The End of the beginning?
Posted by Nick Hennegan on Monday, June 29, 2020 Under: Nick Hennegan
Well! Who could have seen, even at Christmas this year, what was coming down the line for Europe, the USA and, in fact, the whole world!
This time last year I was in a cottage in Wales, (for free - thank you so much, the Morris family!) writing my adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet for the Edinburgh festival in August. It was performed in daily rep with the same cast, with my original play, P.A.L.S.
They both went well in August and both shows garnered 5 * reviews. Very unusual for the world's biggest open Arts festival - and I was delighted. They will be touring next year, hopefully! This year there should have been another Shakespeare adaptation - Richard lll - and a new play we’re developing about Winston Churchill. But they will have to wait till 2021 now the Edinburgh festivals have been cancelled.
Even more galling though, is the effect the virus has had on The London Literary Pub Crawl.
You will know, if you have been out with us on the tour already, the London Literary Pub Crawl was supposed to be a one off for the 2012 London Olympics. We actually missed the Olympics by a few weeks - they'd finished by the time our first tour happened, because I missed my writing deadline! In my defence, though, I had little income at the time and so was working 12 hour days on a minimum wage job to allow me to pay the bills and write the script. A bit extreme perhaps, but when I was researching the script, many of the writers we featured suffered a similar fiscal situation. So it felt like the right thing to do. And, of course, I’m pleased to say my instincts proved to be correct and the slog on the minimum wage job was worth it - because you are now reading this! Thank you!
Back in 2012, because we had no advertising budget, I listed the London Literary Pub Crawl on a discount website that offered local daily deals. We had a potential 25 tickets to sell for the tour and I thought the website might help sell one or two. I didn’t bother specifying how many. Having finally finished the script and found some lovely actors prepared to play the parts of Virginia Woof and Charles Dickens for just expenses, it occurred to me one day that perhaps I should check the offer website to see if they’d managed to sell any of the 25 tickets.
Then I checked again.
We'd not sold 25 tickets.
We’d sold nearly 2,000!
I was astonished. What should have been a one-off production had sold out for months to come.
If you check out our early reviews on Trip Advisor many of them say things like “They were sold out!” And… “Their box office were slow to get back to-us!” Box office? At the time, it was just me, my phone and a paper diary I rapidly bought.
So the tragedy - if I dare use that term - about this lockdown is that we were just starting to take off.
We’re not a travel company, but a theatre company. As a group of writers and artists ourselves who are ‘sharing the love’ with our tour, and with no advertising budget, just before travel from the USA was ended, we had great reviews in the major press worldwide, thanks to a lovely journalist from the Press Association, who came on the tour and completely got what we were offering.
We were featured in the Guardian, Straits Times, Washington Post, New York Times and a host of other publications around the world.
Lovers of literature and booze began flocking to our tours - not only the regular Saturday show, but private tours too. (I’ve had to sign an None Disclosure Agreement about a very famous American actor who is a huge fan of George Orwell and just LOVED being in The ‘Proles Pub' from Nineteen Eighty Four!)
I defy any Orwell fan not to be moved in the same way. Since we started the Literary Pub crawl, I’ve got to know the family of Dylan Thomas too. It's impossible not to feel his presence in the pub we visit where Dylan first met, and fell in love with, his wife.
And now, as the lockdown starts to lift in London, we are looking to see what the new ‘normal' will look like for us. Much of our tour is already outside. (and, of course, there are no restrictions on drinking outside our pubs like there is in some countries.)
The Literary Pub Crawl lends itself to social distancing. But I've not been to Soho since the Lockdown started - I've not seen any of our pubs for a while. So I think the first thing I should do on 4th July - England's independence day when the pubs and restaurants start to reopen again - is to do a reconnaissance of our famous pubs and ‘research' once again the pubs and places that inspired some of the greatest writers in the world.
It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
So watch this space! I’ll report back here.
I’m also about to bring out our Pub Crawl book, but more about that later!
And don’t forget our new online Rock’n’Roll Writers Tour this month. Our first one had a lovely family in Australia drinking wine in dressing gowns in their bedroom at 5am!
In : Nick Hennegan
Tags: coronavirus lockdown bouncing back
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