As part of our Social Theatre Networks, Fuel is working with volunteers around the country to run theatre clubs after shows. Theatre clubs are like book clubs but for theatre and the aim is to provide a relaxed, friendly environment to talk about theatre, share opinions and meet new people. Anyone is welcome. We rely on volunteers to keep the clubs running, ensuring that they are as open and accessible as possible. Priya Silverstein is one of our new volunteers in Preston.
I was first invited to be a part of Fuel after it had been noted that I was quite a regular at a theatre venue in Preston (read: I went to absolutely everything that they put on). Coming from London, I was worried that moving away from the capital would mean that there would be a shortage of work to see, so I threw myself in, making sure I made it to anything and everything that was on in Preston. I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Fuel, and the opportunity to host the Yapper’s theatre club in Preston.
Initially, the volunteers from all over the country were invited to London to see An Evening with an Immigrant by Inua Ellams. The show was a feast of poetry and storytelling – an autobiographical journey through Inua’s past and present, filled with funny, sad and beautiful moments. The show was at the Tricycle theatre, somewhere I had been many times before when living in London. It was great to come back with fresh eyes after moving away, and it really felt like such a privilege to be taken there by Fuel.
After the show, we squeezed past hoards of people waiting to meet Inua, and made our way to the Black Lion pub opposite the Tricycle. The pub was bustling and noisy, but had a great atmosphere. I did wonder at first how we would manage to have a theatre club there, especially with the turnout of about twenty people! But Roxanne did a seamless job facilitating the club – making sure the conversation didn’t split, summarising what people had said so others on the other side of the table could hear, etc. The conversation was varied and stimulating and made me excited to be a part of these clubs in future.
The next morning, we met at the Fuel offices with the other LES’s and volunteers to discuss the show the night before, the theatre club afterwards, and the other shows Fuel would be touring around the country. It was great to get to know so many likeminded people. We had fun brainstorming ideas for publicising the shows, getting more varied audiences in, and running effective theatre clubs after the shows. It was great to have the freedom to just run with our ideas, and the staff at Fuel really seemed excited about helping us to implement them.
A few months flew past, and before I knew it, it was time to go see Fiction by Glen Neath and David Rosenberg. We had almost a full house at the Media Factory in Preston. The show was phenomenal, a binaural sound experience that was somewhere between dream and nightmare. We had a more intimate group after this show, with about ten people gathering in the foyer for the theatre club. I used the tricks I’d picked up from Roxanne to keep things running smoothly, and we had a really great chat. The format was perfectly informal and friendly, and I am looking forward to facilitating more clubs like this in future! Thank-you Fuel!
You can read more about Fuel’s Social Theatre Networks in the North East in this article in The British Theatre Guide.