The Monthly interviews Patricia Downey from Spanner in the Works Theatre Company

How do you feel the company managed during the pandemic?

It was a very difficult situation for us through the worst periods of the Lockdown and we had to shift to producing work online in order to survive. It was also a period where we all had to learn new skills and in some ways that was a blessing and in other ways now people expect a lot from us now.

You moved your work online?

We produced videos of our plays where the actors would record their parts remotely and we would then connect those up online, we had a project where we worked on videos about scams, and this enabled us to address issues of scamming to over 30,000 online views which were great because it meant we kept the actors employed.

If you remember a lot of our work was just shut down when the theatres and community centres weren’t open and that meant we didn’t have venues to perform our work. We also did work with schools, the schools were actually crying out for us to do things for young people, we did a lot of work on mental health, and we did end up taking our play, “Buttercup” to the Buxton Fringe Festival and we did very well there. We actually won Best Production and Best Writer at that festival.

What are you doing now?

We have just finished touring the play Deception with live performances to 32 venues across northern Ireland. We are rehearsing play, “Runny Honey” at the moment this will be performed in Long gallery at Stormont and will be toured to the Buxton Festival again this year.

You had to postpone a lot of work. Are you now able to present that work?

We also have a programme, No boundaries, where we have produced material to deal with the question of domestic violence, and we are doing work for that project both digitally and live performance.

We have videos of issues arising from the question of domestic abuse which are very hard hitting and the Department of Justice has them on their website which is a recognition of our work.

How were the funders?

All of our funders were very understanding, The Arts Council was very understanding and helpful and for us, we thought we were treated very well during Lockdown.

Where to now?

I do think we need to protect the actors a lot more. As  we move into ding digital work, there needs to be a policy regarding, particularly payments for online work, which can be used over and over again without any additional payments.

Beyond that we are hoping to take Buttercup to Edinburgh and as I said we have the Buxton Fringe Festival with Runny Honey.

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