Samantha Mcilwaine shares the story of how her idea for a new event for local writers has become a reality.
As a Service Assistant at Storyhouse, I see it all from behind the Kitchen bar. I watch as community groups gather, productions develop, and touring artists sell out national shows. I see remote workers recharge over their morning coffee and students strive to meet encroaching deadlines. But most of all, I witness how creativity and connection can thrive when provided with a community home. With ambitions of becoming a community theatre producer, I want to facilitate space for the arts to flourish. When I had the idea for an event, I could only propose it to Storyhouse. Soon after, Work in Progress was born.
Work in Progress was an idea conceived out of boredom. Having graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2021, I moved home to Chester from a bustling hive of creativity. As a Drama and Theatre Arts student, I had spent three years surrounded by creative thinkers who enriched and inspired me. Even during the pandemic, innovative projects had ricocheted from the walls of my shared Birmingham house. Now writing from my childhood bedroom, I felt isolated in my creativity and wondered if others felt the same. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Storyhouse hosted an event for writers to connect and share their developing works? What if I put it on myself?
The format for Work in Progress was simple. Hosted in the Garret Bar, writers were invited to share up to 500 words of writing- page and drink in hand. All forms of written word were welcome, and participants could sign up in advance or on the night itself. Natasha Borton, an incredible spoken word artist from North Wales, would headline at 9pm and perform a half-hour set for everybody in attendance. The aim was to foster an informal and supportive space for creatives to connect and inspire. It didn’t disappoint.
On Thursday 24 February, a hub of creativity formed on the Storyhouse fourth floor. The Garret filled with artists from Chester and beyond as the community turned out to share in the self-expression of others. Characterised by the breadth and diversity of works presented, we hosted poetry, music, comedic sketches, and children’s fiction. At Work in Progress, nobody expected polished perfection, and writers tried out material they may otherwise have kept stowed away. When Natasha Borton took to the stage, she kept us captivated. We laughed, reflected, engaged, and escaped. Sharing in the mutual joy of the written word was energising. The overwhelming feeling was that we wanted to do it again.
Whether you’re a writer or a spectator, we would love to see you at a future Work In Progress event. To keep up to date with the latest news, join our Facebook group, drop me an email, or keep an eye on storyhouse.com. We are building something special. Watch this space!
Sam is a trainee actor currently starring in Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Little Women, playing the role of Sally.