Light Up Lancaster 

3 – 4 November 2017

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Create your own solo show with Contact

About Diverse Actions:

Diverse Actions is a Live Art UK and Contact initiative which champions culturally diverse (BAME: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) ambition, excellence and talent in Live Art and contemporary performance.  Diverse Actions builds on Live Art’s vital role as a practice of artistic innovation and a space to express complex ideas of cultural identity.

The commission:

The Contact Diverse Actions Commission offers the opportunity for an exciting, engaging and radical BAME live artist or performance maker to create a new solo show. You will receive a £2,000 commission fee, as well as additional financial contribution held by Contact (of up to £6,000) for dramaturgical, technical and marketing support, as well as rehearsal space and sharing opportunities. As the culmination of the commission, the final piece will be programmed to première to audiences in Manchester during Contact’s artistic program in Autumn 2018.

The commission will offer two clear strands of opportunity:

To develop a new piece of work, over an extended period of time and with deep dramaturgical/R&D support.

To further develop the work through presentation with LAUK partners, alongside developing a tour pack, visuals and programmer networks for future onward touring.

Who can apply?

The Diverse Actions commission is open to a BAME live-artist or contemporary theatre/performance maker who explores live art practices, aged 18+, who has an idea for an ambitious solo performance piece. You may be an emerging or more established artist, but you should have evidence of experience in creating and staging your work for professional contexts.

Although you do not have to live or work exclusively in Manchester, you will be expected to spend time developing your show in Manchester, and to undertake a minimum of 2 weeks of R&D here (dates to be confirmed in consultation). There is a travel and accommodation allocation within the commission offer, but further funding opportunities and partnerships could be sought to bolster this. Contact will assist with any applications to further develop the work.

How to apply:

  1. Please provide a one-page statement of interest describing who you are (performance history and style) and your idea for a new solo performance (this can be sent as an audio or video piece to camera if more accessible for you).
  1. A video clip (up to 5 minutes) of your work, on DVD or as a link to online content. Any images you have of your work (marketing or production shots) are also additionally welcomed.
  1. Shortlisted candidates (as below) will be invited for a selection day at Contact on Saturday 2nd December (from 1-6PM). It is important that all shortlisted artists are available for this time.
  1. You are also warmly encouraged to attend a ‘meet the artist’ event at Contact at 11AM on Saturday 28th October, where you can talk to staff and current Contact supported artists, and that evening see the work of Demi Nandhra, Afreena Islam and Jackie Hagan at Flying Solo Festival 2017 for a reduced ticket price.


Following the application deadline, 8-10 shortlisted artists will be invited to meet with members of the Contact team on Saturday 2nd December (between 1-6PM) to discuss their work and proposal. As with all Contact’s decision-making, young people will be part of that process, but your work does not need to address young people specifically. We will also arrange for any interested candidates to watch a programmed show that evening. Please note we cannot cover travel expenses to attend the selection day, but refreshments and free tickets to a performance that evening will be provided.


Send your statement of interest, along with examples of your work (video and images) and a completed ‘Inclusion and Diversity’ form with the subject title of ‘Diverse Actions Commission’ to: by 10AM on Wednesday 15th November 2017. The file size limit is 5MB.


New Writing North

This winter, three unique organisations – the Royal Court TheatreNorthern Stage and New Writing North – are coming together to combine their strengths to provide a development opportunity for theatre writers based in the North of England.

Selected via an open call for submissions, the group will be made up of eight writers who feel they would benefit from being pushed in their craft and the ambition of their writing for the stage.

Over six sessions at Northern Stage, writers will have the chance to hear from playwrights and other theatre makers on what makes a great play and to work on a new idea for the stage with their support.  At the end of the six sessions there will be a chance for the writers to work with actors and a director to explore some of their new work.

We are planning a second phase of the project in 2018 when we hope to bring together a smaller group to work towards public performances at the Royal Court and Northern Stage.

The sessions will be held at Northern Stage and New Writing North in Newcastle at 4pm-7pm on the following dates:

  • Tuesday 5 December 2017
  • Tuesday 12 December 2017
  • Tuesday 19 December 2017
  • Tuesday 16 January 2017
  • Tuesday 23 January 2017
  • Tuesday 30 January 2017


We want to hear from writers who have had some experience of seeing their work brought to life on stage and who want a boost to explore a new idea in an environment which will push them. To apply, you’ll need to send us ten pages of your work and a completed application form.

Writers need to have lived in the North West, Yorkshire or the North East for at least two years and need to commit to attending all the sessions. Some assistance is available for travel for those who live outside of Newcastle. We are particularly interested in hearing from writers who are currently under-represented in UK theatre including BAME, LGBT+, working class and disabled writers.

The deadline for applicants is Monday 6 November at midday.

Introduction to Directing





Fancy a free ticket to the Dukes Park show, Treasure Island? Fancy finding out how a Park show is made, and what the job of a director is like? This free course could be for you.

The Intro to Directing course offers practical training for people (over 18 years of age) who are interested in finding out whether or not a career as a director is for them.

Participants on our Introduction to Directing course will receive a comprehensive overview of the work of a professional theatre director with sessions on key aspects of the role and craft.

The course will be co-led by our new Artistic Director, Sarah Punshon and Alex Summers, Associate Director.

This opportunity is for those who have limited or no experience of theatre directing, but are interested in finding out more. It’s especially for people from backgrounds currently under-represented in UK theatre; as a result of barriers arising from social, gender, financial, ethnic, cultural, geographic or educational disadvantage or disability.

Saturdays from 12 August – 14 October (except Saturday 19 August & Saturday 26 August)

Participants will explore:

  • The actor-director relationship, working with professional directors and actors, including award-winning Park show director Joe Sumsion.
  • Working with playwrights, including a session with Fin Kennedy, Artistic Director of Tamasha Theatre.
  • Participatory theatre making with Alex Summers and staff of the Centre for Creative Learning, including a ringside seat for tech week of The Dukes’ Autumn production, Blackout by Sarah McDonald Hughes.
  • Creative collaboration, including sessions with professional designers and composers, and with visiting South African company The Market Theatre Johannesburg.
  • Producing, fundraising and the practicalities of getting work made, with our Associate Producer.

These sessions will be delivered across all three of The Dukes theatre spaces, in the round, proscenium and traverse and in Williamson Park.

Participants will receive complimentary tickets to Treasure Island, The Suitcase and Blackout.

To find out more, please email Daniel Matthew, Creative Learning Producer, on

The application window for this opportunity is now closed. Thank-you for your interest.


Kickstart Open Space

Summer 2017

From Monday 7th August to Friday 18 August artists and theatre companies had the opportunity to take advantage of the Dukes’ spaces, meet the creative team, ask advice, and network with other artists.

Thanks to all who participated!

Check out some images from Kickstart:


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Polly Lister, I Was a Wife, January 2016

Polly Lister, on writing her first play as part of Kick Start:

“It was invaluable, the autobiographical nature of the piece could have proved an uncomfortable watch so it was vital to the process to put it in front of an audience to see if it worked, see if I was on the right track. it was nerve-wracking though and I was anxious. Exposing my work to public scrutiny so early on in the process as part of the Dukes’ Kick Start initiative was nerve-wracking, but the enthusiasm for the concept was really heartening. Criticism is good at any time but particularly in the early stages, its easier to throw things out before you get too wedded to them.

I feel so lucky that a theatre believed in me enough to take a chance on me. The week of development and the ‘scratch night’ which The Kick Start process facilitated then enabled the theatre to assess whether their belief in me was misguided or not. Luckily for me the response was positive. 

 I would love to think I could continue writing as well as acting in the future. My brain is always busy and I am an observer. Writing is a cathartic way of discharging the day’s observations and characters. It’s peaceful whilst being active and inventive”.

Kevin Dyer, Mr and Mrs Macbeth, commissioned by Farnham Maltings. Reading on Wednesday 14th October 7.30 pm

Kevin is writing a new play inspired by Macbeth about a man coming home from war, his wife waiting for him and what it’s like when they see each other again after all that time. This ferocious home-coming is the situation in Shakespeare’s great play and is also the stuff of hundreds of hours of interviews he has done with men coming home from the war and with the women waiting for their return.


Coinciding with The Dukes new production of “I Was a Wife” by first time writer Polly Lister, and aimed at professional or aspiring writers, The Dukes are hosting a two hour workshop which will open up the writing process for this very personal show, and be followed by a Q and A session with Jonathan Harvey, exploring some of the prizes and pitfalls of writing from an autobiographical perspective.


The following writers are currently under commission or working on plays planned for production in the next 18 months:

  • Polly Lister, “I Was a Wife”, January 2016
  • Kevin Dyer, “The Hobbit”, July 2016
  • Debbie Oates, “Dennis Ockerby on Ice”, autumn 2016.
  • Eddie Robson, “Beauty and the Beast”, November 2015

Polly Lister, I Was a Wife, January 2016

Polly worked as an actor in Lancaster in summer 2014 (giving a fantastic performance as the Witch in Hansel and Gretel) and during that time talked about her idea for a unique new show. The Dukes supported Polly in her writing, including a Kick Start development week in April 2015, testing out the first half of the play with around 50 audience members. The audience response was impressive: the play was very funny and had a strong emotional engagement – it clearly moved many people as it explored the break-up of a relationship and how a woman – Polly – began to put her life back together.

The autobiographical nature was a real strength, as was the way it lifted the lid on the theatre industry. The play is set in the dressing rooms of a number of and charts the rise and fall of Polly’s marriage through the prism of the roles she was playing at the time and the dressing rooms she found herself in.

Eddie Robson, Beauty and The Beast, December 2016

Eddie Robson: “One of the benefits of staging the Christmas show in the Round is that it really feels like you’re entering another world, and that really reflects the heroine’s experience in Beauty And The Beast, journeying through the woods to arrive in a strange place tinged with fantasy. Meanwhile the enclosed, intimate performance space is a great place to create the Beast’s home, magical and yet claustrophobic. We’ve already talked about using the whole room, making Beast initially a shadowy presence on the upper gallery before descending to the stage.

For many people the Christmas show will be their only trip to the theatre all year, and it’s great if we can surprise them with what you can achieve in theatre. I’m really keen to find ways to translate the living household of the Cocteau and Disney film versions of the story onto the stage, especially as it’s here that the humorous side of the story can really emerge. I’d also like us to create a Beast with a really grotesque quality – there’s a tendency to make him still handsome, just furry, and I’m not sure that’s enough these days.

The theme of Beauty and The Beast – how we judge by appearances – never becomes irrelevant. The world is more image-saturated than ever, and as a result we’re more preoccupied than ever with how we appear to others. I’m interested in addressing this within this adaptation. Perhaps with a Beast whose good looks made him rich and paid for the palace to which his curse has now confined him, a palace now filled with broken mirrors because he can’t bear to look at himself. Perhaps it shouldn’t be Beauty who has to learn to see beneath the surface, but the Beast?”

Kevin Dyer, The Hobbit, July 2016

Kevin Dyer is an award-winning writer who has written a number of very successful adaptations for Williamson Park in recent years, including “Jason and the Argonauts” and the exceptional “Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur”. The Dukes has wanted to produce “The Hobbit” for some time and we have secured the production rights following the completion of the recent three film cycle.

“The Hobbit” offers a chance to tell a classic adventure and quest story which is ideally suited to Williamson Park – an extraordinary journey through Middle Earth, re-imagined for Lancaster. Populated by wonderful, strange characters – wizards, goblins, wood elves, giant spiders and trolls, and of course the extraordinary character of Golem. Told with a light touch, song and charm.

Debbie Oates, Dennis Ockerby on Ice, Autumn 2016

Debbie Oates: “As the daughter of a scientist and from a family of nurses and doctors, I have always been fascinated by some of the ethical wrangles in medical science. “Dennis Ockerby on Ice” is my attempt to engage with huge universal themes – mortality, medicine, love, life and loss – but explored through how such themes look in the everyday-ness of ordinary people’s lives.

Cryogenics is the logical end of a long spectrum of medical science where death is the great failure, and the tension between improving quality of life on one hand, and extending life at all costs on the other, can mean medical interventions become the priority, even when, perhaps, time might be better spent making real connections between those leaving life and those being left behind.

“Dennis Ockerby on Ice” is simply a love story. An ordinary couple thrown into the cutting edge of medical science – which research showed me is a place at times bizarre, at times surreal. Dennis and Viv find themselves under pressure to work out how they feel about living and the fear of death, as they look for ways to communicate with each other while the clock ticks down. My ambition for it as a play is that it works as a small story told with truth, emotion and plenty of humour, while also engaging with some of science’s challenging ethical dilemmas.”