Zero-Waste Marketing

Let’s re-cap the basic facts, okay?

  • The average flyer weighs about 6 grams.

  • This year at the Fringe there were over 4,300 shows.

  • The Fringe recommends shows ‘think in the low thousands’ when ordering flyers.

Taking the lowest possible end estimate of that – that shows average at just 1,000 flyers each – let’s now do the maths.

6 x 4,300 x 1,000 = 25,8000,000 grammes = 25.8 tonnes

There are nearly 26 tonnes of paper waste generated at the Fringe from flyers alone – at a very low end estimate. In reality, anecdotal evidence suggests we’re looking at an average of closer to 5,000 flyers per show. Which would put the amount of paper waste generated. From flyers ALONE. At almost 130 tonnes.

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So, at the Greenhouse this year, we set out to show that generating all that paper waste isn’t the only way to successfully market your shows. And with over 2,000 tickets sold and over 160,000 engagements through our social media, we think we might be on to something. Here are just some examples of what we got up to. Feel free to nick them – or use them to make other, new and crazy ideas!

If you’re thinking about joining the revolution and helping to make the Fringe a greener place…well, you’re in luck! We’re currently recruiting for a new Head of Marketing and Deputy Head of Marketing to join The Greenhouse’s team. Click here to head to the Greenhouse’s website and find out more about these awesome roles!

  1. Tablets

The most direct comparison between what we did and typical marketing techniques was our use of tablets. We bought 6, second-hand Samsung Note tablets which our street team used on the Royal Mile throughout the Fringe. These tablets served two purposes – firstly, they allowed our street team to connect to a page on our website, where audience members could input their email and be immediately sent a copy of our electronic brochure. Potential audiences then had all the information they could possibly want about The Greenhouse – its location, our shows, our workshop schedule – available to them at the touch of a button.

Secondly, the tablets had two pages of the brochure downloaded on them – a map to the venue, and our listings information. Potential audience members who didn’t want to give their email could simply take a photo with their phone of both of these images on the tablet. That way, they had all the information they needed to come and see shows at The Greenhouse!

It’s worth noting that we spent £120 to buy these 6 tablets – far less money than we spent ordering flyers for our 10-day run at the Fringe in 2018.

  1. Recycling

What is the opposite of generating tonnes of paper waste by ordering lots of flyers? Making sure those flyers that are purchased get recycled, of course! As well as the tablets, our street team was armed with three used wheelie bins. Passers-by were invited to recycle any flyers that they were finished with in our dedicated bins – we then ensured that all of these flyers were recycled.

This was a really fantastic way of starting a conversation with audience members – most people at the Fringe aren’t used to you approaching them and asking if they want YOU to take THEIR flyers!

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  1. Quality over Quantity

This is kind of not really a strategy so much as something we noticed as the Fringe went on. The biggest issues with flyers is how they operate as a call to action. Is a flyerer’s job to get people to come and see a show? Or is it to hand out flyers? What are they asking that passer-by to do? In theory, it’s definitely the former, but in reality at the Fringe it often becomes the latter. In the craziness of everyone yelling and trying to drum up an audience, it becomes almost second nature to fall back on the fact that if a passer-by didn’t stop to talk to you, at least they took a flyer.

Undoubtedly, we were in contact with far fewer people than we would have been if we were handing out flyers. However, we found that our conversion between people-we-speak-to and people-who-buy-tickets was also much higher than it had been in the past. By doing away with the flyers, we got rid of the fall-back, meaning we were forced to actively engage people in a conversation about our project and our shows. We took the time to ensure that every member of the street-team was well informed and well educated on both, so they could spark enthusiasm in potential audience members. All of this meant we had a far lower quantity of engagement, but a much higher quality of engagement.

  1. Digital (not print)

There are a lot of opportunities for different types of advertisements at The Fringe. In the past, we have taken out a number of different print and digital ads. This year, we transitioned completely to digital adverts. It’s not only a very simple change, but an obvious one considering that this project in particular was targeting younger audiences, who tend to spend more time online anyway. We advertised on various websites, including the Fringe website, and a number of different publications.

One area of compromise we did make here was appearing in the Fringe brochure – each of our 8 individual shows had its own listing in the Fringe Brochure. At the moment, we are researching the marketing implications of not appearing in the print brochure, but electing to appear only in the digital brochure. We will share our findings!

  1. Social

We are a young company, so we hope we have a fairly strong grasp on advertising through social media. As well as a strong social media presence – ensuring that all of our social platforms are regularly updated with good content, and that those platforms are more geared towards content creation than just flogging tickets – we spent money on advertising through social media. This took up a very significant part of the job of our Head of Marketing (about half of her time). It’s not something to be sniffed at, and we found it was very worth putting the time in to.

A significant proportion of our target demographic are heavily influenced in their buying habits through social media. The level of engagement and referrals that we received to our website through our social presence showed this to have been an effective stategy and use of time.

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Well, there we have it, the key strategies that we used to deliver an effective zero-waste marketing campaign at the Edinburgh Fringe 2020! Found that interesting? Got questions about how it worked? Want to chat about it? Well, you can contact us here if you fancy a chat. And of course, if you want to help make our zero-waste marketing campaign even more kick-ass for next year, remember we’re currently recruiting for a new Head of Marketing and Deputy Head of Marketing! With these roles, we’re very much looking for passion and drive over experience, so if you care about the environment and how theatre can help protect it, send us an application by heading to our website here!

The 5 Best Things about Working with The Greenhouse

Last summer, BoxedIn Theatre created The Greenhouse – the first ever zero-waste performance venue that the UK has ever seen. It’s mission was simple – we wanted to demonstrate that living and creating sustainably is easier than most people think. We sparked discussion and debate around climate change through our shows, while using our programme of workshops to provide practical skills on living and working sustainably.

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But you know all that right? You’ve seen it all over our website and our social media. You’re here for the nitty gritty aren’t you? The real benefits. The proper reasons to join The Greenhouse team. Can’t blame you – I mean, it looks so awesome already, there are bound to be some more perks! We’ve put together a list of the top 5 things about working with The Greenhouse.

If they seem exciting and you feel like you just can’t hold back from working with us – good news! We’re currently recruiting for a new Head of Marketing and Deputy Head of Marketing. Applications close at 23:59 on Thursday 31st of October (just over a week) – click here to go to the “Work With Us” section of our website and find out more!

  1. The planet’s dying.

Wow no holding back there huh? Yes, as it turns out, we’re doing some pretty bad damage to the environment at the moment. The IPCC predicted in 2018 that we have between 12 and 32 years to move towards a net-zero carbon economy to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

We’re choosing to look at that as a positive though – there’s still plenty of time to make a real, deep difference. The Greenhouse is engaging artists and audiences with that process, providing practical opportunities to explore a more environmental approach in both life and work. The arts are uniquely poised to engage people with climate change, changing hearts and minds for a brighter, more sustainable future.

 

  1. It’s a space to experiment.

As the first ever zero-waste venue in the UK, The Greenhouse is breaking quite a lot of new ground. There are precedents and examples to draw on, sure, but one of the really exciting things about this is it forces us to get creative and experiment!

From our marketing strategy to our design process, even down to the way we create our shows, The Greenhouse is built upon one crazy idea, so we’re always really excited to try even more crazy ideas! If it works – great, we’ve set a precedent for something new and sustainable! If it doesn’t – great, we’ve narrowed down the field! It’s a win-win, really. The Greenhouse institutionally creates space for the amazing and talented people we work with to roll the dice. Because we’ve found that when we support that, nine times out of ten we’re coming up sixes anyway.

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  1. Talks, workshops and volunteer events!

Interested in learning more about the climate crisis and how theatre can help to stop it? Working with the Greenhouse gives you front-row access to a programme of talks and workshops from various different theatre makers and sustainability professionals throughout the planning process and when the venue is open. It’s a great way to meet more of the BoxedIn family, and to learn even more about the world around us and how we can help it!

There’s also a programme of health, well-being, and social events that we run whenever the venue is open to help make sure everyone is having a good time and feels connected to the project. Anything from pot-lucks to group walks, you can come to as many or as few as you like!

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  1. Holistic Theatre.

Making theatre about any hot topic is incredibly important. But too often have theatre makers been allowed to get away with not practicing what they preach. At BoxedIn and The Greenhouse, we’re not a huge fan of that. While we’re raising awareness for environmental issues, we’re also practicing what we preach, enacting sustainable practice at absolutely every level of our organisation.

It’s something we’ve been doing for a while, and it’s really exciting to see other young companies taking this approach as well. This way we can both spark discussion around an issue AND act as an example of best practice around that issue!

 

  1. The Bi-Annual BoxedIn Theatre Awards.

And last, but by no means least, who could forget the Bi-Annual BoxedIn Theatre Awards. Twice a year, every year, all the amazing people from the BoxedIn family get together for one absolutely colossal knees-up. Like a staff party on steroids.

It’s a chance to recognise all the amazing work that everyone has done to date, and to truly let our hair down after a few months of long hours and hard work. It includes food and drink, personalised prizes, games, and a well-earned boogie. Honestly, if you’re not joining for anything else, join for the party. It never disappoints.

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So here are our top 5 reasons to join the team for The Greenhouse and help make a really positive change both in the arts and the wider world. Sound like something you’re interested in? We’re still looking for a new Head of Marketing and Deputy Head of Marketing – get more information here!

 

 

Sustainable at heart

Our awesome partners over at Clean Water Wave are doing important work every day.

One of the main things we love about them is how they put sustainability at the heart of their work. It’s not just about providing clean water, it’s about providing long term solutions for clean water. Solutions that can last for a very long time, and can support whole communities far in to the future.

That’s an attitude we really admire – because, as it turns out, thinking about things from a sustainable and long-term mindset doesn’t just help them out. It helps to make the world a better place. And of course, we love that.

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But how does that work? How do they go about thinking sustainably? And how has it impacted them? All great questions – why don’t we let them tell you. And hey, maybe that will help you understand why we’re so obsessed with them…

So, Clean Water Wave. Neat name – remind us what you do exactly?

You know by now that we’re a social enterprise and we love clean water. You might also know that our water treatment system is called the Clean Aqua For Everyone (CAFÉ_, and that it’s designed to be robust and super sustainable. As you can see, it’s a pretty big piece of machinery, and it’s really created to last!

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Obviously that’s awesome. Why is sustainability a part of that for you?

For our small team, it’s really important that the impact we make isn’t just a one off. Clean water never stops being important, so we don’t want to make a piece of equipment that will work for a short time and then break. That can have a really negative impact on the communities in which we work. For us, that means it’s essential for us to think sustainably – think long term.

And how do you implement that sustainability?

Essentially, when building CWW and creating the CAFÉ systems, we had three key things to bear in mind.

  • We have to get the right design for the water treatment system. That means a machine that’s sturdy and won’t just break.
  • We have to build and source from the right materials. Strong materials, and sustainable materials.
  • We have to work in partnership with communities, and with organisations that take a long-term view to improving livelihoods.

We have a lot of experience working in low income communities and know that getting the technology right is just part of the equation. Yes, it’s important – vitally important – to design and manufacture something that works and is robust. But CWW is more than just the physical things we build. Everything we buy and use has an impact, and it’s important to us that we ensure that impact is a positive one. That means keeping a close eye on our suppliers. We want to ensure they understand our mission, and have good business practices such as not using child labour.

You mentioned partnering with communities too. Why is that important?

Relationships with communities are essentially to making a lasting positive impact, wherever we work. Just turning up and installing water systems might help in the short term, but they won’t really reach their full potential. Ensuring that our work is fully transparent means that community members are engaged and on board, so that they can manage their water systems in to the future.

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That’s why – rather than jump straight into implementing an international project – we are spending a lot of time researching best practice in international development, learning from those that do it well and from those who recognise they could do better.

It’s also why we are working with great partners, in the UK and internationally, to get the right fit, to ensure a long-term approach to clean water for communities.

Are there any other ways you’re approaching that community aspect?

We’re actually set up as a social enterprise, which is a little different from a normal business. It basically meant that profit from the sales of our water treatment systems is ploughed into doing our homework, and getting the right approach for community development. That’s opposed to just generating more and more profit for personal gain, like a typical company. We think that’s really important because it shows that we have faith in the system, and it also means we can grow and improve to create even more exciting and sustainable ways of making clean water!

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And finally, if you could sum up the idea of sustainable, clean water…

To make clean water in a way that improves health, livelihoods, and the environment for the long term.

Well, we hope you’ve fallen in love with CWW all over again. Remember to check out their website for more information or if you have any questions!

 

Clean Water and The Greenhouse

As you may have gathered from our exciting week about all things oceanic, we are very excited to be putting clean water and oceanic health at the heart of The Greenhouse’s sustainability mission. Learning about how safe drinking water can be so closely related to preventing climate change has been so interesting to us, thanks, of course, to our partnership with Clean Water Wave and the GOES foundation.

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What you may NOT know about, however, is all the awesome events that we will be running with them over the next few months and during The Fringe. From full residency days to organised workshops and casual drop-ins, we’ll be taking every opportunity to share their wealth of knowledge about everything we can do to preserve the planet’s health. If you want a taster of the kind of wisdom we’re talking – head to our Facebook page and check out our live-stream with their director and co-founder Dr Stephanie Terreni-Brown. And then check out all these awesome things we’ve got lined up with them for the next few months!

Days in Residency

Tuesdays throughout August will see Clean Water Wave and the GOES Foundation taking up residency in The Greenhouse. They will be hosting a wide variety of events, including workshops and informal discussions. So pop down to meet some of the CWW team and chat to them about the amazing work they do and how you can get involved. If you’ve got any burning questions about what they’re doing (and you haven’t already hit them up on Twitter or Facebook) this is a great place to ask!

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Co-Organised Workshops

As well as our standard programme of workshops, we’ll be working with CWW and GOES to create a series of bespoke themed workshops. Looking for a practical space to learn about oceanic health and what you can do to help make the planet healthier? Or thinking more about how safe drinking water can have a direct effect on slowing down climate change? Then these will be perfect for you! Just head to our workshops page to have a look at everything we have on offer.

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But what if you just want to know about Clean Water Wave and the GOES Foundation NOW?! We understand, we wouldn’t want to wait any longer to hear about these amazing people either – but not to fear! Every day at The Greenhouse, you’ll be able to find one of our fabulous team members sat at our Ask Me Anything table. Got a question about your contribution to non-toxic environments? Or wondering just how Clean Water Wave go about making their innovatively sustainable water treatment systems? We’ve got you covered. And if we don’t quite know the answer, we’ll submit your questions to Clean Water Wave themselves via Twitter, where they’ll get you back directly!

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Live Streams

We hope you enjoyed our live stream from last Thursday with Dr Stephanie Terreni-Brown, where we discovered way more about Clean Water Wave and the GOES foundation. She also shared some top tips for a non-toxic summer! Well, we enjoyed it so much that we’re going to be doing plenty more – keep your eyes peeled on our Facebook page for opportunities to submit questions or topics for discussion. Our next stream will be coming up in July – don’t worry, we’ll keep you updated when it’s coming up.

Content Content Content!

The amazing work that CWW and the GOES foundation are doing is spread out across the globe – and across the internet. We’ll be sharing updates about their new projects and just how they’re spreading the message of clean water and oceanic health everywhere they go. Wanting to keep up to date? We’ll be pulling out the highlights, and you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for even more updates!

Water and sustainability

Water is critical to planetary health

Okay, so you know by now that we’re pretty keen on the environment. We’ve been talking about shopping sustainably, and even throwing loads of sustainability-themed events. What can we say. We’re obsessed.

But something that we’ve only just realised is a lot of this dialogue is…well…it’s kind of land based. And considering that 71% of the planet is covered in water, we’re thinking it might be time to broaden our horizons a little.

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We’re very excited to be partnering with Clean Water Wave and the GOES Foundation to help place water at the centre of our sustainability and climate goals this Fringe. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be talking more about the awesome work that they do, and why clean water is essential for not just our health, but the health of the planet too!

Introducing the Clean Water Wave

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One of our two partners for this year’s Fringe is Clean Water Wave – a Scottish social enterprise that is flipping the status quo of water treatment. Typically, water treatment requires a LOT of energy, chemicals, and technical expertise. That means it can be unaffordable for many low income communities across the world – even in Scotland!

See here’s the thing with water…

Just because it looks clean and clear doesn’t mean it is safe to drink. Groundwater (water that is deep below the surface) is often assumed to be free from bacteria and other contaminants because it looks cleaner than pond or river water. But other contaminants, such as arsenic, may be present.

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Arsenic in groundwater is common in many countries and is naturally occurring; for example, arsenic is very commonly found in groundwater across the Ganges and Brahmaputra river deltas in South Asia. Drinking this arsenic water over a long period of time results in cancers, skin lesions, developmental defects, diabetes, neurotoxicity and heart problems. Using arsenic contaminated water to irrigate food crops and for animals also means arsenic enters the food chain, too.

Or, to look a little closer to home, Cocaine and Ketamine were recently found in every single shrimp tested from a batch collected in Suffolk.

And here’s the thing with water treatment…

It’s often wildly unsustainable. The CWW team have seen lots of water projects that are well intentioned but that simply aren’t built to last. That means that money is spent on, for example, a water pump for a community to get drinking water – which is great! Only for the pump to fail because no one is responsible for its upkeep, or the community can’t afford to repair it, or can’t easily get hold of the right equipment to fix it. The pump is left in a state of disrepair. So, simply, there’s no water for that community.

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Treating water sustainably

That’s not ideal. Obviously. Which is why Clean Water Wave’s work is so ground-breaking. With a small team of water scientists and community engagement specialists, they have developed an innovative water treatment system that can clean 50,000L every day – using solar energy, and without using chemicals and moving parts. Just a perfect example of what happens when we put sustainability and longevity at the centre of our thought process.

Clean Water Wave has been set up in response to both of these issues. Their CAFE filtration system ensures that the quality of the water it filters is genuinely safe for human consumption.

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Water and social enterprise

The #CleanAquaForEveryone water treatment system is the answer to sustainable decentralised water provision for community scale. And alongside this new technology, CWW have created a business model to ensure these systems can keep running well in to the future, no matter where they are.

CWW’s social enterprise model means that all of their profits and assets are used for socially and environmentally beneficial projects and not for personal benefit. Any surplus CWW makes as a company is returned to further our goals to have 10million people drinking truly clean and safe water over the next ten years.

Get in touch!

If you’ve got any questions about drinking water, pollutants, social enterprises, or community development, get in touch with the Clean Water Wave team – they’d love to hear from you!

They will also be with us throughout the Festival, so keep a look out for our programme.

Email:             hello@cleanwaterwave.com

Twitter:           @cleanwaterwave

Web:              https://cleanwaterwave.com

 

 

 

 

On The Fringes

Yes I am a terrible person and I’ve let far too long of a time elapse between the last blog post and this blog post. I’m sorry. It turns out that the fringe is actually a fairly busy time. Who saw that one coming?

So, here it goes, a DOUBLE BILL of updates on what we’ve been up to. Strap yourselves in kids, it’s going to be an exciting ride.

Tour-tured souls

When we last updated you, we had just left Balloch, our second to last location on tour, and headed out to Dollar, our sixteenth location, and our final stop before the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The rain continued to pour down, and everything in the van was damp. We were sick and tired of living in a house with wheels, and honestly, if I had to shower in another public bathroom I would have stabbed someone in the face.

Fortunately, I didn’t!

Everyone has worked so hard with this project, and I am constantly blown away by the intensity and quality of the work that everyone has been doing. Plus they’re all great people, who probably don’t deserve being made to live in a van for two months in the name of theatre.

So it was time for a little treat. It wasn’t much, and it certainly wasn’t designed for 6 people, but Thrum’s Cottage in Dollar was absolutely perfect to us. To start with, it had four walls and it didn’t have wheels. There wasn’t black mould and broken ceramic in the shower. And, most importantly, we had an oven.

Seriously though cooking for 6 people for this long, you have no idea how much I’ve missed using an oven.

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Even Vanny was feeling a little tired to be honest…

OH ALSO A TV.

I’d spent the last few days telling everyone that I’d found some really nice public showers for Dollar (lol pranked) so they were sufficiently surprised when we pulled up outside the cottage and unlocked the door.

We spent our first day as always, handing out flyers and putting up posters. And our second day was very much the same – we were very much excited for our final performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Now look okay, I’m not going to complain about this too much. To be honest, when talking about the weather that we’ve had this summer, I don’t think that we could have been luckier – this had to be one of the driest summers in recorded history. Still though, it’s tough when it starts raining, and it’s even tougher when that meant we needed to cancel our show.

And it’s even harder when we sit by our performance location and see about fifteen people turn up, willing to brave the pouring rain to see our show, and we have to tell them that it’s been cancelled.

We went home and WATCHED A MOVIE ON OUR TV (luxury) and subtly waited for midnight – that made it the 31st of July, the last day of tour, and our lovely Rowan’s birthday. Of course, we made a massive fuss then, as well as in the morning when we brought her breakfast in bed (did I mention that this cottage had like…different rooms and everything) that included a cake and candles. The rest of the morning was very slow, and unfortunately we had to cancel the show again due to the weather.

Not to worry though, we made a fairly elaborate dinner, and then went to the movies to celebrate everything that we had achieved thus far, as well as Rowan’s birthday. We intended to see The Incredibles 2, but it was sold out, so we just went to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again instead.

What a terrible film. Nuff said.

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And just like that, it was all over…

Then, we came home, went to bed, and that was it – it was time to drive back to St Andrews for us to go our separate ways. We had about a week until we needed to be up in Edinburgh, and a recharge was desperately needed.

Tour part 2 – BoxedIn returns

Our time in Edinburgh so far has been incredibly hectic, truth be told. As everyone began arriving in drips and drabs, we were all still a little tired and worn out – we needed to bounce back a little bit to be ready.

We did a boozey line-run of both the shows on the 7th (a real fun time – you forget your line, you take a drink. Simple, and not at all effective), and then scrambled to set up the tent on the 8th, as well as doing a run of both of the shows. And then, it was time to begin.

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Work hard, play hard, as always.

Our first show was at 15:20 on the 9th – we had an awards assessor for the Scottish Arts Club and a reviewer coming to that show. Not nervous at all.

Honestly, I’d managed the time a little poorly here – I arrived at 14:20 because we were having an issue with some of the ivy, and by the time we had it fixed it was already 3 o’clock. So, after not having performed for over a week, we were left with a twenty minute warm-up. Great work Oli.

It showed in the show – we were going in cold and we definitely weren’t as prepared as we should have been.

Bounce back time – we assembled again at 18:15 for our 18:45 show and managed to sneak in a slightly longer warm up. That combined with the fact that we had already performed that day, and the fact we knew that it wasn’t exactly our best performance, to create a strange, excited energy in the tent just before the audience came in. We had another assessor from the Scottish Arts Club coming to this show, and I’ll be damned if we weren’t going to blow their socks off.

Evidently we did, because we’ve since been short-listed for the Scottish Arts Club Theatre Awards (WHOOP WHOOP LITERALLY WHAT THAT IS SO EXCITING). That was actually one of our best runs of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I was so incredibly proud of everyone for their work that day.

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And we’ve managed to squeeze some flyering in too!

Since then, we’ve been doing well with the shows – we’re selling really well for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the moment, which is super exciting. Less well for To The Ocean, but I think that’s to be expected as its new writing. The 10th and 11th went well, and I think we’re really starting to get in to the swing of things. And of course, seeing some fantastic shows in every spare moment.

Highlights include The Archive of Educated Hearts, an intimiate storytelling experience by Lion House Theatre, a group that inspired our show To The Ocean, and Police Cops in Space because those guys are just amazing.

Today has been interesting too – but I’m sure Grace will let you know all about it in our next blog post. Which I promise, will come much sooner this time.

Last thing – if anyone is up at the fringe with shows or anything, let us know! We’d love to come see it!

Learning Something New

Over the last few days, we’ve been in Douglas. It boasts a population of over a thousand, making it far off from the smallest place we’ve visited, but don’t be fooled by the statistics. For its beautiful location, this place is a bit of a ghost town.

Where IS everyone?!

We pulled up in Douglas and had to double check the sat-nav at first. When we arrived, there was not a single person visible either on the streets or in their houses. And it was quiet. I set about trying to find an optimal performance location, and as I roamed around the town, it was still fairly sparse. Somewhat understandably, this was a little disheartening – it’s a little boring performing without an audience.

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Ghost town.

I had scoped out a specific performance location before, so went to check up on it – on my way, I veered off route a little, and ended up at the St. Bride’s Community Centre. And then our time in Douglas really kicked off.

For such a seemingly quiet town, this place has a HELL of a lot of spirit. When I entered the centre, I was immediately presented to Liz, the business development officer, who was not only very excited that we were there, but was very happy to help. She gave us a whole list of local places to get in touch with, and found us the perfect performance spot.

We set off posting flyers and putting up posters, while I popped in to the Universal Connections – another community centre in the town, and another place that we were welcomed with absolutely open arms. This was all going pretty well so far!

Calm before the storm.

The only real requisite for where we sleep is that there have to be toilets available through the night. And unfortunately, that meant it wasn’t possible for us to stay overnight in Douglas – small town, no public toilets. Or rather, there were public toilets, but they’d been closed down a few years ago. Not enough business.

We would be staying overnight in the near-by service station. That actually sounds much worse than it was – Cairn Lodge Services was one of those really nice service stations where they have like free showers and a ‘Farm Shop’. If you’re in Lanarkshire, take the detour. It’s very worth it.

We began cooking, with spirits a little bit dampened from the quietness of the town.

And then they got damper.

It started spitting. Not to worry, we’ve dealt with bad weather before. We could power through.

We set up the table and got ready to start eating dinner, and then the heavens completely opened. With no warning, it started pouring and pouring, and there wasn’t much we could do but sit there, eat our soggy dinner, and get soaked. We strung our gazebo up to some trees, and it made an acceptable shelter.

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A little sad, a little damp.

We couldn’t go inside, and everyone was feeling shit, and to be honest, it was all a little bit shit. The guys took our plates in to the service station to wash them up, and were summarily kicked out – fortunately, with a bucket of water to wash up in.

I’ll be honest, spirits haven’t yet been this low, and there wasn’t much that could be done. Except try to band together and pull through.

I’ve never met a more resilient group of people in my life.

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Laugh so you don’t cry…

There was a small – I don’t know what you’d call it, maybe a portcullis or something? A weird looking gate, just outside the service station, that provided some shelter. I went in to the service station and bought 6 beers, and despite the rain, and the potential lack of audience, despite the long journey behind us, and the week and a half ahead. Despite all of that, we somehow managed to laugh. At us, 6 students, sitting in a service station in some weird gateway, drinking and taking shelter from the rain.

What a ridiculous idea this was.

Oh THERE they are…

So it turns out that we didn’t need to be worried about there not being people at the show – we had a really supportive response from businesses and community groups in Douglas on social media, which helped to spread the word about us. We decided not to flyer in Douglas, and instead spent the day in the community centre, getting some work done and getting prepped for the fringe (WE ONLY HAVE 2 TICKETS TO THE OPENING NIGHT OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM LEFT WHOOP WHOOP GET YOUR TICKETS HERE. And if you really wanna show your love, grab your To The Ocean tickets too!).

After a very productive day, we went over to our performance site. And had to put in an incredibly difficult performance.

So we’d pitched our tent near a play park – when we were about to start, there were a lot of kids in the tent. Which is fine, we’ve performed for a lot of kids before. There were also a fair few families there. As the show began, the kids began to get more and more lively – running about, shouting, running across the stage and all that. Towards the end, it impossible to be heard over the racket – the kids were running about and screaming and causing a distraction. During the songs, they were dancing, and trying to sing. A few of the adults were doing the same.

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But at LEAST there was a play park…

We powered through, of course, but it was really, really hard. It’s always difficult to stand up and do a show, and it’s even harder when you feel like no-one is listening, or that no-one cares.

Initially, the rest of the team was pretty sad about it, and of course that made me angry. I don’t really mind making a twat of myself, but to see the heads of such strong people drop so drastically – it’s upsetting and it’s angering.

But the more we spoke about it, the more we began to take a bit of a different approach. When you think about it, the reaction that these kids had is kind of interesting – bearing in mind the size of Douglas, we agreed that most of these kids had probably never seen a show like this before. And so the reaction that they had – having fun, making a racket, and joining in – that was their instinctive reaction to seeing a piece of theatre.

And of course, underpinning all that was the central idea of this project – accessibility. The show may have been hard, but we’d just performed to the audience with the largest proportion of people who’d never been to the theatre that we’d ever had. That definitely counts for something. We could have told those kids to go away if they came to the show again, but instead, we approached the next day with a slightly different tack.

Setting things straight

  1. Arrive at the performance location. Pitch the tent, but leave the sides rolled down. That means that people won’t be able to run in and out of the tent, and gets rid of too much distraction. Not only is the running in and out disheartening for us, it’s also quite dangerous. If someone trips over the guy-ropes, they can injure themselves, and cause serious damage to the tent.
  2. When the kids arrive, keep an eye out for what they’re doing. If they’re back to the same thing as yesterday (running around the tent and jumping over the guy ropes), pull them aside and let them know (kindly) that that’s dangerous. They’re still welcome to come to the show, they just need to be a little bit careful.
  3. Warm up as usual, with a sense of excitement. You’re about to have an enraptured audience at the show.
  4. 5 minutes before the show time, round up the kids that are going to be coming to see the show. Let them know that you’re really excited to have them at the show tonight. Let them know that you found it a little bit difficult to perform with all the noise and the running around – let them know that they’re welcome to come and watch, if they try not to be too distracting.
  5. DEFINITELY ASK THE KIDS TO LEAVE THEIR JUICE OUTSIDE. Cos like. You know. I don’t want to be cleaning up juice for half an hour after the play.
  6. Just before the show starts, stand up, and let the entire audience know how excited you are about the show. Ask them to please keep noise to a minimum while the show is going on – and if they leave, they won’t be able to come back in.
  7. Leave a sentinel outside, just incase.

We performed to an audience of 30, of which 24 were children. There were some teething issues for the first five minutes, but by the time the show was under-way, they were completely enraptured. It was amazing to watch. Now that we’d actually taken the time to engage with these kids – we’d spoken to them like people and asked them to help us out when watching the show – they’d really enjoyed what we were doing. The looks on their faces throughout the show were only augmented by the kind words they had to say after the show.

It had been a tough couple of days, but with hard work and a caring attitude, we’d managed to turn it around. On an unrelated note, a separate family came to see the show this night. They had a young girl who seemed to be really enjoying herself. I went up to them after the show just to let them know that I didn’t mean to cause any offence with my announcement at the beginning. They said not to worry, and they they had a really lovely time.

The little girl ran out, looked at her parents, and looked at me. She touched her chin.

I looked a little confused.

“Oh, she’s signing,” said the mum. “She’s saying ‘thank you’.”

For some reason, that really touched me.

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We didn’t take a lot of photos in Douglas but HERE IS ONE OF US WALKING!

We’ve been learning so much on this whole project, and I’ll never forget Douglas for this really important reminder. I’ve always felt that it’s essential to approach other people (and life in general) with kindness. Douglas reminded me just how important that is – how a kind approach can often provide an easy solution to any issue that you’re confronted with.

We’re off on the road again, moving to our second last location, Balloch. It’s a really stunning town, and we’re hoping to perform for Rowan’s parents. Keep an eye peeled for Grace’s blog in a few days time!

 

What We’ve Been up to Lake-ly.

At least you know what you’re getting from me. Over-excited content and realfreakin dumb titles.

THAT’S RIGHT EVERYONE, for just 3 nights, we’ve been gracing England with our presence – two cheeky performances in Keswick, and a whole host of lovely and helpful people to get us on our way!

Home Sweet Home

When Grace left you last, we’d just spent the night at Annabel’s for a night of friends, fun, and REAL food. It was really quite lovely.

We woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to go, but also remembering what we were missing. It’s hard to go back to being in the van after such a warm welcome – especially after so long. Truth be told, the tiredness has started to creep in, which hasn’t been helped particularly by the spots of rain. The van is getting smellier, and we’re losing things more often.

And yet, for some unknow, unjustifiable and frankly insane reason, when night comes around, I’m still excited to sleep in it every night.

Go figure.

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What a great job our little Vanny is doing!

We said our goodbyes, and off we popped, straight up the East coast to Keswick in the Northern Lake District.

Organising everything with Keswick has been a little up and down – reasons to become clear later – but a shining light in the darkness has been an email that I received from a lovely lady named Jocelyn, asking if we’d be interesting in using her guest house during our time in Keswick. Unfortunately, it was a little bit out of our budget, but ever the cheeky man that I am, I asked her about using the showers in her house. She has three pre-teen boys and her own stuff going on, so it was a bit of a shot in the dark.

Something that is constantly amazing me about this tour is the seemingly unending kindness that we’re finding everywhere we go. She was more than happy to put us up while we were performing – we slept in the van, and popped in and out to make dinners and shower.

When we arrived, we received a particularly warm welcome from Jocelyn and her husband Graham, who moved their car off their driveway to give us space to park. We were also greeted by Nibbles, their rabbit, who was just, literally, the cutest thing ever to have graced god’s green earth.

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The view out of the van as I woke up every morning says it all really…

Honestly, we’ve got arriving in a new location down to a very fine art by now – within two hours, we’ve got posters up all over the town, and put flyers through most everyone’s letter box. You can’t NOT know we’re in town.

We made a quick dinner, and then, in an amusing turn of events, Grace and I went out to see a show in Keswick’s own Theatre by the Lake.

The theatre itself has received really positive reviews, and it’s clear to see why. The staff are friendly, and it’s picturesque location – just on the edge of Derwentwater – makes it very easy on the eye. This isn’t a space to review shows or theatres though, so I’ll be brief. Bold Girls by Rona Munro tells the story of three women in Belfast during The Troubles – what business a theatre in Cumbria has producing such a piece, I am not sure. Despite that though, we had a really lovely evening – it’s nice to go and see a show when the opportunity presents itself, and I mean…we both like…quite enjoy theatre.

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Theatre by the la-ake (read to tune of Cake by the Ocean)

We strolled through the streets of Keswick as the sun was setting, and made it back to the house satisfied and, surprisingly for both of us, not hating the idea of sleeping in the van.

What good kids

So Jocelyn, the lady that we were staying with, is the head of a drama group at the school in Keswick. They’d just done a production of the Tempest, and, in celebration, they were holding an after-party at Jocelyn’s house, followed by a trip to see our show.

You have NO IDEA how nice it is to like ACTUALLY KNOW that there will be people at the show. Like KNOW. IN ADVANCE.

The day itself went off without a hitch. Flyering, followed by a short drive over to the park, where we would be performing. Easy stuff, and another very busy show.

Most of the audience was aged 8 to 13, and personally I really love performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream to kids of that age. I think that they watch it with a whole different mindset to how most of our audiences watch it, laughing at bits that we didn’t realise were funny. On top of that, I get to do a lot of audience interaction when I’m playing Puck, and I think kids of that age appreciate that the most – plus, they give me a very different energy to bounce off.

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Look at our beautiful Bell Tent Boutique just hiding there!

The show was a raucous success – I think it might have been one of our best ones yet – so we weren’t quite ready to settle down yet. The Golden Lion was holding a pub-quiz in aid of Stroke Relief, so we sauntered along, feeling like we deserved a nice, cold pint.

Now let me be honest with you here. We weren’t expecting anything from this pub quiz. Maybe a bit of fun. A cute evening out, a few laughs, some beer, and then back to the van for another strangely magical night’s sleep. I arrived late because I had to move the van back to the house, and I saw that we had some roguely convincing answers. Fine, whatever, still no expectations.

We won.

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And we made a friend!

Well I say we won. Adam won and we watched. The man is a Pub Quiz MACHINE. Honestly. Wanna know who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1984. Ask Adam. Unsure who the 26th President of the United states is? Adam’s your man. Seriously it’s CRAZY impressive…

Feeling even prouder, and carrying the lovely looking bottle of Rioja we had won in our hands, we made our way back to the van again.

Market Day

Thursday is Market Day in Keswick. It was a tough one to flyer because most people were just passing through, and of course that meant that it was going to be difficult for us to wrangle up an audience.

Personally, I LOVE a good market, and this one was absolutely everything you could wish for. From fresh produce to off-brand fake-leather bags, crappy children’s toys to fish caught that morning – Keswick already felt pretty alive, but this was something else. It’s exciting to see a town like this.

Another day sped past with us handing out flyers, and then we met up before the show to have a quick marketing chat. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is fast approaching, and we wanted to think of fun ways to get engage with as many people as possible during the world’s largest fringe. Speaking of which, if you’re going to be around in Edinburgh this August, and fancy coming to see some really fun and lovely shows, we’re performing from the 9th to the 19th. Tickets to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (18:45) are available here, and To The Ocean (15:20) are here.

This was another kid-friendly show, but this time there were a few kids who didn’t come with their parents. We love performing for absolutely anyone and everyone that comes along. But what made this particularly special – at the end, we usually ask for donations towards the cost of the project, and leave a hat by the door. When we went to see what we had collected, the kids had left a handful of their sweets besides some of the money.

Adorable.

That night, we said our goodbyes to Graham and Jocelyn – they are truly lovely, and I would honestly, truly say that if you’re passing through Keswick and looking for a place to stay, look no further than their guest house. You’ll feel welcome from the moment you arrive.

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So the sun sets on Keswick (I regret nothing)

And that was that, Keswick over – after a long day of driving (and our first stop at an Aldi in WAAAY too long), we’ve just arrived in Eyemouth, which means that we’re back in Scotland now and in to the final leg of the journey. 11 more days, 8 more shows, 4 more locations – check out Grace’s blog in a few days to see what the future holds.

Spoilers, it includes an adorable little seaside town, and more seals than you can shake your fist at.

 

 

 

A Wales of a Time

Sometimes these blog titles just write themselves.

As you all well know since Grace left you in her last blog, we’ve travelled across St David’s channel on a perilous journey from the Emerald Isle and across to Wales. After a lovely day racing along the South Coast of Ireland, we got the late ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard, and arrived in St David’s late in the evening. To our campsite.

Now we’ve stayed in some interesting campsites, but this one was…well…okay, so it was essentially just a field. Also no showers. Or, okay, here were showers, but they were open, and cold, and outdoors. And a forty minute walk in to town.

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But still…you know…stunningly beautiful

That’s an issue because, in case you don’t remember, our lovely Vanny Devito has been feeling a little poorly recently, so we were planning to sleep in tents for a few nights while she went to the doctor. So we had to be walking there and back – it was a whole thing.

Get well soon

When your entire project is based around your vehicle, it’s pretty nerve-wracking to face the possibility that the vehicle might not be working any more. Cos like…you know…no van means no tour.

We woke up early and headed over to the Bishop’s Palace – our performance location for the next few days – to drop off everything that we’d be needing. And then I took Vanny up the mechanic’s. St David’s Garage in St David’s.

He gave me the low down – if the steering pump was gone, and we’d been driving the van for upwards of 300 miles before getting her to a mechanic, there was every possibility that they would need to replace the steering rack too. Long story short, the whole repair could be costing us over a grand. But hey, he said, sometimes people get lucky.

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She was looking a little poorly 😦

I left the mechanic praying that we’d be one of those people – they said to call back at 3pm and they’d let me know what the plan was.

The next few hours were spent floating around the town. I’m not someone who’s particularly scared of failure, but staring failure dead in the face is really quite an unpleasant prospect. There were lots of thoughts going through my head, but most of all, the thought that maybe we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew with this project. Cos I mean, let’s be real. It’s a bit silly if you think about it.

I’m not necessarily saying that we had some divine intervention, but the guy running the garage. St David’s Garage. His name was David.

It turns out that someone had done a bit of a bad job rooting the hydraulics through the steering pumps at some point in the last few years. So a pipe had burst. So he fixed it.

Good news, the van works. Bad news, he said it’s really a temporary fix, and we’ll need to get it looked again after tour. In the grand scheme of things, this news seemed pretty fucking good to me.

If you are ever in South-West Wales, and you are having an issue with your car. Just trust me, go to St David’s Garage.

And while I’m on the subject of recommendations…after I collected the van, we went over to our campsite and collected up all our stuff. Because we were moving to the Bishop’s Palace – a medieval ruin, and our performance location. Amanda, the custodian of the site, had been amazingly helpful, and this was probably the easiest site for us to interact with on this project. We explained the situation with the van to her earlier in the day, and she said that if it gets fixed up, we’d be more than welcome to park in the back of the palace and stay there.

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This is where we lived for like 3 days…

We had a barbeque in the field behind the palace, and watched the sunset while bats shot across the skyline .

Football Crazy

I don’t know if you heard, but there was a pretty big football game on last Wednesday. Which was Catastrophic for two reasons really. One because England lost (oh no boo hoo bad at the kick-ball tragedy strikes) but 2 – and more importantly – because we had a show on that no-one seemed interested in. We spent the whole day flyering, largely to responses of ‘oh I’m sorry, I’m going to be watching the football.’

It was fine, you know, whatever, I don’t mind. Just a little disheartening. But overall fine.

We arrive for our performance expecting no audience at all, and begin our warm-up. For the first time in a long time, we actually had the time, as well as permanency of location, to do some work with our performance space – we played some games to get used to the space that we were in, and spoke about how living and performing in this ruined medieval monument might augment our performance.

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Mixtape dropping autumn this year.

AND BOY WERE WE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED.

This was our biggest audience so far, with about 39 people in attendance. That might not seem like much, but it’s incredibly exciting for us – and we were able to accommodate them all comfortably, thanks to our beautiful bell tent from The Bell Tent Boutique! The difference, I think, was that the Bishop’s Palace have been so helpful in sorting out our publicity – they have had our posters on display for weeks, and they’ve been really helping to publicise the show. That meant that word about the project reached the town ages ago, so people could plan accordingly.

Of course, there’s also the fact that St David’s is a stunningly creative town. There is a gallery around every corner, and although it is quite set up for tourists, it still retains that local charm.

I would happily say that this was the best show we’ve done so far.

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SO many people!

Only one other major thing happened that day – we went shopping and OH MY GOD it’s so nice to be back. Ireland was amazing but the food is so freaking expensive. 59p for a packet of cookies? Now that’s much more like it.

The masses descend

A day like any other really – we showered up at the tourist information centre (did I mention that already? We were showering at the tourist information centre. They were very helpful and lovely – drop in if you’re in St David’s). And then we started our day of flyering. Of course, we didn’t have the football to contend with today, so it was a slightly more pleasant experience.

So yep, just trotting along, doing our thing, being us, the usual and then EVERYONE FROM ST DAVID’S CAME TO OUR SHOW.

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Down to our stellar flyering, of course.

The tent was practically bursting at the seems when the show kicked off, and more people kept trickling in as the show progressed. It was hard work to keep everyone engaged, but I think we overall managed it, and when Amanda came to give us the report at the end of the day, she told us that we had an audience of 93. That’s more than double our expected capacity.

Everything about this project is rewarding, but seeing so many people interested in what we’re doing. That’s especially so.

We made dinner and took a small excursion to the pub, deservedly proud of everything that we had done to get to where we were.

Since then, we woke up and headed to our next location – Bala – via a quick stop in Aberystwyth. We’ve had some minor venue nightmares (there’s always a foil to something as pleasant as St David’s) but we’re feeling overall very positive about it here. We’ve got some family members up to see us, and we think it’s going to be a really fab show.

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Our view last night.

Also it’s my birthday today. We’ll keep you updated on how that goes (spoilers, pints are £1.99 in this town, so expect it to get a little rowdy).

On the road again.

We’re back at it again – after we each went our separate ways last week for a much deserved rest, we assembled in Cork Airport on Monday, fresh as daisies and ready to start up again.

Hanna arrived back with us on Tuesday morning, after a lovely time in Texas, and with that, we headed off to our next location, Clonakilty.

Just a heads up, this one is quite van-heavy.

Steering us in the right direction

Clonakilty is a lovely town. Really beautiful, welcoming, friendly.

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See look, so pretty.

My experience of it, however, was a little bit mixed. Please excuse the lack of photos as a result.

We arrived at our planned performance venue (the Clonakilty Agricultural Showgrounds), and after a little bit of confusion, decided that we should head in to town to see if there was anywhere else that we might be able to perform. Not too much of an issue.

Then, the valve on one of the tyres broke. It started leaking. Fast.

I hopped in the van to take it to a tyre shop. Worst-case we’d need to buy a new tyre.

As I got in the van, the arm on my glasses broke.

I drove to the mechanics with the glasses half hanging off my face – going about 10km an hour down what was probably the largest road in Clonakilty is not a particularly good way to endear yourself to the locals.

I dropped the van at the mechanics, and they fixed the whole while I went to a shop and bought some superglue.

Tyre fixed, glasses fixed, sorted.

At that point, I realised that there was a wet patch underneath the van – directly beneath the bonnet. You see, the steering on the van had been a little stiff for the last few days – I thought it was just because we needed more steering fluid, so I topped it up before we left Cork.

But nope. It was leaking.

Great.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t something that could be fixed that day, so I parked up the van and headed in to town to join up with the rest of the team and do some flyering/try to work out where we were going to perform.

Sitting in the square in town, we were at a bit of a loss – green spaces weren’t immediately presenting themselves to us, and the town seemed quite built up.

“Should we go ask in there?” Hanna pointed to a doorway that had the words Clonakilty Community Arts Centre printed about it. That was how we met Sam and Thaddeus – Clonakilty, as it turns out, has an incredibly active and fairly large community arts group. Over the next few days, they were so incredibly helpful both in helping us find our performance space and in helping us pull together an audience for our shows.

Thaddeus took us on a little tour around the town, pointing out all the green spaces that we might be able to use – but in the end, we settled on our original space, after we ironed out the kinks.

We drove up to Desert House camp-site where we stayed for our time in Clonakilty, and had our first camp-stove dinner in a long time. Would you believe me when I say I missed it?

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Sometimes living in a van is quite nice really.

Getting fixed up

We spent the next day running from mechanic to mechanic trying to work out what was wrong with the van – the long and short of it was:

  1. The steering pump (the thing that pressurises the fluid for power-assisted steering) was looking very worse for wear. It’s not completely dead, but it needs replaced in the next 500 miles or so.
  2. Every mechanic in Ireland was busy at the moment.

Especially because we needed to catch our ferry to Wales on the 9th, this was a bit of an issue – every mechanic that I called was totally fully-booked. I think down to the amazingly hot weather that Ireland’s been having at the moment.

After some advice from our breakdown-cover providers about how soon we needed to repair the van, we called a mechanic in St David’s, our first stop in Wales, who said that he should be able to get it sorted while we’re there.

So for now, the problem was solved, and we headed back to the performance site to get ready for the show.

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What a pretty tent we have!

Despite a week long break, it went off without a hitch – I think that was in part because we had a fairly large audience that was also super vocal and responsive.

Clean me up, Scotty

So I’m not going to lie to you, living in a van for a month and a bit has it draw backs – probably the largest of which is the lack of a washing machine. I’ve been recycling clothes for weeks now. Everything smells. Send help.

Anyway, Hanna and I decided that enough was enough. We packed up all our gross, smelly, mouldy laundry, and found a fantastic laundrette/biohazard clinic in town that would wash and dry them all before we left the next morning.

I was uncertain that anyone would be able to clean these clothes – I don’t know what she did to them, but I now smell like a daffodil at all times. Which makes a nice change to however I smelt before.

We dropped our laundry off, and then found a café so that we could order…wait for it…OUR MERCHANDISE. Photos will be available when they arrive, but it’s basically a white baseball shirt with blue sleeves and the tour logo on the front. We’re actually going to have a few spare, so if anyone is interested in buying one, please hit us up!

We got to flyering, and then met up at the showgrounds again for our last performance in Clonakilty – we had a special visit from a kid named Lyle, who brought his family to see the show for his birthday. Of course, that was heart-warming, and it gave us the boost that we really needed to put on another fantastic show.

There was an open-mic night in town, and we had planned to go, but by the time we got back to the camp-site, I think we were all pretty tired. It was time for bed.

And that was it – our time in Clonakilty was done. Overall, a beautiful and friendly town.

Oh also, I almost forgot, totally over-run with roadworks at the moment. Like we were frequently in traffic that was at a total stand-still. But they’ll be finished by the end of the summer I believe, and I imagine the town will be even nicer when they’re done.

Yesterday, we drove out to our next and final location in Ireland – Crosshaven. I’ll let Grace tell you all about that next time. Spoilers, it’s pretty beautiful too.