Power Plays: festival of writing announced for 2024

Blackpool’s newest theatre, the Old Electric is launching a festival of activity aimed at supporting new writing for the stage in the town.

Supported by Arts Council England and with a host of regional and national parters, The Old Electric it is calling for scriptwriters to explore new perspectives of the town.

Power Plays is a four-month long festival that will run aimed at establishing The Old Electric as Blackpool’s home of new writing. TheOE already hosts a core programme of participatory activity including an annual playwriting course which has supported 50 new local playwrights over the last seven-years. The 2024 course begins this week.

Power Plays expands on this work with writers, audiences and partners set to programme a range of very practical and active ways for people to think about the stories that are important to them, that connect with Blackpool in some way, and how they could be brought to life on stage.

This feels like an exciting opportunity to put Blackpool onstage in new ways – to support homegrown artists as well as theatre-makers from across the country

“I’m really interested to see what comes out of this, what new ideas and reflections on Blackpool emerge, how people see the town in 2024 and how that connects with our local residents,” said Melanie Whitehead, artistic director at The Old Electric.

“This feels like an exciting opportunity to put Blackpool onstage in new ways – to support homegrown artists as well as theatre-makers from across the country to reflect on how the stories we tell in and about Blackpool are important and ever changing. We’re more than a nostalgia kick or a deprivation headline, I can’t wait to read some of the more nuanced reflections of the town.”

The programme will be multi-layered, kicking off with a three-month paid writer-in-residence opportunity supported by Factory International as part of their Northern place-based partnership programme. A primary schools programme involving in-school workshops and teacher professional development will also be led by the National Theatre as part of their Let’s Perform initiative. Participants aged 16-25s will be guided to connect with peers from Barrow-in-Furness based Theatre Factory as part of their 17-year strong The Apprentices Project. Connections have also been forged across Lancashire, with Lancaster’s Dukes theatre and their new writing programme BlastFest.

Alongside paid roles for directors, actors and an assistant producer, keynote masterclass sessions from internationally-acclaimed playwrights and visiting productions will provide insight into new ways of working.

Power Plays will also invite writers to submit scripts to a panel of professional readers. This panel will include individuals from groundbreaking theatre company Headlong, Manchester-based Cultural Democracy and leading UK producer of queer-led performance, Marlborough Productions. The competition will invite writers to showcase themes that have resonance to Blackpool for consideration to be developed into a professional production hosted at The Old Electric as the climax to the festival in July 2024, before being supported to tour in 2025.

More information on how residents can participate in Power Play is will be announced in the coming months. For what’s on in Blackpool this month, visit Blackpool Social Club listings.

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