Hope Mill Theatre is an invigorating and ambitious alternative arts project dedicated to the production of musical theatre in Hope Mill, a charismatic site specific former Victorian cotton mill in the Ancoats area of central Manchester, for which HSL is very proud to be a technical partner. The brainchild of two young actors – Joseph Houston and Will Wheton – in less than two years, working with producer and co-artistic director Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, Hope Mill has become an impressive multi-award winning and highly critically acclaimed production space for new and experimental works presented in a unique environment.
Joe and Will are acutely aware of what a huge difference having access to good production equipment can mean for a show, and with three London transfers already, another remarkable achievement bucking the more conventional directional trend of works between the capital and the regions, Hope Mill Has just appointed its first technical manager, Alice Longson. HSL has also announced that it is upping its commitment to providing more and a wider range of lighting equipment for the forthcoming season and the future. The intimate 120 seat theatre space is totally flexible and can be set up in any format. One of the first things that HSL did when they started working with Hope Mill two years ago, was undertake a structural survey which was followed by the design and installation of a trussing mother grid in the roof.
This enables lighting fixtures to be installed exactly where they were needed for each show … and means that every centimetre of ceiling height can be optimised. HSL was first introduced to Hope Mill via lighting designer Aaron Dootson who lit their debut production, the tense and emotionally charged “Parade.” Previously the Blackburn based rental specialist had worked with Aaron during the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Impressed by the level of service and approachability, he reached out to HSL again when he really needed to squeeze some extra value out of the lighting budget for “Parade”.
Simon Stuart was delighted to get involved. He then met Joe and Will and realised the bigger picture and longer term objectives for creative excellence at Hope Mill. “I was completely inspired by everyone involved as well as the fantastic performance space at Hope Mill,” enthused Simon. “The vibes are amazing and the quality of the work being produced there is like a breath of fresh air as well as being truly world class! I think all the awards are a testament to that, along with the real buzz that has emerged around the venue! We think it’s a great entertainment venture and are looking forward to being a part of more incredible works in the coming season”.
While an assortment of lighting kit has been supplied over the last two years, this this has now been reviewed and upped to include a standard rig of ETC Source Four profiles, 1K fresnels, and Acclaim fresnels together with a variety of floods. Moving lights and other specials will be supplied as required by the individual productions. The original mothergrid has also just been extended with some new sections, giving more capacity for the quick and simple addition of specials. “The new kit will allow us to take fringe style productions to a truly next level,” stated Joe. “It is fantastic as a venue to receive this commitment and support from HSL and a relationship that has already helped in the success of our shows”.The old engine room – which had lain derelict for some years prior to Will and Joe’s taking over – has been made functional and is also becoming popular for meeting up, socialising and networking.
Once as much a thriving hub of the industrial revolution as a relic of the alarming capitalist dystopia studied by Fredrich Engels in the mid 19th century, Hope Mill has been transformed and reborn in a truly 21st century context as a melting pot for creativity, expression and imagination. Hope Mill has come a long way in the two years since Will and Joe took out a hugely modest £10,000 business loan to kick start the idea into which they threw their hearts and souls. Through Intense hard work, unwavering faith and some serious goodwill from friends and families, there has been a remarkable journey into becoming a community that can be shared and enjoyed by all theatre lovers.
The plans are to continue adding more positive energy to the bustling Manchester performance scene. They are starting to receive a few interesting shows as well, and their next big musical number in the autumn will be the Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece, “Aspects of Love”.