Coming Home: My first week at Unity

Thursday, 28 March 2024

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Coming Home: My first week at Unity

By Eli Randle


Sitting in the Unity this week I’ve been reflecting on my journey as an artist in Liverpool, many memories flooding in of times spent in these walls!

I first started coming to the Unity as a student, I was doing Drama at JMU next door and we saw so many incredible and inspiring companies like Told by an Idiot, Improbable, and Volcano. There was always something on, and it didn’t matter what it was, or really whether I liked it, as it was about seeing different work, being part of a buzzing creative community.

It was through Hope Street Limited that I first performed at the Unity. Hope Street was an incredible organisation that at that time ran the Physical Theatre Programme, a 6-monthtraining programme with a range of acclaimed artists, operating like a rep company model with 3 shows at the Unity Theatre. This was where I fell in love with physical theatre and met brilliant people who wanted to collaborate and set up a company. Hope Street and Peter Ward (the Director) supported us and many others post course in our formative days of being a company, as did the wonderful Graeme Phillips (AD of Unity from early 90’s to 2015)

Local theatre companies Rejects Revenge and Spike (who came out of Hope St) were doing really well and producing brilliant work that was touring nationally. Seeing them showed me what was possible, having support and a theatre that took risks on artists made it possible.

Unity was my theatrical home, and continued to be when I created and started a festival- Physical Fest, bringing exciting contemporary physical theatre work from around the world to our city. Being inspired by other artists and a passion for continually training, was really born in Hope Street Limited, the range of people who came to work with us was fantastic and opened up new possibilities for many people.

Supporting and developing local artists has been a huge part of my work, and with many support agencies gone over the years, it became even more important. I’ve been committed to create programmes, bursaries and initiatives to do that through Tmesis and Physical Fest that support artists and companies.

Being here feels natural and right. I’m actually looking at a picture on wall of office opposite me from the solo show, Wolf Red I did in 2013 which they have titled ‘BE BOLD’ I look quite scary, and it was terrifying to do a solo show, having the support and backing of an incredible theatre made it possible. This is a good reminder, to be bold, especially in times where it feels like we have to be safe, but there is no art without risk, and if there’s no space to be supported to take this risk, what will theatre look like.

The Unity should be a home for creativity, experimenting, inspiration and community. I want people to feel that buzz I used to feel coming here. It’s difficult times for many arts organisations and artists. How do we survive, how do we keep our integrity, how do we best serve artists? This is a challenge I am passionate about and hope you can help me on this journey.

Coming up….

Comedy Queers

Liverpool Improvisation

Up Next Festival 2024 


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