Five Good Things (Up Yours, 2016)

Abi Hynes, one of the producers behind First Draft, looks back on what we’ve been up to over the past 12 months…

I’ve spent the last half hour writing and deleting various versions of an opening sentence for this blog post. Because it’s obligatory, isn’t it, to start any piece of writing reflecting on this past year we’ve had with some sort of ‘HASN’T IT ALL BEEN AWFUL, YOU GUYS?’ caveat.

Because it’s tough, isn’t it, to find positive things to say about this year? And even harder to carve out a space for any good news, when everywhere you look there are people who are suffering so acutely that it feels like there will never be any good news ever again.

Here at First Draft, we like to think of ourselves as people who make space where contradictions can co-exist. And we’ve had a pretty good year. So, even though there are a lot of important and dreadful things happening all around us, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the good things.

Just five, ok? It won’t take long. And then we can all get back to knitting those ‘Up Yours, 2016!’ jumpers or whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing.


Andrew, Harry and Abi getting ready for Halloween at Chetham’s Library

  1. We’ve had some really special events

I think it’s safe to say that our one-off Halloween event, When the darkness knocks…, at Chetham’s Library this year was one of the highlights of First Draft since we started. Tickets were snapped up in a ridiculously record-breaking 40 minutes, and it was an absolute joy to perform at alongside our incredibly talented spooky line up.

We also had our fantastic Perspectives event at the People’s History Museum, in which our performers responded to their hugely popular Grafters exhibition curated by Ian Beesley.

And then we’ve had our regular nights at our much-loved home at The Castle Hotel, where we’ve been asking our performers to set prompts of their choosing, with incredible results. We’ve had everything from voices from the past with The Greater Manchester Sound Archive to the Spice Girls, and it’s been remarkable!

Huge thanks to all the venues and partners we’ve worked with this year around Manchester. We’ve had a blast!


Rosie Garland and Amy McCauley performing at Chetham’s Library for When the darkness knocks…

  1. We’ve staged some amazing performances

Those who have watched me show off on stage may not believe this, but my favourite First Draft events are the ones where I’m not performing, and I get to hide at the back by the sound desk and watch the incredibly talented people we’ve programmed do their thing.

This year, we’ve had performers who’ve covered every imaginable discipline: music, theatre, storytelling, poetry, comedy, circus, fortune telling, and something somebody did with an avocado that I still don’t really understand. We’ve had silly and serious side by side, just like we’ve had first time performers on stage right next to published writers, and it’s all been an absolute pleasure to put together.

Thank you, all of you, for performing if you did, and for coming along to watch and being so warm and supportive if you didn’t.


Harry and our audience at the People’s History Museum

  1. We’ve published some lovely work

If you missed them earlier this year, do check out some of the great pieces by our performers that we’ve shared online. We’ve had a spooky fairytale from Holly Aszkenasy, protest poetry from Alex Webb, original music from Jez Hewes, and the joyful silliness of Tom and Trisha’s Film Club by Trisha Starbrook.


The brilliant Cafe Misfits

  1. We’ve been inspired by other events

I talk quite a lot about how brilliantly creative Manchester is, but IT’S TRUE, ISN’T IT? And it’s been a particularly great year to see other events going from strength to strength. I’ve been bowled over in particular by the work of Manchester Literature Festival, Bad Language, The Real Story, Flim Nite, Verbose, Speak Easy and Stirred Poetry, to name just a few. If you don’t already know some of this lot, pop it on your list of New Year resolutions why dontcha.


Nyela Asad and Ben Rout perform at our Crush event

  1. Next year we’re 5!

Can you believe it?! Five years ago in April, we held our very first event at the Castle Hotel. Back then, I never imagined the way this thing would grow, or how it would come to have a life and a personality all of its own. I should especially thank my wonderful co-producers, Andrew Williamson and Harry Jelley, for being such brilliant partners in crime.

We sort of skipped over our 4th birthday this year (whoops), but you should expect big things from our birthday party this year. Watch this space!

That’s it from me. Thanks everyone for giving us your time and your support this year. I wish you all love, luck, and a better world in 2017, and I hope we’ll see you at First Draft for some of it.


Bits and bobs

Help us to wrap up 2016 in a big defiant festive bow, by joining us at our Kulning: Winter Songs event on Monday night. We’re continuing our Christmas tradition of sharing our December event with our pals at The Real Story, and it’s going to be super special!

Want to perform with us next year? Take a look at our event dates so far for 2017, and get in touch!

Got a piece you’ve performed at one of our events that you’d like us to publish on our blog? We’d be delighted to hear from you!

Read more from Abi and find out about her writing on her own personal blog

Follow Abi and First Draft on Twitter


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