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Power Plays light up Blackpool Old Electric

Opened as the Princess Electric Theatre in 1922, the Old Electric has been a cinema, market, band venue and various nightclubs over the past 102 years
Opened as the Princess Electric Theatre in 1922, the Old Electric has been a cinema, market, band venue and various nightclubs over the past 102 years

Leading playwrights, writers and theatre makers will light a creative spark for new playwriting across the region with an innovative Power Plays Festival at Blackpool’s newest theatre from this month.

The Old Electric opened last summer in a refurbished (with the help of the National Lottery funding) former nightclub in Springfield Road in the heart of the town.

Until the summer, internationally-acclaimed playwright Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night Time); renowned theatre maker and academic Dr Andy Smith; award-winning playwright Nick Wood (Warrior Square, A Girl With a Book); literary manager, critic and dramaturg Dr Frank Peschier; National Theatre dramaturg Stewart Pringle, top screenwriter and performance artist Krishna Isthna (Sex Education) and others will hold workshops and talks at the community theatre space.

The festival - which features almost 50 separate events - will support new writing for the stage, explore original perspectives on the region, and establish the Old Electric as Blackpool’s home of new writing.

Multi-award-winning playwright Simon Stephens said: “I'm excited to be part of a project so committed to supporting playwrights in Blackpool. It’s a place that has meant a lot to me, and a place that has inspired me to write and if, even for a brief time, I can inspire writers, well that only seems right and proper.”

Fellow masterclass host and playwright Nick Wood added: “The theatre, playwrights, and the arts in general, are going through a tough time at the moment and I think it’s great this festival will give new, fresh, vital, regional voices a chance to be heard.”

The Old Electric's auditorium. Pic: Dave Gordon
The Old Electric's auditorium. Pic: Dave Gordon

Dr Frank Peschier - from internationally acclaimed theatre company Headlong - is also a freelance dramaturg, critic and lecturer who is passionate about new writing. She said of her involvement with the festival: “I am so excited and honoured to be asked to be part of Power Plays. The Old Electric is a creative hub and home for artists in the North West.”

The multi-layered programme includes a supported visit to Blastfest at the Dukes in Lancaster; a practical Wild Writing session exploring ways to start writing without being limited by expectations of form or needing to finish; a Reimagining Gothic Horror workshop; opportunities for neurodivergent writers who want different techniques to create material; artist question and answer sessions; an interactive spoken word event; pre and post-show talks, plus a National Theatre-supported primary schools programme, in which local year five pupils will see their words brought to life by professional actors.

The festival also features a playwriting competition, to be launched in May, which will invite scripts showcasing themes important to Blackpool people, building to a performance of the winning script in July and a tour of the production in 2025.

The Old Electric's artistic director, Melanie Whitehead, said: “Power Plays is our next stage in encouraging and supporting new talent. To have rock stars of the literary world like Simon Stephens and Andy Smith appearing, along with local creatives, is truly inspiring.

"Power Plays is also about changing the narrative so often associated with Blackpool, and looking at positive change and regeneration through new creative works. We hope to encourage and mentor a new generation of writers.”

The programme has also meant the theatre has been able to appoint an assistant festival producer, Abi Hellam, and a writer-in-residence, Martha Pailing. Blackpool-born Martha is a writer, spoken word and performance artist whose work often blends personal material with fictional characters. She will be hosting a Conversation Drop In during the festival and inviting artists and the community to chat.

Full infomation, listings and tickets here


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