Last weekend was a double anniversary celebration. 12 years married to the amazing Kath Burlinson, and 10 years since Perfect Pitch was founded by the equally amazing Wendy and Andy Barnes.
On Sunday night there was a gathering at the Groucho Club in honour of 10 years of musical theatre development through Perfect Pitch. It was a joy to catch up with performers, writers, theatre managers, critics, directors and producers who have worked with the organisation over the years. It is a fitting tribute to their combined work that “The Go Between” has moved from a tiny workshop with loads of chairs in Trafalgar Studios, through to a west end triumph led by Roger Haines and Michael Crawford. That is just one of dozens of shows which are moving through the Perfect Pitch pipeline of development to reaches stages across the UK as well as in the USA, Korea and Japan.
It is right to celebrate the work of Emma Stenning when she was at the Arts Council for taking my challenge to crack through a concrete wall between the artform of musical theatre, and the senior officers who did not think of musical theatre as an artform worthy of development support. Now the artform is deeply enriched by the developmental support of the Arts Council, and the coming of age and the increase in skills of so many British writers. It may be 30-40 years behind the development path of playwrights and contemporary dance, but it is catching up fast.
12 years ago on this day Kath and I looked back on our wedding as we headed to Paris with slightly sore heads for a weekend’s honeymoon. Sept 18th 2004 had been a glorious day for us and, at its heart, there had been much singing and merriment. The company of YMT:UK, in its very very early days of infancy, came together to sing extracts from Kath and Conor Mitchell’s Goblin Market, and some other numbers. Conor wrote a scurrilous song about me, and we had guests aplenty who cheered the impromptu concert. At that time there was no arts council funding for musical theatre, no Cameron Mackintosh composer awards, no Perfect Pitch, no Scenic Route, no “From Page to Stage”, and the Vivian Ellis Prize had been culled by its own board. Now the landscape is a different place.
And finally, the celebration offered me a great time to look back even further – to the day when Roger Haines and I met back in 1988 and flew to New York together to hold a reception for musical theatre writers and developers. It took 4 years from that point to create the first UK Festival of Musicals with 492 new works being assessed from 16 countries by our amazing panel of readers and judges. No arts council funding then, but an gathering of amazing sponsors. Sadly the festival was a one off and Judi Dench never got to be artistic director of our next festival, although she had agreed. But without Roger we would not have started so many things in Buxton which rippled out over the years to move the artform development forward. Thanks Roger and Anthony for a great catch up on Sunday.
My week since Sunday has been knee deep in new creatives and new producers, with new ideas and new enthusiasm. It was wonderful to share a theatre with 16 producers and directors as we all watched Dreamless Sleep produced by Ellie Claughton and written/directed by Georgie Straight at the Arts Theatre. This new 16 arrivals at Mountview for their MA can celebrate the partnerships between producers and directors which are possible when both decide to share in the journey of theatremaking. This year we have a few of the 16 who are passionate about Musical Theatre – so who knows where they will move the artform that dares to speak its name in perfect pitch.