The 24:7 Theatre Weekend was a place of creativity and fun, offering a chance for all the productions to show their hard work to each other and festival goers a like. As a member of one of the shows we started a day early with a technical rehearsal and had the chance to see the festival come alive from a beautiful venue to festival central.
The organisation, dedication and help from everyone created a wonderful sense of a team spirit – from the staff to the casts, from the crews at the Martin Harris Centre to the alumni of previous years returning again to help out. It had that festival vibe – The shows in the theatres “sharing a tent”, the promenade monologues “hoping the weather holds”, and Martin the Caterpillar headlining “the next field stage” . Although thankfully there was less mud than other festivals – the drinking was taken care of. Opening drinks on the Friday and a bar throughout the weekend -(including soft drinks and tea) – finishes the festival analogy nicely – for what true festival would be complete without a “beer tent”?
But 24:7 has one more detail – the people. Welcoming audiences who have come specifically for a piece, or are there to see anything and everything, as well as encouraging and letting volunteers view the shows too – there was a real sense that everyone could be involved in something. There may be bigger festivals in Manchester but I challenge them to have the same intimate family feel that the Big Weekend did. With very careful planning it was possible to see everything that the festival put on – a point which further goes on to highlight the support 24:7 gives its participants.
As a member of a company this scheduling created a wonderful sense of team building. We could see things together. It meant that discussions of the other shows were flying backstage, adding to the feeling that our show, was part of something bigger. Of course we could then meet the other companies and we all had things in common. “I liked how you did that”, “I loved that joke”, “What made you think of that.?”.
If the festival does one thing it shows just what can be achieved when people collaborate. Writers, Directors, Staff, Volunteers, Casts and Audiences – all there for a shared enjoyment of the arts. Perhaps then that is 24:7′s biggest gift to any who walk through the doors, whichever side of the festival they are on, – it showcases a common interest, offers a conversation starter, starts you down the path that 24:7 has paved so many years ago.
So I put it to you that this is a fundamental part of the 24:7 legacy. For if art is truly inspirational and collaborative – who knows what new ideas have been thought of, discussed, and born at the Big Weekend?