The Four Graces

Hello! This is your captain speaking.

If you’ll indulge me a little, I’d like to tell you a few stories.

Number One is entitled “Annika Edge”.

Annika first contacted us via email at the end 2008. She wanted to work as an intern at the Festival to gain experience. Sure. OK. She was studying in Lyon – that’s in France – but was from Hamburg – Germany – and her father is English. So, fluent in three languages. Could be useful, I suppose.

Time passes. She works on the 2009 Festival, then on and off for a couple of years. She moves to Edinburgh and gains a MSc from Napier University in International Event Management. She joins us full-time for the 2013 Festival and then takes on the role of Festival Manager to cover for  Kathryn Worthington, who I’ll talk about in a minute.

Annika runs the office during the second and third operations on my knee. Have I told anyone about that? You’ll see her around. She’s bossy. And German. Just what the Festival needs. Me, especially.

Story Number Two: Kathryn Worthington

Kathryn came to the first public meeting about 24:7 in January 2004 and volunteered for the first Festival later that year. She can’t keep away and, by 2009, has worked her way into the Festival team.

Although not German, she can be – or is naturally – bossy. Which is A Good Thing, as far as I’m concerned. She’s very qualified, you know. Even now she’s in the final stages of becoming a solicitor. As Festival Director over the last few years she keeps our course steady, in spite of me constantly proposing “good ideas”. And she runs the Festival build-up before, during and after my first knee operation. She then goes on maternity leave, but is back with us now!

Story Three: Amanda Hennessy

I was at drama school with Amanda way back in the 90s. I remember identifying her accent as being from between Preston and Blackburn. I knew then that she was practical and straightforward. I saw her perform as an actor, put on events get results from them, tell people off. We even had a band together for a while. So in 2002, when I dreamed up the idea of a Manchester festival, I knew who I would go to first. We drank coffee. She was quiet. She said later that she would join me on the adventure.

We draw up a lot of pencil plans. Nobody with money, no agency, would back us, so in November 2003 we decide to give it a go anyway. Dogged determination and Amanda’s persuasive manner makes that Festival happen, with the writers agreeing to produce their own shows. It isn’t very pretty, actually, but it works. One venue closes down before we’ve finished, but we find an alternative and every show goes on anyway. Happy days…

We did a lot of planning. I would make fantastic suggestions. Amanda would say no. There’s a pattern here, right? But I can safely say that, without Amanda and her skill, determination and focus, there would have been no Festival. She’s now a business owner and filmmaker. And I’m proud to know her.

Finally, Story Number Four: Fran Slack

What can I say, but here’s one of the Four Graces who said Yes! She’d already let me go to drama school at age 41 and still said yes to a ridiculous sounding festival venture.

You may remember that in 2002 there is next to no small-scale independent theatre in Manchester. Showcasing is hard. Getting an audience is harder, with no social media other than word of mouth. So Fran – and the mortgage on our garage that she agreed to – keeps us going in the early years and she still says yes. To the Festival, that is. Not always at home, though. Thank you.

So, here they are. The Four Graces. More than eleven hundred people have made 24:7 work over the years, but these Fab Few have been the specific throughline for the Festival. And an inspiration to many more. Yes, people give me credit, but without them and their particular dedication, there would have been no 24:7. I couldn’t have carried it alone.

Bless you.