FS2012: Meet the Flying Solo Shortlist!

FS2012: Meet the Flying Solo Shortlist!

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We are delighted to announce the shortlisted Flying Solo 2012 Commission performers who will be vying for the chance to win mentoring support from Fuel, rehearsal space, and the the opportunity to develop & perform their solo show at LaMaMa, New York; MC Amsterdam; and Contact, Manchester.

The performers will spend a week working with this year's Flying Solo 2012 festival artists (including Ernie Silva, J.Fergus Evans, Sabrina Mahfouz and others) and then pitch before a live audience and a judging panel (including LaMaMa via a live link to  New York) in the FREE Flying Solo Commission Pitch Night on Sat 3 March, 6pm.

Come down, show your support, watch some amazing work-in-progress and get the chance to see which artist is selected for this amazing prize  

Supported by Contact in collaboration with Fuel, LaMaMa, CultureHub and MC Amsterdam.




Blu is a dyslexic Cultural Creative Leader who was awarded a place on the Arts Council Great Britain Cultural Leadership Programme “Artists Leading by Practice” in 2010. He is a leading UK Club Jazz dancer and practitioner using collaborative multi-art form practices that fuse urban, western and the diasporic to create new pieces of work and often new variations on traditional themes. His work is collaborative, site specific (as much away from stage as on it) and participatory. In concrete terms as a professional dancer he has mastered western styles of ballet, contemporary and modern as part of various known tutors and colleges. He has worked with arts venues, musicians/ dancers (like H Patten) film-makers (like Clive Hunte), photographers (like Miselo Kunda) and fellow dancers to create creative processes of merit. Most recently he worked alongside Baba Israel and DawN Crandell on Digital Duets at Mixed Movement; a digital improvised showdown in live time between New York and Manchester dancers based at Contact in October 2011.

Over the last few years Blu returned to higher education (UNI) after finding his undiagnosed learning difficulties was Dyslexia.

In  2005, he started to write a solo show  about his rites of passage through the UK club jazz dance scene popularised in the late 80s and 90s and growing up within a family full of artists that kept culture and creativity at the centre of personal and professional development  to manage his/their undiagnosed learning difficulties – symptom and triggers.

Debs Gatenby

Debs Gatenby came to Manchester in 1990 to complete a three year Theatre Arts BA at Manchester Metropolitan University. On graduation, she developed the comedy persona Twinkle and quickly established herself on the national comedy circuit, with regular appearances at Duckie, Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London and greenroom, Manchester, and three consecutive years at Queer Up North. Debs was finalist at the first Funny Women competition in 2007 and has taken three one woman shows to Edinburgh, including the F**ked Up Club in 2010, as well as performing in Edinburgh with her comedy partner as part of the Harry and Lou Experience. In 2011, Debs featured alongside Christopher Green in his Working Man's Club installation at Queer Up North and Latitude Festivals.

In addition to comedy, Debs has experience of working in both theatre and TV, most recently appearing at the Contact/Library Theatre Re:Play Festival 2011 in National Express. A character actress, Debs is mostly inspired by finding humour in the darker, more neurotic, side of life!

Hannah Nicklin

Hannah Nicklin is a theatre maker, activist, blogger and academic based in the East Midlands. Following a Playwriting masters at the University of Birmingham, and plays written with/for the Royal Court, Box of Tricks and Scary Little Girls, she has made pervasive theatre, soundwalks, installations and games with organisations like Hazard Festival Manchester, Pilot Theatre, Take Over Festival, MADE Birmingham, Forest Fringe and Illuminating York. She works with companies like Unlimited, Hoipolloi, Third Angel and Action Hero on digital tech in their process and practice, and speaks regularly at tech/arts events about the arts and digital technology.

She also runs Performance in the Pub, a regular night of ‘DIY performance for non-theatre people’ in Leicester. Her most recent work included the city-wide pervasive storytelling piece The Umbrella Project, and Zero Hour for Forest Fringe – a sound piece made to be listened to on the top deck of the N11 bus between the hours of 1am and 3am. She can be found online as @hannahnicklin and hannahnicklin.com

Keisha Thompson

Keisha has been writing poetry since her childhood. She began writing about Black History when she was 9 years old. As a teenager she performed all over the country, at International poetry festivals BNV '08 & '09 and the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe in New York and was published 3 times. She is a member of Young Identity, a poetry collective which exposed her to amazing opportunities such as featuring in Saul Williams show at Band on the Wall, Manchester. Recently she has moved on to writing short plays and short stories, one of which was turned into a short film and screened at Cornerhouse Manchester.

Her singing background spans back to her primary school days when she joined the Manchester Youth Soul Choir. She was dedicated to the group for 11 years and got to perform in amazing venues: Echo Arena Liverpool, Bridgewater Hall Manchester, London O2 Indigo. Using her singing and writing skills she has written and performed songs in local community shows, particularly whilst working with CAN (Community Arts North West).

Since her involvement in Process 08 (Breaking Cycles) she has been a member of Contact Playback; an improvised Hip Hop theatre company headed by Dawn Crandell and Baba Israel.

“I mix the mundane and the spectacular using my sound, my movement, my vernacular.”

Léonie Higgins

Léonie is a singer/songwriter/cellist/performance artist based in Manchester. She is fascinated by the crossover between music, theatre, comedy and storytelling.

Before moving to Manchester in 2008 Léonie lived in London, where she performed at cabaret and jazz nights, and more weddings than she cares to remember. She also recorded a number of extremely dubious pop songs and ran children’s parties as an American cheerleader called Charlene.

Nowadays Léonie performs as a singer and cellist, around the country and beyond, including with Geddes Loom, a singing/cello/beatbox/guitar/technology group who formed in early 2011. With poet Ben Mellor and musician Dan Steele, Léonie performed in Phrased, Confused and Angry, for which she wrote parts for voice and cello.  Léonie is creating music for Ben Mellor’s solo piece Everything We Need, at the Royal Exchange Studio in June.

Léonie is part of all-female performance group Eggs Collective, with whom she has performed a number of times. Recently Léonie has begun working with fellow artists Lowri Evans and Sophie Willan: each providing support and development for the work of the others as they create solo work.

Lydia Hirst

Lydia Hirst is a founding member of Eggs Collective, a female fast cabaret company with a flair for the hilarious.

As a solo artist, she specialises in weird, concept laden, visually ridiculous comedy characters.

"Every character imbibes a deep, dark piece of my soul. My ultimate goal is to connect with an audience, take them on a journey and turn their brains upside-down."

As seen in February 2012's edition of Cosmopolitan Deutschland.

Sophie Willan

Sophie has extensive performing experience, having developed as an artist through the Bristol Old Vic Youth Theatre and Contact's CYAC, Future Fires and Contacting the World programmes as well as being a founding member of Eggs Collective. She's now breaking out as a solo performer in her own right, with an appearance at Mother's Ruin in February, and upcoming work at Duckie in London and Edinburgh Fringe.

When I am making my own work I am usually drawn to the comedic side of life. That being said, I am not afraid to bear my soul and be vulnerable on stage, in fact I think it is an integral part of comedy performance. Comedy, to me, is about honesty, breaking the rules and the ever famous marriage it has with tragedy. There is so much soul in comedy and though I have had my moments to share that I have never had the chance to really delve deep and figure out what it is I have to say through this medium until now.”

Sophie has been working towards developing a solo show for the last six months with creative peers Lowri Evans and Léonie Higgins along with producer, Jenna Omeltschenko.

With loads of ideas and scraps of free-write covered paper swimming around my mind I am really looking forward to beginning the Flying Solo week of workshops; learning new skills, testing out work and getting closer to discovering what my show will be”

Stephen Myott

Stephen Myott has been acting professionally for 17 years in theatre and television, starting out in TV at the age of twelve in shows such as The Cops and Common as Muck. Stephen trained in acting at Salford University and since graduating, has continued his work in Television, but has found and developed a real love for the theatre. He has also gone on to work in other areas of theatre, such as a Director, Musical Director, Facilitator and Teacher

In December 2011, Stephen wrote for theatre for the first time as part of the Verbally Challenged: Digital Dialogues competition at Contact, Manchester and CultureHub, New York and won.  Stephen believes in continually learning and believes that we should always seek to do so. He is looking forward to being a part of Flying Solo 2012, meeting all of the other artists and learning from them. Recent credits include, Sex and Chippy (Lime Prods), Full House (Media Medea), Crystal Kisses (Contact), The Bench (Tales from Paradise Heights). Stephen is truly humbled to be a part of this festival and utterly grateful to those who allowed him to be. 

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