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Spotlight on | Middle Child's artist development programme Louder Than Words

Posted 29 Jul 2023 by Joe Duggan

After the huge success of ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ – a Hull UK City of Culture commission by NYT Alumnus Luke Barnes – Hull’s Middle Child theatre returns with a brand new artist development programme for Hull theatre makers. 

Louder Than Words offers actors, writers, theatre companies, critics, and those getting into theatre for the first time, the chance to hone their craft locally without having to leave Hull. From an Acting Gym for local performers to brush up their skills between jobs, to a new theatre library in association with Oberon Books offering hundreds of free-to-borrow play scripts, to a New Critics programme supported by top writers including Lyn Gardner (The Guardian), and companies from West Yorkshire Playhouse, to New Diorama Theatre and Paines Plough  – the scheme allows local residents and young creatives not only to engage with but also to influence the city’s theatre scene. 

The programme is designed to allow creatives to develop while actually making work rather than just exploring hypothetical situations. Members of The Middle Child Writers Group, in collaboration with the Royal Court, will take part in a series of workshops focused on finding their voice as a playwright before beginning work on their own new play, which they’ll develop with feedback from the Royal Court literary team. 

Hull Playwright Tom Wells who’s leading the group has spoken of his hope that the group will help to change the face of the city’s theatre scene. "Hull is a city of brilliant stories and brilliant storytellers - funny and sad and sparky and strong. I'd love to see more of these voices and stories on stage, in Hull and beyond. Hopefully Middle Child Writers Group can be part of this, by helping people to write their first play."

Other opportunities include the First Show Fund helping one new Hull Company or individual to produce, market and record their first piece of work, and The Middle Child Match Fund supporting the creation of new work in Hull by pledging match funding of up to £1,000 towards a new production by a Hull-based theatre company. Whilst the programme’s Gig Theatre in a Week Writer Residency offers one new writer the chance to explore Middle Child’s speciality, gig theatre, through a week of workshops and R&D exploring audiences and space and how live music and writing can work together, and will culminate in a showcase at the workspace in West Hull. 

The company’s Hull base is a vital part of its central nervous system. The whole project is geared towards creating better representation for the people of Hull and their stories, and includes a special commitment to the residents of Hull’s Thornton Estate, one of the most deprived wards in the city and the home to Middle Child’s space. The programme’s Lock In Festival will see four new short plays created in a day, based on ideas from residents of the Thornton Estate.  

Artistic Director Paul Smith explains what drew the company’s University of Hull founding members back to the city. “We went to London or we went to various other cities, and we just didn't quite find that “thing” that Hull has that's really hard to quantify. It’s personable, people are supportive and kind and honest and straight with you. So you can't fake it in Hull. People smell it a mile off”, plus “we feel like there was a genuine need and desire for this kind of art to be made here”. 

Paul explains that when Middle Child was founded in 2010, they took their name from the Fight Club quote ‘We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place’. “We felt at the time that that was what we were becoming as a generation: this forgotten, ignored middle child who had to shout loudly to be heard… we didn't really have a place, or a “thing”, or a role yet”. Through Louder Than Words, Middle Child are offering the people of Hull the chance to scratch our their purpose and place in the very streets they grew up in. 

Applications are now open for the Louder Than Words programme, find out more and apply here.


This article is part of our monthly Young People in Theatre newsletter, spotlighting all that's happening across the UK in theatre for young people. Sign up here