that’s sooner rather than later.”

Jonathan, Little Rabbit Barn

To check out what Little Rabbit Barn has going on, head to their website www.littlerabbitbarn.com and give them a like on Facebook @LittleRabbitBarn to keep up-to-date with their ongoings. Check out their YouTube channel as well to see all the videos mentioned above!

Colchester Arts Centre

As with other venues in the area, Colchester Arts Centre’s doors closed in March 2020, there were several times they had hoped to reopen with social distancing in place, but sadly it wasn’t to be.  In September, they managed to hold an open air comedy club in Castle Park, which was a storming success.

Behind the scenes, the team have been busy rescheduling events, processing refunds, ticket transfers and staying in touch with the community.

We had always intended to be closed in late July as we had a renovation project planned but, due to lockdown, this was brought forward. Colchester Arts Centre now has new toilets, access for all, new chairs, a new PA, freshly painted walls and wooden floors. The building is looking really beautiful and we can’t wait to reopen whenever it is safe to do so.

Emma Wallisfrom, Colchester Arts Centre Marketing

The team have also been running the Daily Poem Project, which sees Arts Centre director Anthony Roberts recite a different poem each day, some celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and milestones. The daily poem requests have come from as far afield as Canada and Australia, the project even featured on Anglia news and is listened to by over 30K people. You can sign up to receive the daily poem each day by email.

A Christmas Carol By Candlelight is always in the Arts Centre Christmas calendar, in 2020 they took the event online live from Anthony’s living room. The event was free to access with any donations going to Colchester Emergency Night Shelter, with two performances on 23 and 24 December, which were staggered to raise over £5k in donations.

To learn more and support Colchester Arts Centre you should head over to their website at www.colchesterartscentre.com. You can also find on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

The New Wolsey Theatre have kept their heads held high. Lockdown has given the theatre a chance to learn and experiment with digital forms of theatre and, most recently, it pushed them into creating a pantomime at the end of 2020, one that blended live theatre with live-streaming and recorded film.

The theatre is about to offer a contemporary adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which explores Oscar Wilde’s famous novel in the present day. The show is now bookable and will run, online, from 16 to 31 March. More information and booking details can be found here: pictureofdoriangray.com

The New Wolsey Youth Theatre is taking part in weekly Zoom workshops, their current topic called ‘Dark Sky Reserves.’ Participants will work with practitioners and professional playwright and poet, James McDermott, to develop their ideas, which will then turn into a piece of audio drama that they will record for a sound installation, in the summer of 2021.

Katharine suggests “Giving us a follow or sharing our posts are a great way of supporting us, we welcome donations to our organisation via our website. Another idea is to get a New Wolsey gift voucher for a loved one for an occasion – they remain valid for six years, so there’s plenty of time for them to save it to use. These can also be bought on our website. We greatly appreciate all the support we receive – thank you.”

To support the theatre, you can browse their website at wolseytheatre.co.uk or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to read the latest news.

As we stressed before, our local venues are relying heavily on our support and they need YOU – so do keep engaged and see what you can do to help. This is a mere sample of what’s on offer in Suffolk and Essex currently and we will be reaching out to more venues soon. Be sure to check in with your locals and show your support for the people who provide us with entertainment, laughter and music.

If your venue or company would like to be featured, contact us via info@grapevinelive.co.uk and stay connected to see upcoming articles covering even more of your local venues.