I am quite nervous. Five years ago, in 2016, I was sitting in my backyard, having coffee and chatting with a friend while our kids were having fun. We were depressed about the election results in the United States and wondered why no one was listening to women. From this conversation came the idea of creating a platform for women’s voices. It sounded like positive action in the face of silenced or unbelieved women. I decided to give them space to tell their stories. Of course, I had no idea that five years later I would be preparing to take the stage at the Bush Theater to record live in front of an audience a podcast episode with some of the brightest women I had admired. remotely for a while.
We started small, with posters on billboards in local pubs, looking for plays. I asked my collaborator, director Lily McLeish, to conduct a reading at Hackney Attic, and set up a Twitter account. Word of mouth started to circulate, and eventually, by the third event, I think, we managed to attract about three hundred submissions from 45 different countries. The events were sold out, the bar was buzzing, everything was great fun.
But Lily and I had always been a little frustrated that there was such widespread interest, but the audience was mostly based in London, or at least the UK. It seemed such a shame, as we were trying to bond globally, then being pinned down to the one place in our room in Hackney.
The seed had therefore been sown from the start, but only the confinement chased the green shoot. When we got used to having all of our meetings on Zoom very quickly, Lily and I were suddenly struck by the brainwave solution to using technology to connect our writers, directors and, most importantly, our audiences around the world. The Sparkling sorbet podcast was born and took off with a pilot series, where we not only presented the pieces, but also gave our writers a space to talk about everything and nothing, to get to know them better. Just as there were no restrictions or guidelines on the content of the pieces we were looking for, we just wanted an open cafe with them. Along with these discussions, we took the opportunity to invite special guests to the podcast who were mostly outside of the theater industry. They were historians, psychologists, environmentalists, a young woman who had been in a relationship with an undercover cop and who could tell us about the experience in parallel with a play on police espionage.
It was a great way to be connected during lockdown, for me, but also for everyone involved in creating the podcast. We’ve assembled a brilliant team in three different countries, including producers Ameena Hamid and Steph J Weller, playwright and director Sandra Theresa Buch, screenwriter and performer Josephine Starte and director Anna Girvan.
But all this time, we’ve only seen each other on Zoom. Now this Saturday we’ll see each other at the Bush Theater. We will be making our very first live recording of the world premiere of The diagnosis by nominated playwright Olivier Athena Stevens, directed by Anna Girvan.
We’ll also chat with Athena, Artistic Director of Aegis Productions, Writer in Residence at Finborough Theater and Associate Artist at The Globe and with our amazing special guest, Sophie Williams, author of Millenial Black and Anti-Racist Ally. She is Ted Speaker, Founder of OfficialMillenialBlack and Global Head of Production at Netflix. She was responsible for The end of the fucking world, if anyone saw this (I’m a fan-girl like crazy while typing this).
Lizzie Annis will take the lead of the cast of The diagnosis just before joining the cast of Tennessee Williams’ Glass factory, directed by Jeremy Herrin, at the Duke of York.
We feel like we have come full circle. From the live events at Hackney to the digital podcast platform until now this crossover event at The Bush, which will both be live at night and then digitally accessible for years to come on the podcast.
So yeah, I’m nervous, but in a good way, in the best possible way.
Glad we can share the live recording with an internal audience, which will hopefully include you (!) And then stream the podcast episode worldwide and for free (it could be you too, well sure, with your headphones). Saturday evening will be a truly unifying and accessible experience, not just for the original team of the Sparkling Sorbet Podcast, but also his bubbly audience, who gathered quietly during lockdown, and are now ready to hit town for a bubbly party. True to the tradition established in Hackney Attic, we will be giving away a free Fizzy Sherbet in the evening (i.e. if stockouts allow – we blame Brexit!) And there will be heated discussions in the bar at the theater after the event.
Learn more about Fizzy Sherbet here; tickets for the Bush Theater show can be purchased here.