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Newbury's theatre movers & shakers in The Stage 100

NWN first to recognise importance of Zoom theatre

Trish Lee

Trish Lee


01635 886663

Martin 'Zippo' Burton Photographer Piet-Hein Out

Martin 'Zippo' Burton

AT least three of those listed in the prestigious Stage 100 – normally recognising the most powerful people in theatre in a year and this time about theatre in the pandemic – have links to Newbury.

First, the amazing Creation Theatre and Lucy Askew, Big Telly and Zoe Seaton are listed on the Putting on Shows section. I’m told N2 and our theatre reviewer Jon Lewis have been a significant factor in this, because the NWN’s reviews are part of the reason The Stage says the shows were ‘well-received’. Our archive of reviews is the only place in the world to see all Creation and Big Telly shows on Zoom reviewed. As Jon says: “It's like we’ve backed the winner of the Grand National. but also clean the jockey’s boots or something.”

Also on that list is The Watermill’s director Paul Hart. The Bagnor theatre was the first in the country to put on a live show in July, only two weeks, after four months closure. A spoof version of The Hound of the Baskervilles devised by The Watermill company, was performed by three actors on the back lawn of the theatre. Socially distanced audiences watched from an arrangement of 20 tables each seating up to four people from one party only.

“It was so lovely to hear of our inclusion in the Stage 100 recognising the speed of response to stage work during the pandemic,” Paul told N2. “It’s a great affirmation of the incredible work of the whole Watermill team.

“As we have again had to close our doors we’ve had a chance to look back on the productions we managed to stage last year which still totalled nine, including our outdoor summer season and socially distanced indoor season.
“I’m really proud of everything we achieved against all the odds in a hugely testing year for theatres across the country.”

Local businessman Martin ‘Zippo’ Burton, founder and director of Zippos Circus and chairman of The
Association of Circus Proprietors, has been included within Top 100 as an exceptional voice that made a difference to the future of performing arts in 2020. He joins other influential voices including Sydmonton’s Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and his Really Useful Group.

Zippos Circus winter quarters are based in Enborne and back in the day, before the Big Top, Zippo the Clown and his gang were regular performers and workshop leaders at The Arts Workshop in Northcroft Lane.

In the summer, the Association of Circus Proprietors warned that without support, many circuses would go bust. The body, with Martin as chair, marched on Downing Street with costumed performers from UK circuses, urging the Government to act. It proved one of the sector’s most effective acts of
lobbying. By mid-July circuses were allowed to open and went on to become big recipients from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

He said: “I am delighted that the work of myself and my fellow ACP members has been recognised within the performing arts sector. I have worked tirelessly on behalf of our members to get UK circuses (including my own) back on the road and eligible for receipt of the Culture Recover Fund. Circuses are often forgotten by the Government and Arts Council and not recognised as an art form – this is no longer the case. We are determined to get all circuses back on the road as soon as we can safely do so in 2021.”

A public nominations process was run to vote for The Stage 100 with the final list created by the magazine’s editorial team.

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