Dear friends, supporters of Unlimited and any random internet rabbit hole-ers who have found this despite setting out 2 hours ago just to buy themselves some socks online, it is time for me to leave Unlimited Theatre.
I created Unlimited Theatre with five of my dearest friends in 1997, shortly after completing a degree in Theatre Studies and English Literature at Leeds University.
Clare, Jon, Lou, Liz, Paul, Chris on the set of No Brave World at the Workshop Theatre in 1997 (photo by Ed Collier)
We met mostly through the Workshop Theatre and that small, black box, pros-arch, shop of dreams has been in my thoughts so much, since coming to the decision that it is time for me to leave our company.
I love that space. I loved the ritual of wheeling the flies up and down, folding up the massive dusty curtains at the end of term, watching Chris Thorpe doing the lights inventory under Trevor Faulkner’s eagle-eyed supervision. I love that when I met her, my now wife was only a few years out from her starring role on that stage, in Frances Babbages’ version of The Magic Toyshop, directed by the inspirational Amanda Price. I’m very much hoping that when Covid allows, I’ll be able to meet my Unlimited family (by whom I mean anyone who has been with us at any point of the journey over the past 23 years as a maker or audience member) and raise a glass or two to the Theatre Studies department, the Workshop Theatre and all the work that Unlimited started there.
In 1997 Louisa Ashley, Liz Margree, Jon Spooner, Chris Thorpe, Paul Warwick and I decided over a massive fried breakfast that we were going to seriously try to start a theatre company. The three years between then and when I met Valerie (previously mentioned wife and French woman) still seem to be the most intense years of my life. I came out as a writer and a gay/queer woman, I wrote successful funding applications, did acting and writing and ran an LGBTQ+ youth group, (making internet and digital art in the school holidays), I got ill for a year and then better and Unlimited won 2 Fringe Firsts. We also performed ‘Freak Out’ thousands of times to 10-11 year olds in every school in Kirklees. The next twenty years flew by, but those first 3 years of Unlimited have been the absolute foundation of me, and for that reason as well as many, many others it was almost impossible to say ‘this is the end of my time as a core artist with Unlimited’. But it is.
Over the past 3 years while making a new show, I started to realise I was also making a new theatre company. Civic Digits started because I wanted to make The Big Data Show. It tells the story of my co-writer, the incomparable Rupert Goodwins and his teenage years as a hacker of BT and Prince Philip. Now we’re making games with Herriot Watt University and Glasgow School of Art, we’re making data driven actors (robots) with Edinburgh International Festival, Creative Informatics and pupils at Leith Academy. We’re creating new tech to tell stories about tech and it’s more than a full-time job. I love it. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s joyous. And it means that it is time for me to leave Unlimited.
The current permanent team at Unlimited are fantastic. In alphabetical order they are: Javairya Khan, (Assistant Producer), Alice Massey, (Executive Producer), Jon Spooner, (Artistic Director) and Sarah Webb , (General Manager). They have an inspirational vision. My love and support are always with them. It’s also been such a pleasure working with our Board of Trustees who always bring so much care and skill to their roles. Finally, my huge thanks are also due to all the beautiful people I’ve had the pure pleasure of meeting and working with over the past 23 years through Unlimited.
It’s so sad in so many ways that this is the end of my official role with Unlimited. But it’s definitely not the end of my time cheering on everyone in Unlimited and everything they do.