I founded The Bill Cashmore Award in memory of my husband – the actor, director, playwright and entrepreneur, Bill Cashmore, who died in November 2017 at the premature age of just 56. I wanted to create a theatrical bursary Award in his name that would give young and emerging artists the time, money and space to transform a fledgeling idea from the page to the professional stage.
The Bill Cashmore Award aims to provide a young person, or group of people working as a team, the chance to write, produce and perform a play on the stage of a leading London theatre. It is aimed at those for whom such a chance might not otherwise be available. It is open to London residents, between the ages of 18 and 25, who want to create an exciting new piece of theatre reflective of their world as they experience it.
My partner in this exciting initiative is the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. The Lyric has a long and impressive history of supporting and training young theatrical talent. It also houses the resources, venues, skills and motivation needed to offer ways of best capitalising on and showcasing nascent talent. I believe that together we have created an Award that honours Bill’s love of theatre, his generosity of spirit, his skill in encouraging others, and his belief in the transformational power of education, training and support through creativity.
The Award includes:
- Mentoring and supervision by the Lyric’s Artistic Director, Rachel O’Riordan and her team of associate directors, and producers.
- 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.
- A small budget to spend as they see fit.
- Additional workshops from some of Bill’s talented and generous friends who have offered masterclasses and internships in their specialist fields.
- The chance to premiere the resulting play on the Lyric’s studio stage as headliner of the annual Evolution Festival.
My aim in creating this Award is to:
- commemorate Bill by promoting new writing and progressive ideas – ideas which reflect something of the inequality of the world around us and thereby provide a platform to those who deserve to be heard but are often overlooked;
- offer an opportunity to learn theatre from the inside out and experience what it is to produce a play to a professional standard;
- foster new and creative learning opportunities and develop skills in a supportive and encouraging environment;
- provide a springboard and a calling card to get started in this most challenging of industries;
- promote integrated ways of collaborating which can be experimental in both concept and execution;
- help young people to find their voice and learn to express it through the medium of theatre
- create an outstanding piece of theatre;
In keeping with Bill’s own values, philosophy, and approach to life and art, this Award is an opportunity for someone whose commitment to theatre and to storytelling is matched with an ethos of hard work and dedication to the craft.
The winner of the Bill Cashmore Award 2020 is Alfiah Brown with her play Pic N Mix. We have skipped a year of production due to Covid but it will go ahead in March 2022.read more
Please donate and support this Award so it can continue to offer talented young people the means to create exciting new plays.read more
In March 2019, we chose the first ever recipients of the first ever Bill Cashmore Award – writing partners Eve Cowley and Elin Schofield, recently graduated from Sheffield University. And I couldn’t have hoped for a more suitable pair to kick us off.read more
Bill Cashmore and his Award
Bill adored theatre. At University he read English and soon became a member of two of its venerable institutions, The Cambridge Footlights, and the Drama society. This led, in his twenties, to a relatively busy, if not massively successful, career as an actor, with a side-line in daytime painting and decorating and nighttime work in a call centre.
By 30 this heady mix meant he became fairly sure the acting life was not for him. He set up his own business instead – within the corporate communication training world. He was immensely successful at this but never lost his love of theatre. He could have happily gone to see a show 7 nights of the week if only his lifestyle had allowed it. More realistically he nevertheless racked up a pretty impressive one or two plays a week instead, sometimes two in one day on a Saturday.
Bill also thought nothing of traipsing around the country to tiny, out of the way venues to watch shows in which any of his friends were performing or had written or directed. This was partly due to his immense loyalty towards his friends and his desire to support their hard work, but also so as to get a broader view over the regional, small scale, accessible and experimental theatre going on out there beyond the West End with its high prices and huge resources.
Despite his, by now very successful, training company taking up huge amounts of time, he nevertheless also stayed actively involved in creating theatre too. He somehow found time every year to write his own short plays – often with his writing partner, Andy Powrie – which he would direct for small venues and festivals. The pantomime circuit, Southwold Summer Theatre, and Ink Festival were all regular producers of Bill’s work.
Bill also wrote and performed one man shows based on funny experiences in his own life. The last one he wrote sadly never made it the stage – its first performance was booked into the Finborough Theatre for December 2017. But Bill died in November 2017, depriving us all of any further delight from this or of any potential future work. And of course, more importantly for those of us who knew him, depriving us of the pleasure of his personality, wit, kindness and intelligence both intellectual and emotional, that we had all come to rely on. We are all devastated by his loss, and mourn also, the loss of all the future work that he would have created.
And yet, we are finding a way for his passion and ethos to continue. And I believe he is somehow still directing proceedings – it was Bill himself who inadvertently gave me the idea for the creation of the Bill Cashmore Award. In preparation for his forthcoming one man show at the Finborough Bill had signed up to an acting course to refresh his skills. The day of the course got moved to one he couldn’t make and when offered a refund he instead asked for his place to be donated to a young person who would not otherwise have been able to afford to educate themselves further in an industry they – and he – loved. This last, parting gift, in the last month of his life, to a complete stranger, tells you all you need to know about Bill’s generosity of spirit, and is the event that gave me the idea for an Award in his name. My aim for it is threefold:
It is there firstly to keep Bill’s memory alive, and secondly to keep alive the passion and spirit and ideas he had for theatre, and to which he would have contributed so much more had he lived.
But most importantly it exists to offer opportunities to talented young creatives. People with ideas who are struggling to get their voices heard and their work seen in this depressing climate of decreasing funding and diminishing respect for the importance of theatre and the power of where it can take us, whether we are in the audience, or doing the creating. This is a climate where the arts aren’t valued. Instead, we see an endless quest for more and more money and power coalescing in certain elite’s hands. As Winston Churchill famously may have said ‘if we have to lose the arts as a casualty of winning the war, then what is it we are fighting for?’ I’m sure that’s a terrible paraphrase of what is anyway a disputed statement, but we are talking about the creative power of theatre, so I’m allowed a little artistic licence here, and I do believe we are at war against those who prize money above art and all that it brings. Disputed it may be, but it is nevertheless an empathic, intelligent statement expressing a powerful truth. And good to be reminded of when empathy, intelligence and truth are so significantly lacking from the current incumbent of Churchill’s former post.
So, this Award aims to give a voice to talented visionaries who have the power to use theatrical arts as a way of moving hearts, transforming minds and thereby maybe contributing to changing the world. In these dark political times, more than ever, we need to know what young people with passion and ideas think. We need to be inspired by their creative vision. We need to hear their voices, the voices of those who don’t necessarily come from money or influence, and who, in their own small way, can counterbalance the lies and hatred that are spreading across large swathes of our country and within our government – a government entirely comprising people who have no idea what it is like to not have money or power, who don’t have the first clue about the struggling lives, loves and losses of the majority of the country, nor who have the vision to see the importance of artistic endeavour. There is a need for, and a power in, great theatrical works than can change the lives both of those who create, produce and perform them, and for those of us who can learn, be entertained, and be informed by them. Most of all we need to learn about other lives than our own – because that glimpse into another’s experience that theatre can afford us, that jolt that good theatre gives to our empathic and compassionate neural pathways, can make sure that we grow more of those pathways, making us more empathic and more compassionate and giving us a whole new understanding and perspective on lives different to our own. Thereby in our own small way we are working to counteract the hate and division and separateness that has come to characterise this once great, welcoming, inclusive country we have now lost.
The Lyric Hammersmith has a long history of supporting and developing young talent and, like Bill himself, they know that talent best prospers, not via an atmosphere of competition and conflict, but when feeling supported, encouraged and praised. With this Award we can help them continue to offer more young creatives a rigorous education in all aspects of theatre production from within a climate of compassion and care.
Other Bill Cashmore news
Suffolk’s Ink Festival also hosts an Award in Bill’s name – “The Bill Cashmore Prize for Best Newcomer”. In 2019 this prize went to 25 year old Martha Loader for her play After Prospero. This later transferred to London for a short run.
Ink 2020 takes place from 17-19 April this year, and will again nominate a Bill Cashmore Prize winner. Do book your tickets for this exciting new festival which is going from strength to strength.