Callum Elliott-Archer

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Having wanted to return to this blog for some time, I feel a great pressure to get this first one right and timely. With From Devon With Love on the horizon and a new Producer for Framework (our artist development arm) about to start, the initiator of both has been on my mind a lot recently.

Callum directed one of the first things that appeared in the Bike Shed, a sketch show from the university company Theatre With Teeth. Improbably mature for his twenty-or-so years, Callum’s confidence instantly impressed.

Along with a number of his friends, Callum stayed after graduation to form Sourdough, three of whose productions we presented in their prolific first year. Aware of the need to test ideas in front of an audience, and spotting a gap in Exeter’s fractured theatre scene, Callum asked to run a series of scratch nights, one a week during November. The pieces presented were hugely variable in quality, but the spirit of the evenings was fantastic. A community gathered where those on stage and those in the audience were equal, not least because they often exchanged places each week.

These scratch nights became the base of Framework, to which was added the festival From Devon With Love, which Callum managed in its in augural year of 2013. By now though, three years out of university, he seemed a little disillusioned. His theatre company – Worklight, formed with two other members of Sourdough, Michael Woodman and Joe Sellman-Leava, along with designer Sam Hollis-Pack – had received acclaim for their first show How To Start A Riot, but more muted praise for their follow up I Think I’m A Feminist. Callum past over the reins of Framework to Chloe Whipple, made a solo piece for our New Blood festival and then chose not to make theatre any more.

It’s been very hard writing this, thinking of Callum. A talented theatre-maker, someone who made things happen and who cared about the wider sector. Someone who stopped whilst we went on. His legacy continues. Worklight won a Fringe First in Edinburgh last year and the Bike Shed’s work with emerging artists continues to be vital to our artistic output.

And yet. And yet I can’t help wondering what greater contribution he’d have made had the disillusion not crept in.

So, whilst I want this blog to celebrate the achievements of the many brilliant people who’ve been involved with the Bike Shed over the years – and Callum scores highly here – this first post back is, for me, tinged with sadness and regret. Not for Callum, who I’m sure is far happier out, but for us not having the value of his contribution. I blame the Arts Council. But then, I always do.

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