An Acre of Stories: Meet Producer Ellie and Writer Ruby

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Image: Ellie Robson (Producer) and Ruby Pinner (Writer)

An Acre of Stories presents a series of short plays from four emerging local writers. The pieces are inspired by the life of Norwich merchant John Colton and the charity’s presence in the parish of St Giles.

The writers are all winners of An Acre of Stories, a competition held by the National Centre for Writing and Young Norfolk Arts Trust earlier in the year. They have been mentored by playwright and screenwriter Steve Waters.

Each play is around 15 minutes long and the total performance time will be one hour. Both performances will be followed by a Q&A with the writers.

An Acre of Stories is being directed by Molly Harris Farley and produced by Ellie Robson. The writers are Jonathan Massey, Grace Murray, Ruby Pinner and David Terry.

We had a chat with Ellie, the producer and Ruby, one of the writers. Ellie and Ruby both work at Norwich Arts Centre and are really looking forward to seeing their own work performed on stage.

Ellie – Producer

What is An Acre of Stories all about?
An Acre of Stories was commissioned by the Colton’s Acre General Trust, a charity that works in the parish of St Giles, in the centre of Norwich. They wanted to commission a project that was both linked to the charity and its work, and offer opportunities to young people in the creative industries. I was asked to produce the project, and we held a competition in collaboration with Young Norfolk Arts and the National Centre for Writing earlier this year to find our writers. 4 new writers were commissioned to create their first paid work for the stage, and they have each written a short play inspired by the charity’s history. We will be presenting the plays at 2 events on Wednesday 23rd November at Norwich Arts Centre.

How does it feel to be producing your first piece of theatre?
Exciting! I’ve always loved theatre, but was never quite sure what roles there were in the industry as I’m not an actor or writer. It’s fascinating to learn more about the role of a producer and the variety and scope of opportunities that are available.

What have you enjoyed most?
Getting to use and adapt the skills I’ve learnt in the last year at NAC has been really interesting. I’m used to working on and advancing shows towards the end of their process as they reach the venue, so it’s been rewarding to be involved in a project from its conception and work on lots of different parts of it in depth.

What has been most challenging?
I think just tackling all the parts of production that are completely new to me – interviewing for a director, putting together a cast, and working on marketing and press. I’m lucky to have our wonderful director Molly, who I’ve learnt a lot from so far, and other experienced people in the industry that I can go to with questions. It’s been the definition of learning by doing, which has definitely pushed my abilities, but I’ve enjoyed all the new things I’ve learned how to do!

What other creative projects have you been a part of?
Last year myself and my friend Sára created a project called Queer Norfolk Stories for the Young Norfolk Arts Festival. We curated a collection of stories from local people about their experiences being queer in Norfolk, and made a zine and audio tour that can be listened to in Norwich city centre.

What is your connection to Norwich Arts Centre?
I came to Norwich a few years ago to study English Literature and to no-one’s surprise, haven’t left! During my time at university I fell in love with the city so started looking for local arts opportunities, and ended up volunteering with NAC. About 2 years ago I started working part-time on the bar, and now I do arts administration and duty managing full-time. It’s a dream job! And the perfect venue to stage the An Acre of Stories pieces.

What shows have you seen recently that have inspired you?
A couple of weeks ago I saw Mummy Vs by Heather Bandenburg: a theatre piece all about the parallels between wrestling and parenting. The crew took out the NAC stage and built a full-scale wrestling ring in the centre of the auditorium, and it was inspiring to see such a unique use of the space. It was also my first time seeing live wrestling!

What’s your favourite Autumn activity in Norfolk?
I love hiking and walking regardless of the season, but there’s just something about walking in the city and surrounding areas during autumn. Especially as we’re so spoilt for cosy cafes to grab a hot drink from! One of my favourites is Sahara on St Benedict’s Street.

Tickets for An Acre of Stories on Wed 23 November 5pm or 8pm

BOOK HERE

Ruby – Writer

How does it feel being commissioned to write your first piece of work for the stage?
Exciting! I studied Scriptwriting and Performance at UEA and have had several different jobs at theatres and venues: front of house, box office, admin and marketing. I really enjoy working behind the scenes but I’m looking forward to seeing my own writing performed on stage. The project has been a lovely focus and has got me back into creative writing.

What’s your play about?
My play is made up of three monologues from characters who have worked at St Giles church at different points in history. One of the monologues is made up from verbatim conversations with Alaric, who is the priest at St Giles, this was a way of creating theatre that I hadn’t experimented with before.

What have you enjoyed most?
I’ve loved getting to read everyone else’s work! It’s fascinating to see how one prompt can create four very different stories. The Norfolk heritage focus of the commission has also been enjoyable for me to explore. As someone born in Norwich, it has been nice to research the history of the city.

What has been most challenging?
Probably finding the time to be creative outside of work, but I think it’s been a good opportunity to get back into the habit of carving some time for myself to write.

What other creative projects have you been a part of?
In my third year of university, I produced an online feminist festival, this included new feminist writing from students, a horror-screenwriting workshop, an interview with a doula a body positivity art workshop and more. Recently, I helped to produce an outdoor activity for children for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival this year exploring heritage and environmental protection.

What is your connection to Norwich Arts Centre?
In the past I’ve volunteered for Norwich Sound and Vision festival on their comms and events team, and throughout university I’ve been involved with Young Norfolk Arts and always loved volunteering at events hosted at NAC! After graduating I started working here as Box Office and Marketing Assistant. I have now been at the arts centre for about a year and I love it. NAC is such a beautiful building, they’ve hosted loads of amazing artists and the program is so varied, every day is a little bit different.

What shows have you seen recently that have inspired you?
I love the True Stories Live events at NAC, in which real people deliver anecdotes live on stage with minimal preparation. This partly inspired the character of Alaric. Initially, I just wanted to take our conversations as inspiration for a character, but I found his responses felt impactful enough on their own and decided to directly incorporate his words into my work. Thank you Alaric!

What’s your favourite autumn activity in Norfolk?
Making cosy soups in the slow cooker, my favourite this year has been spicy pumpkin! And like Ellie, taking long walks and seeing the pretty autumn leaves, particularly by the UEA lake and at Eaton Park.