Imagine producing a full-scale tour only to be struck down ill on the other side of the world. This is what has happened to Hannah Farley-Hills who runs her own production company, HFH Productions. Here she talks about the inevitable difficulties she has faced and the amazing support she has had from her team.
I run HFH Productions from the attic of my parents’ house in Kent. I set up the company last Spring after two years at The Marlowe, Canterbury, intending to test the freelance lifestyle but ending up starting a business instead. I am currently managing a national tour but unfortunately, have run into a little problem… I have been stuck on the other side of the world for a month. This hasn’t been the manageable pilot-gig that I was hoping for.
HFH Productions uses an innovative small-scale touring model: three shows on the budget of one. Using the same cast and set, we achieve the audience reach of three shows, but only must face one get in. The shows, The Naughty Fox (Fox) and …If We’ve Never Been To The Moon? (Moon), originally produced and presented when I was at The Marlowe, graduated from the theatre with me, as did my working relationship with playwright, James Baldwin. Funded by two Arts Council grants and an MGC Futures Bursary, James and I then lined up a national tour to take the work to audiences around the UK.
The plan was ambitious but achievable: two productions for a paying audience, plus a second version of Fox for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities touring to hospices and respite centres around each venue. As is the case with many emerging artists strapped for cash but rich in enthusiasm, I was taking on multiple project roles: van driver, get in/out technician, show operator, workshop facilitator, post-show host, hospice liaison, merchandise sales person AND company manager. It was all set to work out quite nicely. However, when travelling to Chile early this year for the international pilot of Acá Theatre’s C Is For Clown – which HFH Productions is acting as Associate Producer on – I had an unexpected surprise – a pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Very unexpected for a health conscious, average weight, historically healthy 25-year-old, I was told that I couldn’t fly again for a month, which obviously was a big problem for the tour, both practically and financially.
I launched an emergency Crowdfunder as part of the Natwest Back Her Business scheme for female-identifying entrepreneurs. The page was shared far and wide by friends, family and the industry, tour venues, supporter organisations, the great and the grand. There was an amazing response. After 21 days and 77 donations, including some match funding from Natwest themselves, the page raised £4545 (129% of its original target!) So, the contingency plan was put into action. The team back home rallied together and stepped up for some unusual tasks. Actors took on van driving, the stage manager started running workshops and James took on the get-ins. It was a truly colossal effort all round.
This is how the tour is still currently running. I can manage the day to day company management from Santiago and the team on the ground are gallantly shouldering the extra responsibilities. The amount of effort, passion and sheer number of hours that have gone into every aspect of these shows to ensure the project can still reach those for who it was originally designed, has been enormous. There have been video designers, lighting designers, sound designers, movement directors, performers, production managers, technicians, PMLD consultants, doctors, D/deaf community members, supporters and partners all in and out of the Moon and Fox bubble.
It has been quite a journey but we’re finally making it work. The incredible show team, a group of people that I am honoured to be able to work with, have coped amazingly and it is thanks to them that the whole thing is still possible. I am also very grateful to every single person that has shown their support to this tour, our team and HFH Productions through donations and advice. Moon and Fox would be nothing without the support system that they now have around them, and I will not forget that.
So, if you are looking for a ticket to something new this spring. Or, if you would like to support an emerging arts entrepreneur, why not take a punt on The Naughty Fox and …If We’ve Never Been To The Moon? The company will be at Theatre Peckham on March 13 and 14 – where there will also be a post-Moon panel with leading researcher of Cognitive Neuroscience at Westminster University, Dr Catherine Loveday, on mental health and substance abuse.
Come play, sing and debate with us. Challenge your theories on the 1969 Moon Landing, learn something about cognitive development, or help a little one find magic in everyday life.
To book tickets for the shows, visit the HFH Productions’ website.