What a year 2018 was for Baseless Fabric! We began the year with the thrilling news that we were the first recipient of the Wimbledon Foundation’s prestigious new Arts and Community Engagement Fund for our new street opera project Die Fledermaus!
This project, with the additional support of Arts Council England, Merton Council and the Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust, encompasses the creative adaptation of an opera for the high street, the free professional performances, workshops for both schools and elderly lunch clubs and two school parallel productions! So while the project has similarities to our previous street operas Drifting Dragons and Cosi Fan Tutte, it is also bigger and better than ever!
During 2018 we creatively adapted the opera for the high street with Artistic Director Joanna Turner re-writing the libretto, Leo Geyer re-writing the music for 3 instruments, and our exciting professional cast exploring sections of the new adaptation in our Research & Development period and showing a few scenes to an invited audience at Wimbledon Theatre Studio in November 2018. During 2019 the libretto and score will undergo further development, the cast will undertake a full rehearsal period leading to the free unticketed performances in early August 2019. And before then we have to develop relationships with all the businesses we wish to perform in (about 50!), some new some old across both Merton and Wandsworth, so we can bring our unique re-imagining of Die Fledermaus to a high street near you. Being a Merton Best Business Award Finalist for Best in the Creative Sector this year will no doubt help.
We revived our previous street opera Cosi Fan Tutte in June 2018 after we were a Finalist for Best Opera Production at the OffWestEnd Awards in March. It was fantastic to welcome back the old team as well as new faces Louisa Tee, Ilona Suomalainen and Zanete Uskane to bring the 5-star production to life again in Colliers Wood The Qube Shopping Centre, Mitcham town centre, and a thrilling indoor evening adaptation in Wimbledon’s Merton Arts Space.
In July 2018 we continued our success of bringing opera taster workshops to local schools to introduce young people to opera in a modern, accessible and relevant way and excite as many young people as we can with this wonderful art form. Our brilliant workshop leaders Elliott, James and Danae inspired over 400 young people in both primary and secondary schools in Merton and Wandsworth with the teacher at Swaffield Primary telling them “many of the young people were now considering a career in opera!”
We can’t wait to inspire many more young people both in our similar taster workshops in summer 2019 and in our hugely exciting new parallel productions running from January to August 2019! The two lucky groups at Cranmer Primary and St John Bosco College will work with their workshop leaders on a fortnightly basis over this period to create their own spin-off productions inspired by Die Fledermaus – we can’t wait to see what they get up to!
Another exciting piece of news in 2018 was that we were awarded a Santander Discovery Grant for another young people’s project. Building on our success of working with libraries during our 2017 Reunion & Dark Pony production and associated outreach, we will be offering free drama workshops at Mitcham Library to expand their offer of cultural activity in an area where opportunities for such activity for young people might be limited. We’re so pleased to have been awarded this grant and will update you soon with more details of the workshops taking place this year.
Excitingly Baseless Fabric had two new people joining the team in 2018 – Astrid Hilne became our General Manager and Rachel Barnett-Jones joined our Board of Trustees. The experience and hard work of both has been invaluable and we have no doubt will continue to be so during 2019. And Artistic Director Joanna brought her new baby son into the Die Fledermaus R&D rehearsals who was named the new company mascot by the cast!
Now Christmas is over and the new year is well underway, we’re hard at work planning the upcoming parts of the Die Fledermaus project, the Mitcham Library workshops and planning further ahead – so thank you so much for your continued support and we can’t wait to see what this year brings…
And all the best to you for a happy and successful 2019!