• Brian Mullan (CEO)

Remember when we turned 30?

2018 was a big year for Replay! It was the year we would turn 30, a year to celebrate 30 wonderful years of bringing first class theatre experiences to young people across Northern Ireland and further afield. A year in which we were determined to rest on our laurels and bask in former glories…

No wait – that’s not the Replay way. We had work to do. Because while turning 30 meant that the company was a proper grown up now (not like your 18th or even your 21st) and it was time to show off a little bit of the new work that we’d been working on. We had 4 full tours planned for the year and of course reason to celebrate too.

But our birthday year was to start with a stark reminder that the arts community would continue to be a victim of austerity. A word that many of us hadn't really heard used in conversation or even heard 10 years ago and now it's just an accepted term that describes the standard policy of "we're all in this together" politics. When difficult decisions are made around spending at government level it is put down to "austerity".

A decade of austerity has not been without its impact on the Arts in Northern Ireland. Since 2012 the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has seen funding from departmental sources reduced by 40% when inflationary measurements are included and this has led to a roll out of cuts to sector funding on an annual basis. It's fair to say that this has not all been passed onto the sector and that for a large part ACNI have tried to absorb some of the austerity driven cuts and approached passing on what was left by "salami slicing" awards across the board. But Arts organisations were called together in January this year to explain that we have to brace ourselves for at least another 2 years of cuts and that the salami slice approach is no longer sustainable (like it ever was?).

But it wasn’t all bad news. In early 2018 Replay also received the amazing news that a 3-year funding commitment was approved by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for the development of our work with disabled audiences. The UP! Programme would have a firm foundation until 2021 with additional support to develop not only our work but also our evaluative practices, ensuring that we continue to develop best practice in this area for years to come!

The spring saw our first tour of the year with our new show for Early Years audiences BABY DADDY hitting the road. Travelling to Sure Starts across Northern Ireland this show was delivered over 50 times by our 3 wonderfully bearded actors and the feedback was such that we’re planning to bring it back next Summer!


was quickly followed by a retour of the fantastic Dan Leith show WOOFLE. Dan brought his show into primary schools and performed to almost 2,000 children in the space of just 3 weeks! I’m sure by the end of the tour his throat was feeling a little bit “ruff” (sorry about that – I can’t resist a good doggy pun) but once again the show has proven so popular that a number of festival appearances have popped up here and there!

This year Replay has also entered into a new partnership with Translink NI to deliver exciting rail safety drama workshops as part of a creative consultation process which will see the commissioning of a new play in 2019 for post-primary audiences. The #CROSSINGTHELINES workshops were targeted at schools in areas where pupils are likely to be using the train and saw over 600 young people take part. We are so excited to be involved in this project which has been shortlisted for a “New Sponsor” award at the Arts &

Business NI Awards in January. Fingers crossed!!

The summer saw some lower key performances like SNOOZLE AND THE LULLABUGS at the TaDa! festival in Strabane and EVEN CLOSER as part of a number of special school’s summer programmes. We also hosted another ADVENTURE COLLECTIVE sectoral development week where practitioners were able avail of CPD opportunities through specifically targeted training.

All this while planning our great big birthday bash! Did I mention the company turned 30 this year?

Held in the Crumlin Road Gaol, the scene of our production of MACBETH held during our 20th birthday year, a special party where familiar faces from Replay’s past were invited to come along and help us celebrate! We had scenes from plays in all 3 decades performed beautifully by Sara Dylan and Catriona McFeely and the exciting announcement of our 3 new patrons.

We are so thrilled to welcome the company founder Brenda Palmer, award winning playwright Marie Jones and star of stage and screen Ian McElhinney (all of whom were involved in our first ever production Under Napoleon’s Nose) as our new Company Patrons. All three have shown great commitment to delivering theatre for young audiences and it seems appropriate that they have come on board to help advocate for this work. You can read more about their thoughts on our About Us page.

But enough of the navel gazing, we still had work to do before the year was out and 2 full tours under the UP! Programme to get on the road! YES SIR I CAN BOOGIE, our new production in partnership with the fantastic Firefly by Leckey hit the road after a lengthy creative development process. This show was developed utilising the UPSEE harness for children with limited mobility. Our work with Firefly by Leckey has been shortlisted for the "Long Term Partnership" award at the Arts & Business NI Awards in January. A beautifully poignant show which not only delivered a piece of theatre for some of our audiences for the first time but also enabled them to dance! Watch out for part 2 of this tour coming in 2019!

This tour was quickly followed by CLOSER - a retour of our cosmic show from 2014 for PMLD audiences. Travelling across Northern Ireland AND into space this show was performed almost 50 times (that's a lot of blastoffs!) and was met with wonderful feedback from every special school we visited.

But the CLOSER spacecraft has been docked and the Replay van parked up for a short while as we look towards another year of exciting theatre adventures in 2019. The year ahead will see us deliver a retour of BABY DADDY, a new production for young autistic and neurodivergent audiences TRIBE, our #CROSSINGTHELINES tour and also a newly commissioned production for primary school aged children (you'll just have to wait to hear a bit more about that one!)

So, when all is said and done what a year it's been! I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the wonderful work of the Company in 2018. From our brilliant administrative staff and our creative team, a heartfelt THANK YOU for all of your support. To our funders and donors, our artists and collaborators and to our audiences here's hoping for a happy and adventurous 2019.

Signing off...