A team that love Christmas are never really happy until they can start dreaming up plans for those last few weeks in December. There is nothing as bonding as the discussions we have about the number of Christmas trees we’ll display or the amount of fake snow needed for our snow machine (this is genuinely a conversation I had last week).
It was therefore devastating when, back in April, I had to tell them that our planned Christmas show for 2020 could not go ahead. We had been working with an exciting theatre company on a brand new show. It was to be our first new Christmas commission and was the perfect follow up for last year’s Otto and the Robin. Sadly, though, news of social distancing and a change to funding meant that the plans would no longer be possible.
We were not only sad for ourselves but also concerned about the wider impact of a cancelled Christmas. Every year theatres across the country welcome in millions of families for pantomimes and Christmas shows. These are very often children’s first experiences of visiting theatres and create lasting memories. I certainly remember visiting Bristol Hippodrome in about 1988 to see Lulu star in Peter Pan, alongside (The Spring’s patron) Christopher Timothy as Captain Hook. Not only are these Christmas visits hugely important as the first step for many audiences, for many theatres they provide enough revenue to support organisations throughout the rest of the year.
At The Spring we are fortunate in that our Christmas shows have always been more about welcoming in audiences and bringing our community together than they have been about keeping the organisation afloat. Given that this is our primary objective, it seemed wrong not to be able to offer a Christmas experience for our audiences.
As soon as we knew we would be reopening in the autumn and able to deliver performances within Covid secure guidelines we got thinking. The first step was to confirm the performances we had in place in December that could go ahead. This wasn’t a solution for our families but we were quickly able to confirm a series of Christmas performances for evening audiences, including the return of Green Matthews with Midwinter Revels and two performances of Mr Charles Dickens presents A Christmas Carol by the European Arts Company. I also began to look for Event Cinema screenings with a Christmas theme and felt that the Australian Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella would be a great addition to the programme.
But there was still a gap. We still didn’t have a family show that would work for new and returning audiences and that would conjure up some wintery magic and help celebrate a well-deserved Christmas season. Until last week…
I asked some Directors of other arts organisations for their advice. Had they heard of anything that they could recommend, that might be available at short notice and would be possible in a socially distanced theatre? Two people came back with the same suggestion – to contact family theatre maker Tessa Bide, to see if she was free. Tessa has previously worked here, having bought The Tap Dancing Mermaid and A Strange New Space to us in recent years. I couldn’t believe that she might be available, but picked up the phone to have a chat. What followed was one of the most heart-warming, easy conversations I’ve had all year. Of course, she was free, she told me. Of course, she’d love to bring the show to The Spring and of course she’d work with us to make this viable for us. I could have cried.
It is therefore, with great delight, that we have today announced our Christmas 2020 show – The Selfish Giant.
The Selfish Giant is a beautiful wintery tale of friendship, inspired by the short story by Oscar Wilde. With moving storytelling, puppetry and music, join us to be transported to a magical world where giants are your neighbours and the voice of the snow whispers to you at night.
Live performances of The Selfish Giant will be at The Spring from Monday 21 – Wednesday 23 December, 11am & 2.30pm. Tickets are available for £10 each and social distancing means spaces are limited, so I recommend booking early to avoid disappointment. I am not just saying this - I have already booked mine!
We know that this year might feel a bit different. Some people are worried about coming to an indoor event and others might be a bit more concerned about cost. We don’t want these things to stop you from enjoying a theatre experience, so we are delighted to, for the first time, be offering a recorded version of our show to enjoy at home. For just £4 you can enjoy The Selfish Giant at home. Simply book online as usual and we’ll send you the link for the show direct to your inbox on 21 December, for you to enjoy whenever suits you. We hope that, in this way, even if you can’t join us in person we can share some Christmas theatre magic with you.
I hope you can join us this Christmas. We really can’t wait!