Colin Mapledoram

Colin Hunt, the office joker from the Fast Show.

The Colin above is not our Colin, but another Colin. He is a Colin from The Fast Show.

If you’ve been to the Bike Shed, there’s a good chance you’ve been Colin-ed. To be Colin-ed is to be approached by a nearly-blind man with a small book. In it, is a list of the shows Colin has been to see. He’s seen hundreds, not just in his lifetime, but in the last handful of months.

Colin first came to the Bike Shed on our opening night and has probably seen more shows than anyone else. His tastes err on the side of the conventional, but I think he secretly likes to be pushed. And he certainly likes to talk. Whether you want to listen or not.

He lives alone, save with his hamster (who has been replaced at least once in the last five years). He is retired and has, by all accounts, a small pension. We’re not alone in considering Colin a regular. Other theatres in Exeter, along with those in Sidmouth and Exmouth, are also frequented by him.

Yes, he’s odd. Yes, he can be annoying. But, as we found out when he’d not been in for a couple of months and I phoned the police to check he was ok, we miss him when he’s not there, clutching his half pint of ale and telling you what he saw in Sidmouth last night.

Anna Johnson


Last week, I heard Anna would be Exeter Northcott’s new Marketing Manager. Her brother Luke posted on Facebook that he was “incredibly proud of his little sister”. I was surprised by how similarly fraternal my feelings were.

Anna joined the Bike Shed straight from Exeter University. She had directed an imaginative interpretation of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, integrating live film for close-ups of the performers. It was shown in the venue as part of the Exeter Fringe Festival in 2010. After a performance, we got chatting at the bar and I asked her the question everyone gets asked as they’re about to enter the big wide world: “so, what next?”.

“I think I’d like to work in marketing”.

Two months later, Anna was thrown into the deep end of the turbulent months of our first Autumn. Four in-house productions, ten-odd visiting companies, no effective line-management. Looking back, the lack of support Anna was given was shocking. If I was being generous to us (or naive, or lying), I’d say that it was all part of a master plan in learning self-motivation and initiative. More realistically, it was a cock-up of poor leadership and we were unbelievably lucky that Anna had such reserves of patience and inner strength. She has a remarkable toughness of character. She doesn’t give up.

Over two years, Anna grew in confidence and ability. In 2012, she left us to join Circomedia in Bristol. But her heart remained in Exeter and fortunately the right job lured her back. It is a great coup for the Northcott and fantastic for the city. I hope she’ll forgive the diminutive, but I’m incredibly proud of little Anna.

Charlie Parker


On the first of April, we will become part of the National Portfolio. We owe this to Charlie.

First, let me put that into perspective. Becoming a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) means joining Arts Council England’s (ACE’s) exclusive gang of 650-odd organisations. These include the National Theatre (NT), Royal Opera House (ROH), English National Opera (ENO) and Compicite (C). It means that we have three years of secure funding, or as secure as any government funding is at the moment (right, kids?). It means a whole change of mindset for us, developing deeper relationships with artists, schools and other partners.

And this is why we owe it to Charlie. When we held the interviews for the position of Executive Director, back in the dismally dark and damp January of 2014, Chair of our Board Emma Stenning asked each candidate the same question: “should the Bike Shed apply for NPO?”.

“Yes. Of course. Other organisations are. The Bike Shed is at least as good as them.”

This answer showed off a number of attributes in Charlie that have proved constant in her year and a bit with the Bike Shed. It showed a positivity of outlook. It showed an external confidence that inspires others, not least me. It showed ambition. And most importantly, it showed an appreciation of the Bike Shed. Charlie and I have spent a lot of time recently talking about people “getting” the organisation. We’re an odd venue – like the child who all the teachers describe as “difficult”, the child that consequently some people end up rooting for the most. Charlie has always got the Bike Shed. She’s always rooted for us.

Her certainty that we should apply for NPO was soon put to the test as we set about writing it. We locked ourselves away in Exeter Phoenix (who play the role of the kindly sixth former who looks out for our troubled friend). Three weeks later, through long weekends and longer budgets, we’re half an hour from the deadline. Only Charlie’s laptop keeps on crashing (our lack of funding meaning we can’t afford to replace it for another four, painful months). At five minutes to, we submit. And wait.

Charlie has excelled in her role as Executive Director. She’s been effortlessly collegiate and worked tirelessly to keep the doors open. Moreover, she’s a fantastic producer, an unseen but essential part of the success Tortoise and Hare and Edgar and the Land of Lost. Quietly, she supported the artists, holding things together on two productions that contained ridiculously large amounts of risk. She’s a great asset to the cultural scene in Exeter and we’re lucky to have her.

Charlie Parker (CP): happy birthday. And thanks.

Rachael Duthie


I didn’t think much of Rachael first time I laid eyes on her, as Morgan Freeman almost said. This is because she was late. I mention this now as it is so out-of-character and its always worth remembering when your first impressions were so hopelessly wrong.

Rachael had been recommended to visit us by, I think, Kirsty Cox. It was the Spring of 2010 and we were still finding our feet. She lit Still, our second production and stage managed it too. She’s incredibly efficient as a stage manager. Punctual, too (see above). But underneath the ruthless efficiency and punctuality, lurks a quirky creative. She’s got one of the most fantastic eyes for detail, making minuscule adjustments right up to opening night.

I love her calmness in the rehearsal room. I heard last week that in the rather drawn out technical rehearsals for Edgar and the Land of Lost, an issue was taking a little longer than normal to resolve. One of the directors was getting a little stressed. Saying nothing, Rachael reached out a hand and placed it on his knee.

Perhaps surprisingly for a lighting designer, she’s also great improviser. This makes her a joy to work with – someone who rolls with the punches, firing back ideas, finding the most creative solution. Everything is achievable, however impossible it sounds. Moreover, Rachael can interpret your ideas in ways more articulate than you can express.

I hope to work with Rachael again soon. I hope her lighting is the same shade of blue as it is in my dreams. I hope.

The Wardrobe Ensemble


I should be mentioning all of them individually, I know. But there are nine of them (ten, if you include their brilliant producer Hannah Smith – which, of course, you should) and, truth be told, I can’t tell them apart. I think one of them is called Jesse.

The Wardrobers grew out of Bristol Old Vic’s fabulous Made in Bristol programme. Each member applied and they were manufactured, a bit like Take That but with musical ability. Their first show – RIOT – stormed Edinburgh Fringe. It took as its inspiration the chaos that occurred at the opening of an IKEA in North London and had the fortune of being presented in 2011, as cities across England were in flames. The show came to us the following Spring, and such was the overflow of ideas, imagination and enjoyment, that I invited them to join us for our first season of residencies in the Autumn of 2012.

Whilst with us, they collaborated with Exeter’s Worklight Theatre – whose first show was How to Start a Riot, a play about how to start a riot (sort of). Together, the companies developed a version of The Steadfast Tin Solider and it was off the back of this that I invited The Wardrobe Ensemble to work with us to create our Christmas production for 2013. The result was Eliza and the Wild Swans, an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen short story, though one which started in a laundrette, involved a Russian tsar playing Nintendo and ended with Baby It’s Cold Outside.

The company returned this Christmas for Edgar and the Land of Lost, one of the few shows that I could sit through again and again. Along with the company’s trademark of boundless creativity, this show had a strong heart beating throughout. The relationship between Edgar and his niece Peewee was perfectly pitched, subtle and, ultimately, terribly moving. Last week, I asked Emily – who play Peewee – what her favourite moment to play was.

“The hug” she replied.

As I type this, a tear wells at the back of my eye as, I imagine, it will yours if you saw the show. If you didn’t, sorry. It was really good. They’re really good.

Sebastian Pope


Without Seb, there would probably be no Bike Shed. It was Seb whose idea it was to put on a play in the Hour Glass Inn back in 2007. It was Seb who wished me a happy twenty-sixth birthday, leading me to suggest us putting on another play in the Hour Glass, which became the first time Fin and I worked together. And it was Seb who led on the cleaning and clearing, transforming the Bamboo Gardens into the Bike Shed Theatre. He was the one contacting suppliers and collecting the drinks for the bar, building part of the stage and bringing in Otto Retro to supply the furniture.

It was a delight when Seb returned in 2011 with his company Theatre of the Owl to present three productions.

As all who know him will testify, he is a very funny man, always making light of life, a constant performer. It is only those who know him well, though, who get to see what lurks beneath – a drive for recognition, a desire to leave his mark. I feel privileged to know him.

The Bike Shed owes Seb a debt for its quirkiness, its charm, its sense of humour. He still makes work, back at the Hour Glass, and it is always typified by those same characteristics, added to which is his unique connection with an audience; his passion, always, to entertain.

Ben Goldstone


Ben is one of a kind. He is probably the only person to have taken a piss in the middle of the auditorium of The Bike Shed Theatre. He is definitely the only person proud enough to tell me.

Ben was our first full-time technical manager. He had been the composer and onstage musician for Beanfield in 2010. So inspired by his dedication, technical skills and ability to ask the awkward questions, he became an obvious choice for the new role.

His love of order resulted in an efficient running of the theatre in our first year. It would have been chaos without him. Ben has the wonderful quirk of saying “no” when asked to do something and then doing it anyway. He worked long hours, changing the configuration of the theatre on a weekly basis in the days when we didn’t have fixed seating. He was the perfect balance in our team, making me laugh enough times to counter the occasions when he infuriated me. He was unthinkingly generous, hilariously direct and the best hugger in a business renowned for good huggers.

Beyond this, though, he was an instinctive creative. His throbbing, threatening sound design for The Dumb Waiter gave subtle texture to the piece, and included the inventive placing of a speaker above the air conditioning unit. As George Lazenbleep, he created his own music, often tucking himself away in his tech room late in the evening, with a set of decks and pair of Budvar Darks. A mad genius in his laboratory.

Having spent the majority of a year in a damp cellar, it was understandable that he decided to leave in 2011, but no less sad. I miss his wicked laugh, his exclamation of “cock off” when I ask him to reconfigure the theatre for a third time that week and, most of all, his perfectionist approach to every technical aspect.

Rachel Sutton


When the Arts Council give you funding, everyone wants to meet for a coffee. When the Arts Council don’t give you funding, Rachel offers to meet for a coffee.

Rachel Sutton is the Deputy Leader of Exeter City Council and therefore one the Glorious Leaders of the Socialist Republic of Exeter. Before that, she worked as an arts practitioner in beautiful Manchester and less beautiful Leicester. She came to Exeter to work for Arts Council England before they foolishly let her go and then foolishly let Exeter go and buggered off to Bristol, like so many artists before them.

Arts Council’s loss was Exeter’s gain. Rachel was elected Councillor for Exwick in 2010 and then Deputy Leader of the city. As with Stuart yesterday, Rachel has been a true champion of the Bike Shed. Her catchphrase is “oh, you really must speak to so-and-so”, followed a few weeks later by “have you got in touch with so-and-so yet?”. Beyond her sterling work chairing the steering group for Ignite, she’s brought the Bike Shed to the attention of the great and the good across the city. She wrote the Leader’s speech for the launch of Ignite in 2014 (not that he cared to read it out). And she briefed Ben Bradshaw on us when he spoke in the House of Commons debate on the arts.

We live in a brief moment in time where local authority support for culture is dwindling. Across the country, councils are faced with challenges to balance their budgets, challenges which often mean that non-statutory spending is cut. So far, Exeter City Council has maintained its culture budget. Much of this is to do with people like Rachel, people who don’t rant and rave but quietly persuade behind the scenes. Rachel puts up with a lot, not least from me. Everyone has an issue, everyone a complaint. How she takes it, I’m not quite sure. That she does, and that she keeps on fighting our fights, with more skill and more success than we ever could, is astounding. The Bike Shed, and Exeter as a whole, has a lot to thank her for.

Stuart Crewes


“How are you Stuart?”


Stuart is the busiest person I know. His full-time job is with Exeter Council for Volunteer Services (CVS), but he somehow manages to squeeze in time to be an artist, an activist, a designer, a curator and a rather funky swing DJ. With his distinctive rockabilly haircut (it is Stuart – I’ve google-imaged it), he’s one of those people who you sort of recognise from walking round town. And then, when you get to speaking to him, your conversation is as a though you’ve a shared history going back years.

Stuart first became involved in the Bike Shed plastering the toilets. Three years later, with the decor starting to peel, he redesigned them, including creating a plastic-dinosaur-encrusted mirror. In addition to this, he DJs every third Saturday and runs a free cinema evening on the first Tuesday of every month. Outside the Bike Shed, his NOSE (Not Open Studios Exeter) Festival is a boundary-stretching experience, showcasing work in the city that rubs cheekily against the watercolour-quaintness of our cathedral city. He’s one of the movers and shakers behind Phonic FM’s Culture in Review, a radio show that probes and celebrates the developing creative scene in Exeter.

Beyond all of this though, Stuart epitomises the word “supporter”. In the arts, we’re often surrounded by those who come to events because they feel they have to, or that they should. With Stuart, whose values so clearly drive his actions, you feel that he is only there because he truly wants to be there. And he is often there, seeing shows, talking deeply on the state of the world and dancing late into the night.

Actually, there’s a more apt word than “supporter”. It is “champion”.

Jonny Rowden

Last Summer, blinded by the sun, I saw a silhouette coming towards me. He was on a skateboard, gliding down the centre of the High Street. All I could see was the athletic outline of his body and his bright blond hair. Too cool for Exeter, I thought, as I pedalled uphill on my clunky bike, Jonny Rowden smoothly passing in the opposite direction.

Jonny first joined the Bike Shed as am employee of The Plant, the yummy vegetarian cafe on the Cathedral Green that opened and ran the Bike Shed’s cafe in 2010 and 2011. Whilst serving people with his impeccable grace and manners, Jonny was also undertaking a Masters degree in performance at Plymouth University. We made use of his creative skills in rehearsals for The Little Prince and a few months later he was part of the cast for Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty. Why his improvised line “I can’t read” made me laugh so much, I can’t adequately explain. I think it has something to do with truth of character and timing. But it could just be that Jonny makes me laugh. When you think of him, you smile. He’s one of those people.

In 2012, Jonny ran our cafe, working hard underground to implement a menu of tasty platters and tapas. His attention to detail, balancing flavours, made me look forward each day to what Jonny had prepared. He also has the obsessive precision to make the perfect flat white.

Following a spell in Brazil, Jonny returned to Exeter to focus on his theatre work. And so, in May of 2014, he joined with Kelly Miller to pitch an idea for a performance in the Exetreme Imagination children’s literature festival. The brilliantly simple idea: Aesop’s Tortoise and Hare, but instead of a race, Tortoise prepares a slow-cooked healthy meal quicker than Hare can order a takeaway. And it’d be for five-year-olds. Oh, and the children would help make the food.

The resulting show, AMINAL’s Tortoise and Hare, Making a Meal of Storytelling, was one of the most original, engaging shows I’ve seen. Charming, witty and constantly engaging, the show also had children eating food they’d normally refuse to touch, One parent whispered “he thinks he doesn’t like carrots”. This show returns in the Summer and if you didn’t catch it, I’d recommend pretending to be a child and coming along.

For me, Tortoise and Hare is a perfect reflection of Jonny. Whilst it was considered and important, it didn’t take itself too seriously. Much like our skateboarding hero.