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  • Jonny Wilkinson

Chair's Blog! Autumn 2021

Updated: Oct 30

At the AGM last month, I was asked by a longstanding member what my vision was for Kelvin Players.

Now that a ittle time has passed and we've got our first production out of the way, I thought it might be time to set out some of my thoughts for the club.

In essence, I want pretty much the same things you all want: I want us to produce a variety of great shows; offer lots of great parts; draw big audiences; and win lots of awards. I want our club to be – and to be seen to be – the best theatre company in Bristol. Easy, eh?

To achieve all of that, we have to push ourselves, and each other to do our best - to challenge ourselves to try new things. Over the last decade, we've settled into a routine of 5 main stage productions and 8 nights of rehearsed readings each year, never straying far from that format. After almost two years of near-inactivity, now is the perfect time to reassess that format and to investigate new formats and initiatives, and I know that this is something Nicky is keen to investigate.

However we do that, one thing remains essential: we provide all our members with the opportunity to make the most of their membership. People are desperate to get out of the house and get back to the theatre, so let's give them something in which they can be involved, whether that's on-stage or off. I'm really pleased that Josh has agreed to take on the role of Membership Development, and both Nicky and I will be working with Josh to expand the training and development opportunities we offer. Not least because it's such a great way of bringing new people into the club.

As I approach my twentieth year in the club, membership of Kelvin Players is something of which I'm very proud. I know others are proud of their membership, too. There are many opportunities to be involved, and I've always valued that. But, as I said at the AGM, while we all have an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of being a member, we also have an equal responsibility for running the club. Construction, get-ins/out, joining the committee or other officers roles, working behind the bar or stewarding, leaflet drops, etc. There are many jobs that need doing to keep the club running and if we all took on one job each year, it would lessen the load on some of those members who take on far more. I understand not everyone has the time to commit to an official role, but there are other ways you can help.

This is your club, and we want your input as much as anyone else's. If you see a job that you think needs doing, don't wait to be asked - offer your help. I have a terrible habit of assuming everyone knows what my skills are. But the only person who actually knows that is me. If you're interested in something, put yourself forward. We value your input, and you won't be turned away.

As well as producing great theatre and expanding the membership offer, I'm also keen for us to look outside the club much more.

At times we can be quite insular, and many of the responses to last year's survey highlighted the need for us to be more welcoming, inclusive, and to listen to different voices. Others said they'd like to see us working with other groups, doing things like community theatre. I'm really keen for us to investigate these opportunities and to look at ways we can develop.

Some people are afraid of words like diversity. They fear that what it really means is that they'll be moved out to create room for other people. The club does need to welcome new faces for us to survive and to become much more representative of the city of Bristol – but this should not be at the expense of any of the wonderful, talented members we currently have. Indeed, I want to grow our community. To do that, we all need to be much more inclusive of others and to be proactive in giving others a chance.

I've always seen Kelvin Players as an artistic hub – a theatre company that provides a platform for people of all backgrounds from across the whole city of Bristol to get involved in a wealth of opportunities. The large membership, strong structure, and superb studio facilities and forward-looking outlook allows this.

Over the next few years, I want us to expand that platform, to provide more opportunities, and to develop a more inclusive, welcoming and 'can do' culture.

It's a lot to ask for from the club, especially after a near two-year break. But I know that people are excited to be back and are desperate to create theatre once again. And I also know that one of the club's strengths is the commitment of our membership. If anyone can help us achieve this, it's you.

Thanks,

Mat Rees

Chair

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