Comment: volunteering at fringe theatre festival

Our own Nicola Mostyn on volunteering at Manchester’s 24:7 Theatre Festival

It’s the 10th anniversary of the new writing theatre festival that was founded in 2004 by David Slack.  After performing at Edinburgh Fringe, Slack was inspired to bring the same energy and creativity to his hometown of the Fringe to Manchester. He steadily created a fast-paced festival showing 60-minute plays, several times a day, in quirky non-theatre venues across the city.

Beginning in 2004 with zero financing but a whole lot of optimism, 24:7 is now firmly established in Manchester’s cultural calendar. In previous years, I’ve been a reviewer of the seven-day festival, and an enthusiastic audience member. This time around, I got involved as a volunteer. Over the past week I’ve been helping out with front of house and box office duties. Seeing the festival from the inside just reinforced how great an appetite there is in Manchester for fresh new theatre experiences.

There’s also a unique and exciting kind of urgency that comes with a festival that packs over 70 productions into 168 hours. Most regular audience members take a joyful ‘got to catch them all’ approach, whilst others wait to find out what the festival’s hot ticket will turn out to be.

Each year one production causes a buzz on the 24:7 circuit. This year that accolade goes to Away From Home by Rob Ward and Martin Jameson, a sharply written bittersweet one-man show about a football loving male escort’s affair with a premiership player.

As well as the 10 main productions, the festival also includes script-in-hand performances (such as Saving Dave a piece by our very own designer, James Kerr) as well as extra events, giving those who wolfed down all nine shows in the first two days even more to enjoy.

I’ll be back there today in my CREW T shirt, enjoying the final-day festival buzz, happy that, with a lot of enthusiasm, a heap of hard work and some of that special 24:7 magic, this homegrown festival just keeps getting better.