INTERVIEW: Blowin’ A Hooley | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Back in 2016 actors Harriet Ghost and Micky McGregor struck out with their own venture, a vibrant and dynamic new Tyneside-based theatre company focused on representing North East experiences and support for new artists. Blowin’ A Hooley’s first production was of Tom Hadaway’s legendary play The Filleting Machine, a working class drama centring on Davey, a young man who is torn between continuing his education and making money on the docks. It toured to community centres and schools around the region to a positive grassroots response, and earlier this year they worked with production company Candle & Bell to produce a 360 film with an immersive VR theatre experience in order for audiences to access the production online.

We want to give people opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to,” explains Harriet Ghost. “Not just actors and other creatives but also audiences who might feel intimidated about going to a building-based theatre. The Filleting Machine got such a good response from people from places like the Meadow Well estate, so much so that they would come up to us afterwards and say that they recognised themselves or a friend or family member in characters and attitudes in the play.”

Following this success Blowin’ A Hooley continued engagement with local communities, doing work which wasn’t necessarily meant for a wider audience but which focused on important training around the danger of getting into debt with loan sharks and also around grooming of young people for exploitation.

We want to give people opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to

During various lockdowns, the team furthered this work and expanded their digital projects, working with Tyneside schools to provide educational and entertaining Christmas shows as well as providing free outdoor activities and performances during the summer.

Their next production is Yarns From Hyem, which finally gets a region-wide tour after being postponed in 2020. Championing North East talent by sharing four hilarious and moving stories of love, loss, hope and resilience, all written, directed and performed by incredible artists from our region, Yarns From Hyem further exemplifies Blowin’ A Hooley’s commitment to North East talent.

We were in day two of rehearsals when theatre venues had to close and we made the decision, with Arts Council’s guidance, to honour our artists’ contracts and support them through the difficult period – though we had no idea at the time just how long that would be!” They explain. “Now, Arts Council have funded us for the project 20 months later and we’re so grateful and excited to be able to get the team back together.”

The crew have yet more delayed works in the pipeline, including the remounting of Notice To Move, a military theatre project based on the experiences of North East Armed Forces veterans, and an original family performance curiously titled Cinderella’s SnapTok, slated for Spring 2022.

Yarns From Hyem by Blowin’ A Hooley is performed throughout November at Old Low Light Heritage Centre, North Shields and The Institute, Cambois (Saturday 20th); Whitley Bay Customer First Centre (Monday 22nd); St Vincent’s Centre, Newcastle and Cedarwood Trust, North Shields (Tuesday 23rd); The Exchange, North Shields (Thursday 25th); Pelaw View Centre in Gateshead (Friday 26th) and Ushaw, Durham (Saturday 27th)

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