Ryan McBryde – Mercury Theatre: Adapting And Connecting

Mercury Connects is the new monthly-based initiative launched by the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, which aims to connect creative minds together during lockdown. 

Born out of the Colchester Repertory Company in 1937, the Mercury Theatre, named after the Roman God, has been entertaining the locals of East Anglia since 1972 and the lovely staff there are determined that this new lockdown will not stop them creating. 

Mercury Connects was created during the first lockdown to act as a rendezvous for arts professionals looking to make contacts, share ideas, collaborate, develop their careers, promote their work and chat to like-minded people about their passion.

The event is hosted by Mercury Theatre’s Creative Director Ryan McBryde, who commented: “Money is tight for everyone in the arts industry; artists, freelances and theatres haven’t got the support that, perhaps, they hoped for and we wanted to provide a platform where we could meet on a monthly basis and listen to each other and share ideas on how to move forward together, hence why we called it ‘connects’.”

Mercury Connects have already started to see some success, with plenty of creatives getting in touch with each other after the session is over, gaining vital contacts that artists need during this time. 

Right now, the Mercury Theatre remains closed as the finishing touches are made to complete the £9.8million transformation to the theatre building that began last year. Instead of opening their doors to audiences right now, the Mercury team are running regular online events, including Mercury Connects, on Zoom, every month. 

Ryan said: “We’ve been relatively lucky because we were closed when the pandemic hit, so we didn’t have to cancel a season of work but rather just push our plans back. Obviously, not being able to do the pantomime this Christmas is a blow for us as it’s something that everyone in our community looks forward to each year, but we’re hoping to come out of the end of all of this and unveil our new building soon.”

The Mercury Theatre would love to continue with this monthly event, even after lockdown is lifted and Ryan thinks it’s something that every regional theatre should start to incorporate post lockdown to help the arts start back up again. 

Cath Wilmore, from the Arts Council, also be attended this month’s Mercury Connects to give financial advice for artist’s in the area.

Ryan himself, was a freelancer for 20 years and explains that he knows the struggles that freelancers in the arts industry face: “You know, the thought of going to the Arts Council and filling out all the forms can be intimidating, but it’s like anything, once you know what you’re doing it’s easy. We’re acting as a guiding hand for people who may be struggling and we’re very proud to be a part of that.”

Ryan says that it’s vital that the arts industry keeps going after the pandemic ends and that the arts is more than just a good night out: 

“Regional theatre isn’t just when the curtain goes up and comes down. We open at 9am with the cafe, we’re inviting people in. We have senior citizens coming in and doing creative writing workshops, we have toddlers coming in and doing sensory playtime, we’ve got an LGBTQ+ writing group.”

“It’s about community and it’s about providing that community with a cultural hub for them to come and express themselves, to feel like they’re at home and it would just be such a shame to see it all end. I think it’s vital that organisations support their local artists during this time and that’s what we’re ultimately trying to do.”

To join one of Mercury Connects upcoming sessions, be sure to book your tickets online for their December session here and to keep up-to-date with everything the Mercury Theatre gets up to, be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter @mercurytheatre