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Red Ladder Theatre Company’s Rod Dixon: “Touring companies can entice people back into the theatre to enjoy shows with a strong local relevance.”

Homebaked

Guest blog by Rod Dixon

For fifty-three years, Red Ladder has taken real stories of struggle and transformed them into theatre shows. Our productions typically blend comedy and live music with politics and debate while avoiding polemic and finger wagging. We make plays that invite you to lean in, identify, punch the air, laugh with the stranger next to you, cry in the dark, and want to take action.

Rod Dixon, artistic director Red Ladder

Rod Dixon, artistic director Red Ladder

Homebaked – The Musical is a typical example of this. Our new show, which we are making in partnership with Liverpool’s Royal Court, is based on the true story behind the city’s famous bakery. Seeing their streets being demolished and their neighbours facing evictions from property developers and landlords, a group of local people in Anfield fought back by forming a community land trust that managed to buy the last remaining terrace and the neighbourhood bakery.

Nine years later, the community-run bakery sells high quality bread and pies with names like the Scouse Pie and The Shankly. The profits of this community-run business are being ploughed back into the community in order to refurbish a whole terrace of houses which will then be available for locals to rent at very affordable rates. This is the complete antithesis of the kinds of gentrification of an area which is happening in most major cities.

 The story behind the Homebaked bakery and Community Land Trust is incredibly inspiring; a real show of working-class resilience, pride and the power of people pulling together and refusing to bow down to bullies. It is a perfect material on which to create a new musical: the underdog rising up and using new skills to grow and thrive.

Boff Whalley and Rod Dixon, Homebaked - The Musical

Boff Whalley and Rod Dixon, Homebaked – The Musical

Written by Boff Whalley, who was a founder member of the band Chumbawamba, Homebaked – The Musical is stuffed full of catchy songs, spirited characters, and has all the promise of a Liverpudlian Made in Dagenham or Billy Elliot.

Everyone is getting cramp as we cross our fingers with the announcement of Homebaked. Like all of our colleague in the arts we’ve had a very challenging year which has included postponing two tours of new plays to theatres and our Red Ladder Local circuit of community venues.

After a whole year of stand-still in the theatre industry many theatre buildings have a back-log of projects which they have postponed. The log-jam puts pressure on everybody, but it particularly places touring companies such as ourselves in danger of being squeezed out of programmes. A close partnership between touring companies and buildings is vital if theatre is to continue to broaden its audience reach and wonderful variety of offer.

Royal Court Liverpool shares our enthusiasm for this new project; As a co-production, it is a match made in heaven. The Red Ladder audience is very similar to the regular attendees at the Royal Court, bringing in people who maybe don’t identify as typical theatre-goers, but who love a noisy, fun night out, oiled by a pint or three.

On announcing the news that we are creating Homebaked – The Musical, we received an incredible show of support. Appropriately for a show about a bakery, the tickets are selling like hot cakes. It’s proof that there is appetite for this true-life story of hard graft, hope and pies, and for theatre after this challenging year.

It will take several years to overcome the effects of the pandemic lockdown but touring companies working in partnership with building-based organisations, can entice people back into the theatre to enjoy shows with a strong local relevance.

 

Red Ladder announces new co-production Homebaked – The Musical

Homebaked

Red Ladder Theatre Company will be teaming up with Liverpool’s Royal Court this autumn to co-produce Homebaked – The Musical, bringing the story of Liverpool’s famous co-operative bakery to the stage. Playwright Boff Whalley, a founder member of the band Chumbawamba, has written this uplifting musical drama which is inspired by the real-life events of a group of residents coming together to save their neighbourhood bakery – and their homes – from demolition.

Back in 2012, the people of Anfield faced losing a huge slice of their local community to property developers. Things were looking bleak until a group of like-minded individuals got together and declared: “enough is enough”. Seeking a place for locals to earn a crust they transformed a crumbling old bakery. Homebaked was born.

This was the first step on an epic journey. What started with a half-baked idea rose and peaked until it had spawned a thriving community business with plans to transform the adjacent terrace into environmentally sustainable, quality homes and commercial spaces with affordable rent. Is it really possible? A piece of cake.

As part of the new co-production, Liverpool’s Royal Court and Red Ladder will be working with members of the community in Anfield to create a choir that will become a part of the show.

Homebaked – The Musical is directed by Red Ladder’s artistic director, Rod Dixon. He says, “I’m thrilled to be making a new piece of work in the city where I grew up. This true-life story of locals standing up to save their community in Anfield is ripe for adapting into an uplifting new musical drama. The story behind the Homebaked bakery and Community Land Trust is incredibly inspiring; a real show of working-class resilience, pride and defiance and the power of people pulling together and refusing to bow down to bullies.

 Liverpool’s Royal Court is the perfect partner for Red Ladder in creating this new co-production; both organisations put local communities at the heart of our work. As well as experiencing a great night out, our audiences feel represented, moved and inspired watching stories unfold on stage that reflect their real lives.”

 Writer Boff Whalley says: “I was asked to be involved in writing a musical about Homebaked and I thought it was perfect –  a great real life story of a community pulling together. What I loved about making Homebaked into a musical comedy is that it’s a good night out, and a way to feel inspired and positive. Music and laughter are so important to stories like this – changing the world one singalong chorus at a time. It’s what we all need right now; that sense of feeling stronger together.”

Kevin Fearon, Executive Producer at Liverpool’s Royal Court says: “Red Ladder are one of this country’s leading theatre companies and it’s been a personal ambition to work with them on a show for our audience. Their work starts with people’s real stories and then they turn it in to something magical. I am excited about what they will bring to our stage”.

Homebaked – The Musical will receive its premiere staging at Liverpool’s Royal Court from 24 September to 23 October 2021. 

For tickets and more information, please visit www.redladder.co.uk