…Aaaaand we’re done, 2016. (Well, almost). It’s been a heck of a year world-wide, what with so many great people dying and ALL OF THE POLITICS. But now it’s nearly over, and we at Replay are doing our own little bit of navel gazing, looking back over the last 12 months. (Not that our navels are on our backs… that would be weird… but… you know what we mean).
In March we had the world premiere of Snoozle & The Lullabugs – our show for kids under 5 with moderate-profound learning difficulties, at The MAC Belfast as part of Belfast Children’s Festival. Full of snoozy tunes and rockin’ rhythms our cast completed a busy four-week tour around schools in Northern Ireland and theatres in the South, kept going by feedback like this:
“It was fantastic! My son has learning disabilities and his attention span would be extremely short, however for the full performance he was fully focused on everything that was happening around him. I have never seen him intrigued by anything for this length of time before, thank you to all involved, it was top class!! … Keep up the great work, you are making a huge difference!”
In April we said goodbye to our Interim Executive Director Karen Gallagher and hello to new Chief Exec Brian Mullan. We also waved off Artistic Director Anna Newell and welcomed new AD Janice Kernoghan.
Hot on the heels of Snoozle & The Lullabugs, we remounted our show WiggleGiggle for ages 3-5, which toured for six weeks between April and June;
“really lovely. Great fun and energy. I can’t remember my daughter sitting so still and so engaged for that amount of time.”
Then in June we won Family Event of the Year at the NI4Kids Awards for Belfast BabyDay! This was super brilliant, made even brillianter (shush) by the fact that we ate the baby food out of the goodie bags and it was really nice. Seriously. So nice.
In July we were honoured to be selected to take our show BLISS to Birmingham for the World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences, where we played three days of shows to students with profound disabilities from the fantastic Mayfield School. (As well as catching shows from the best theatre makers from across the globe and eating a lot of quality curries).
In July we also toured our small-scale production evenCLOSER to special school summerschemes across Northern Ireland (it’s a mini version of our show CLOSER, in case it sounds like we’ve finally gone too far with the weird show names), and in August we prepped for Little ChillVille – our tented village at this year’s Culture Night Belfast on 16th September. We had hundreds of people come to the event, and it was maximum fun. And we met a child who was so wise, we genuinely asked her for some life advice and tried to refrain from writing her answers down in case it looked weird.
In October, for four weeks we re-toured Into the Blue - our show which takes place in special school hydropools. It’s a particular favourite of ours, and always gets truly wonderful reactions from the children. Radio Ulster’s Arts Extra came to record a piece on the show and in conversation with one of our staff, presenter Marie Louise Muir called it the most moving piece of theatre she’d ever seen.
In October we also found out that we’d been successful in securing another three years’ funding from Children In Need towards our UP project, meaning that we could appoint a Lead Artist for Inclusion (YAY!). In December that Lead Artist joined the staff team – Andrew Stanford, perfect for the role since he has spent a significant amount of time over the past few years wearing copious amounts of lycra for various Replay shows within the UP project.
In the Autumn term, we also delivered 16 participatory workshops to the Boys’ Model School in North Belfast, talking about emotional health, empathy and conflict resolution.
Then in November we had our third creative development on Dancing at the Disco at the End of the World – our brand new show premiering next year. We’re SUPER excited about it, but aren’t giving too much away just yet. (Please try and enjoy your Christmas, regardless).
And now it’s December. We’re very busy in the office – planning next year’s projects, completing funding applications and gazing at our inadequate office Christmas tree.
Oh, and on top of all that, we found out we’ve been short-listed in TWO categories for this year’s Arts & Business NI Awards! One for Corporate Responsibility alongside Mothercare UK & an Arts Award.
In short, while 2016 may not have been the best year for the world, it’s been a good year for Replay. Our audiences remind us constantly that hope is stronger than fear, kindness is stronger than hate and love is stronger than adversity. So here’s to 2017. May it be all we hope for.