A Brief History:
I founded Spike Theatre as I graduated from the Liverpool Institute of H.E. (now Liverpool Hope) in 1993, wanting to create original, engaging and visually exciting theatre work. As a director, I have always worked towards a style of ensemble theatre, with the performer as its creative force via devised theatre practices.
I initially developed Spike as a street theatre and outdoor performance company in its first phase 93-97, making several early shows, building community and education links with training packages, and securing arts development / business funding and then focussing on building a pool of performers with whom to collaborate and make work.
I am very grateful that, during this first phase, I was fortunate to work with Sally Orrock, Oliver Campbell-Smith, Tim McEvoy, Claire Binyon, Tom Maguire, Dave Chaplin, Nick Kellington, Toby Waterhouse, Dave Russell, Leah Hyde, Joe Gregory, Patrick Dineen, Tony Mair, Vern Griffiths, Martin Pirongs, Helen Bright, Emma McDermott, John Bennett, and many more…
Phase II… of Spike really began to emerge when I first met and worked with Steve Wallis during an Anglo-Turkish co-production in ’95 and our association led to a range of projects simmering and educational workshops/collaborations; I then collaborated with Julie Walker on Spike’s Perfume in 1996 and found another kindred spirit. (Perfume was commissioned and presented as part of ‘Real Action’, Total Theatre Magazine’s physical and visual theatre symposium event at Unity Theatre that year); and finally I offered Mark Smith a role in ‘The Bank Job’ project in 1997, after he attended a devising and storytelling workshop with me, as part of the Hope Street Actor’s Centre season. (I also previously taught Mark on the Theatre for Young People and Physical Theatre courses at Hope Street following his graduation from LJMU).
With three core collaborators in place, we worked to develop the company as a small-scale national touring company. All of the phase II Spike core members were associated via Hope Street Ltd – so important to Spike, and many other companies during the 1980s-2010s. Hope Street provided us with free access to rehearsal space, an office and phone, and general mentoring and guidance. Invaluable!
Also, crucial across all of this time… were brilliant colleagues that took up administration roles and support for us: First, Frances Osborne who helped tour book and organise our very first tours, Emma Bush (if only briefly), and then Jackie Skinner who stayed with the company for many years. Finally, Adrian Turrell-Watts, who came to Spike via our friends Rejects Revenge, and provided administrative management up to late 2012.
Spike received many awards and much critical acclaim both nationally and internationally during its lifetime. It was project funded by the Arts Council from 1997 onwards, and the strength of the company’s work was recognized as it became one of ACE’s ‘Regularly Funded Organizations’ in 2003, initially through the newly created Regional Arts Lottery programme, but then continuing into the portfolio, all of which continued up until 2014.
The company was also a ‘core programme company’ for Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture 2008, having developed a large-scale integrated community event (Theatre in the Parks) in collaboration with Gaynor La Rocca’s M.A.T.E community performing arts group (now Imaginarium Theatre) and, also the international collaborative project (Hoof! Spontaneous Theatre) from 2005 onwards… both of which culminated in the Cap’O’Cult year.
“Sometimes the magic of theatre really is magic and Spike Theatre is a case in point” Phil Key, Liverpool Daily Post
And then Phase III…? So, after 16 years, I left the role of Artistic Director during 2009/10 to take up a Senior Lecturer and Course Director post at Coventry University, but remained an Associate Director and regular performer/improviser in the Hoof pool. Mark Smith carried on as AD for 4 more years successfully making work, until the company closed in 2014 due to the loss of regular ACE funding.