Creating the Bill Cashmore Award
As you all know, the idea for the Bill Cashmore Award came from one of Bill’s parting gifts – in the last month of his life he donated a place on an acting course to a young person who would not otherwise have been able to afford to educate themselves further in an industry they – and he – loved.
I wanted to create an award in his name in this spirit. After a long search for the right partner, I have teamed up with the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith who have a long and impressive history in supporting and training young theatrical talent. They also have the resources, venue, skills and motivation to capitalise on and showcase nascent talent.
I’ve spent the last year working with my new partners in crime – The Lyric’s Development Director Lucy Howe, Director Nicholai LaBarrie, and Producer Lara Taylor – and together we have created an Award that honours Bill’s love of theatre, his generosity of spirit, skill in encouraging others, and his belief in the power of education, training and support. Read on to see how we’ve done it, and where we’ve got to.
The search began
In January the search began for the first recipient. Drawing on the Lyric’s longstanding involvement with young people, we put out a call for applications from aspiring actors, writers or directors, between the ages of 18 and 24, living or working in one of the London Boroughs, and who felt they had something to say and an idea of how to say it creatively.
Together we whittled down the many applications, which came in both paper and video form, to just 16 strong candidates, all of whom we felt embodied the kind of talent Bill would have wanted to encourage. These 16 were then given the opportunity to perform a 10-minute Scratch introductory piece outlining their idea to us, and to a paying audience, over 2 nights in March.
These turned out to be 2 fantastic nights of entertainment. Some of my and Bill’s friends and family came to support and help adjudicate as we watched these talented performers give a tantalising taste of their talent and their ideas for a piece that they would like to develop into a full length play, should they be given that opportunity.
It was a really tough decision, so tough in fact that we couldn’t do it and had to invite the most impressive 5 back for an interview and a further performance. This time our judging team was bolstered by the presence of the amazing Rachel O’Riorden, the Lyric’s new Artistic Director. Having only just taken up her post, and with a million more important things on her to do list, Rachel nevertheless saw the potential in what we were trying to achieve and immediately got behind the Award, determining to be personally involved.
I am extremely grateful that Rachel has come on board and wants to be part of making the Bill Cashmore Award as big and important a fixture in the Lyric calendar as I always hoped it would, and should, be. Not only was her help in choosing the first recipients invaluable, but she has also come up with the fantastic idea to develop the Award yet further.
She has proposed that next year we should promote the Scratch evenings as a big event in their own right – call them “The Bill Cashmore Showcase” – and fully promote and market them, inviting the biggest players in the theatre industry to come and watch – agents, producers, casting directors, artistic directors of other theatres, and more. This will ensure that not only our Award winner benefits, but that all the shortlisted artists will in fact be winners in that they will have this platform to try out their work and their ideas in front of people who may be able to help further their careers in other ways. We have added this idea to our long – and growing – to do list.
Enough preamble, who – I hear you ask – did you choose?
We chose a 2-woman team – Eve Cowley and Elin Schofield, recently graduated from Sheffield University. Together they have written a script that is funny, clever, intriguing, and which has a social conscience – all the things Bill was passionate about. Their play ‘Screwdriver’ will be performed by Eve and directed by Elin, and I am incredibly excited by them and their potential. In coming up with the idea for an Award in Bill’s name my hope was that it should provide an opportunity that would otherwise not be available; an opportunity for someone whose commitment to theatre and to storytelling is matched with an ethos of hard work and dedication to the craft. I wanted it to promote new writing and progressive ideas, reflect something of the inequality of the world around us, be experimental, provide new learning and promote integrated ways for collaborating and giving a voice to those without one. I couldn’t have hoped for more suitable winners of the very first Bill Cashmore Award than Eve and Elin.
I believe these 2 young women perfectly embody the spirit of what we are hoping to achieve in setting up this Award in Bill’s name. Not only do they have a great idea and the artistic talent and skill to develop it into something extraordinary, but they have the same hard-working ethos, passion and commitment to theatre that Bill had. Bill spanned the roles of writer, director and performer and was best known for his offbeat observational humour, his openness to new learning, his curiosity about people and the world, and for his compassion and generosity. In Eve and Elin we have found two creatives who in person and in their work carry that forward.
So what do Eve and Elin get by winning this Award? Another good question.
They get a whole range of marvelous things. Since their win in March they have been mentored and supervised by Rachel, Nicholai and Lara. They have had access to Lyric resources in the form of rehearsal space, training and support from the Lyric’s marketing, publicity, fundraising, lighting, sound, wardrobe, backstage and other production staff, access to the Lyric’s Ensemble cast of actors, free tickets to all Lyric shows, pastoral care from me, and a budget to spend on whatever else they need. They will soon also have additional workshops led by some of Bill’s talented and generous friends who have offered masterclasses and internships in their specialist fields.
All of this incredible support continues and will culminate in February next year when ‘Screwdriver’, the play that they are writing, developing and producing thanks to the Award, will headline the Lyric’s Evolution Festival. I do hope that you will come along between 11 and 14 February to see this amazing play and enjoy the result of what your generous donations has produced.
As always, my verbosity is getting the better of me, so thank you for bearing with me thus far. I have a couple of other quick announcements to do with the Award then I will move on to other news – also exciting, so please stick with it.
First quick Award-related announcement is Simon Marlow’s wonderful idea that – just as the Olivier Awards are affectionately and luvvie-ly nicknamed The Larrys, so this Award could be nicknamed The Billy. Please start practicing now.
Second quick announcement is to say a massive thank all of you who made this Award possible with your generous donations this year – hopefully you have received your filmed thank you from Eve and Elin. Come February you will also be invited to see the show, and to celebrate at a small thank you party. Those of you feeling jealous, don’t worry, a small donation to next year’s Award means you won’t miss out a second time, and you can still see this year’s show by booking a ticket via the Box Office. Please do!
Third quick announcement is that we are now taking donations for next year’s Award! And you can help me choose next year’s winner by booking a ticket to some or all of the Scratch performances which are also taking place during February’s Evolution festival – dates still to be finalised. Last year’s Scratch nights were great fun and you get to give your two penneth worth on who next year’s winner should be, and so shape the future of the Award. Tickets for the Scratches, and for Screwdriver will be available on the Lyric website very soon.
Finally, a massive thank you to all of you who have offered your time and expertise in delivering workshops and more. As soon as we’ve completely nailed down Eve and Elin’s remaining schedule and needs, I will be getting in touch and taking you up on your kind offers – and inviting you to see the show as well.