Merry Tricksmas! Festive Missive 2023 19/12/2023

As the nights draw in, and that festive feeling builds, let’s take a look back at a busy year at Box of Tricks’ Towers and have a sneaky peak at what early 2024 has in store…

In January, we celebrated the thrill of the new with our PlayMakers Takeover 2023: a jam-packed day of creative conversations, insightful workshops, impassioned panel discussions and our first ever BoxFresh showcase of new plays. Celebrating Northern talent, BoxFresh showcased six new plays from Box of Tricks’ PlayMakers Network supported by local production company Rope Ladder Fiction.

“A timely, richly theatrical piece that straddles the intimate and the epic with ease”
★★★★ The Stage

In Spring, our production of Too Much World at Once toured to 15 venues throughout March and April and received four- and five-star reviews from a range of publications including The Stage and West End Best Friend. This was our first project working with a sustainability consultant, and our first to have creative audio description provided by Hear the Picture – an experience which has shaped our plans to make our future work more environmentally friendly and accessible.

We had a great year with our LGBTQ+ writers’ group, Blood Beats. We ran nine sessions from our Cheetham Hill office, had three group trips to see plays totalling 6 queer writers. Along with developing our skills with expert guest speakers, our members also celebrated community at our summer Pride Picnic, and collaborated in testing out our works in progress at the Blood Beats’ Creative Jam. Most importantly, we’ve built a community of LGBTQ+ creatives who are supporting each other and going from strength to strength together.

For a third year running, we had the pleasure of working with the students on the MA Playwriting course at the University of Manchester to workshop and showcase extracts of their work. We had a fantastic week at the University bringing to life a diverse and exciting range of stories from 9 emerging writers, and look forward to supporting their ongoing development through our PlayMakers Network.

We worked with 12 writers over the course of 6 months during this year’s Pen Pals programme. Fantastic new creative partnerships were born, and 12 brand new ideas sparked – ranging from plays about navigating coming out later in life, via saintly visions, robots and space pirates.

Our Radical Readers playreading sessions have headed to four North West venues this year – Oldham, Everton, Manchester and Knowsley. Each event has been brilliantly attended and the discussions on the plays have been rich, honest and insightful.

This year, we hosted two brilliant Creative Jams at The Yard MCR. One was outdoors in the peak of Manchester summer (yes it happened); the other was an amazing Blood Beats Takeover. Each event showed the best of the city with stories, poems, music and dance fusing through creative collaborations live in the room.

Earlier this year, we successfully launched our new PlayMakers Podcast and released 9 episodes, including a PlayBox special. In total, we platformed 11 brilliant creatives and started to establish an audience around the globe. We also recorded the first three episodes of our new season – a season of episodes that have the added bonus of being video recorded. We’ll be using audio description and captioning to make Season 2 of the podcast even more accessible. Watch this space!

At the end of the year, we returned to The Arden with Winter Tales: an anthology of six brand new plays with a seasonal twist specially commissioned for third-year actors. We brought a veritable smorgasbord of new work to the stage: a Winter Solstice celebration, Arctic scientists, an am-dram nativity, a heartbreak hotel, an office Christmas party and elves unionising against Santa.

Looking ahead, we’ll be back at HOME Mcr in January for our annual PlayMakers Takeover 2024. Brace yourself for an all-day new play extravaganza: four rehearsed readings from our PlayBoxers, a PlayMakers Offstage workshop with Associate Sound Designer & Composer Lee Affen and a drop-in Culture Café for Northern creatives. Sharings of our PlayBox plays will be the culmination of our year-long writer-on-attachment programme offering bespoke residencies to four early-career North West playwrights to write a new play with support from Box of Tricks. Hope to see you there!

In January, we’ll also be announcing who will be joining our brand new Accelerate programme for 12 Northern writers aged 35+. Over the course of nine months, each writer will be invited to develop the first draft of a new play with support from Box of Tricks, as well as attending monthly group sessions.

As we shut up shop for the Christmas holidays and head out for our company celebrations with our incredible team, we’d just like to say a huge thank you to the audiences, artists and funders who have supported our work this year. If you’re in a position to help us make all this work happen again next year, please consider making a donation towards our PlayMakers Fund.

We hope you all have a wonderful festive period and a glorious start to 2024. Until then, Merry Tricksmas!

With love from the Tricksters,

Adam, Hannah, Justina, Marcy, Billie, Karla, Conway and Paddy x