Hightide’s 2018 Festival programme revealed, as Steven Atkinson prepares to stand-down as Artistic Director

Steven Atkinson

Steven Atkinson

  • Hightide will be in Edinburgh with World Premieres from 1-27 August, Aldeburgh from 11-16 September and will return to Walthamstow for the second year from 18-30 September.
  • Programme includes new plays by Tallulah Brown, Jessica Butcher and Danusia  Samal.
  • Hightide’s  founding Artistic Director Steven Atkinson to stand down in 2019

Steven Atkinson, Artistic Director of HighTide, has today released the full line up for the 2018 HighTide Festivals in Aldeburgh and Walthamstow. At the same time he has announced his intention to move on from HighTide in 2019 after twelve years of successful leadership.

Tim Clark, HighTide’s chairman, said: ‘Steven’s contribution to HighTide, and to theatre in the UK more generally, has been immense. Starting with Adam Brace’s Stovepipe, which was listed in the Sunday Times Ten Best Theatre Productions of the Decade, his eleven years of leadership have been filled with many successes. These include Ella Hickson’s Boys, Nick Payne’s Incognito, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Neighbors and Al Smith’s Harrogate. He also led new festivals in Aldeburgh and Walthamstow, and secured a decade of Arts Council England National Portfolio funding. We now embark on finding a successor to Steven who will continue to bring passion, flair, integrity and commitment to the role of Artistic Director.’

Steven Atkinson said: ‘Creating and leading HighTide has been such a brilliant start to my career. I’ve decided that in 2019, after twelve years as Artistic Director and CEO, it’s the right time to take up new opportunities in theatre producing. I’m proud of HighTide’s contribution to Waltham Forest’s winning bid as the first London Borough of Culture in 2019 and my programming will conclude with HighTide Festival Walthamstow in September 2019.’

HighTide Expands to Three Festivals

For the first time, the company will present a season of five world premiere productions at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, before transferring them to its Aldeburgh and Walthamstow Festivals, as part of a brand-new mentoring scheme for new playwrights and producers. The launch of the programme marks the company’s continued commitment to creating a bridge that supports new theatre makers starting out on the fringe building on the festival’s proven ability in providing a platform for launching careers in the UK’s leading theatres.

HighTide’s centrepiece production, co-produced with their associate company DugOut Theatre, is a song-laced coming of age tale by Aldeburgh-based writer Tallulah Brown called Songlines. Set in Reydon, Suffolk, it features live folk music from the award-winning band TRILLS. HighTide’s associate productions, selected through an open script submission process, are: SparksJessica Butcher’s two-hander musical about the brain’s response to grief with original music by Anoushka LucasDanusia Samal’s gig-theatre piece Busking It, drawing on a decade of busking on the tube; The Extinction Event from David Aula and Simon Evans –  an examination of what happens when science starts thinking for itself; and finally, Harry Blake’s fierce, fabulous new comedy musical about Norse gods Thor and Loki.

HighTide Aldeburgh

2018 marks the fourth annual HighTide Festival in the coastal town of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, following eight highly successful HighTide Festivals in neighbouring town, Halesworth. Notable new plays and writers premiered in the Aldeburgh HighTide Festival include Al Smith’s Harrogate, which transferred to the Royal Court Theatre and was nominated for the Evening Standard’s Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright, and Girls by rising star Theresa Ikoko, who is currently under commission to HighTide.

Alongside the five headline shows, HighTide in Aldeburgh, running from 1116 September, will feature:

East Anglian poet Luke Wright with work in progress Poet Laureate, Jon Brittain’s acclaimed cabaret musical about depression A Super Happy Story (about Feeling Super Sad), Gail Ludlow and Jeffrey Holland’s …And This is My Friend Mr Laurel, a tribute to one of Hollywood’s greatest film comedians, Isley Lynn’s sexual odyssey Skin A Cat, Woke by Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough – a new story on 20th-century African-American experience – and Soul Sessions with Apphia Campbell direct from sell-out performances across the world. Comedy includes Flo & Joan: Alive on Stage, and Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt (Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor). For families there’s Mrs H Sings, the unique singalong band, and One Duck Down – a big adventure about 7000 rubber ducks. Wonderful Beast will present a sharing of The Last Woodwose staring Diana Quick, and Solar Productions present Amy Gwillams’ The Profit. Performances take place across the Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall, Pumphouse, Aldeburgh Cinema, Aldeburgh Beach Lookout and for the first time ever this year late night events will take place in Ye Olde Cross Keys.  The Festival will be partnering with The Aldeburgh Bookshop for literary ‘In Conversations’ with Kate Mosse and Patrick Gale.

Festival Returns to Walthamstow

HighTide have also announced the full line-up for their second year in Walthamstow, following the news of Waltham Forest becoming the Mayor of London’s first London Borough of Culture in 2019, meaning the area will receive £1.35m in funding across the year. The festival, running 18-30 September, will once again be primarily based in the Festival Hub, situated in Walthamstow Town Square Gardens. The Festival Hub is free to enter and features an outdoor stage with nightly music gigs, along with local food and drink vendors. The Festival will include eleven family shows including local company Baby Panda presenting Five Little Monkeys, an outdoor interactive adventure in a bespokely made greenhouse – The Little Gardener, kids comedy, The Storm Whale with Walthamstow based author Benji Davies, original songs in Hey Diddle Diddle!, E17 Puppet Project’s The Vote, and How to Hide a Lion, adapted from the popular children’s book by Helen Stephens. Visiting companies include HighRise Theatre with Lil.Miss.Lady, exploring the history of Grime, and Waltham Forest company Stand and Be Counted presenting Where We Began, featuring an international cast exploring notions of home and a reading of Ali and Dahlia by Tariq Jordan presented by Pleasance Theatre, alongside several more first commissions and readings. The comedy programme will feature Tim Key’s Megadate, a work in progress from Sofie Hagen, and The Horne Section. There will also be gigs from Arthur Darvill and Inès De Clercq,  Songlines band TRILLS, and Soul in the Van will present intimate gigs in the back of a van in the Festival Hub. HighTide will also present a showcase of some of the hottest young talent from Waltham Forest in a night of variety performance.

On the return of the Festival, Councillor Clare Coghill, Leader, Waltham Forest Council said: “Returning with their beautiful pop-up venue in Walthamstow Town Centre, HighTide Festival will once again bring high quality and accessible theatre and live performance to our public spaces and local venues. Building on the successes of the 2017 Festival, this year’s HighTide is providing an even greater platform for our local artists to create work in their own community. There is a real buzz about culture in our borough as we step up to be the first ever London Borough of Culture in 2019. We are proud to support projects such as HighTide, which continue to build our reputation as a cultural destination, and which ensure arts and culture is accessible to all our residents here on our doorstep.”

New Artistic Director

HighTide has established itself as the first new major British theatre company of this Century and has been instrumental in launching the careers of many major playwrights, including Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Vinay Patel. The HighTide Festival is the Sundance of theatre, allowing new artists to experiment and become known to audiences and the theatre world. HighTide productions have played in theatres across the UK, including the National Theatre, Royal Court, Young Vic and Traverse Theatres, introducing new writers and challenging plays to audiences. The trustees of HighTide are now looking for a successor for Steven Atkinson, who can develop HighTide’s mission, vision and values and further its role in British Theatre. The application process for the next Artistic Director is opening now, with a view to the appointment being announced before the end of the year.